Many of us who are fortunate to have PTO or vacation pay will take advantage of this benefit during the summer months. Whether it’s a last minute decision or it has been planned months in advance, many organizations do not take the time to outline policies for covering the workload of vacationing employees while they are out of the office. Why is this on my radar? Well, I’m usually the one that has to field questions such as “Where is Joe?” “He did not set an out-of-office message on his voice mail!” “Jane left my name as a contact on her email reply, but did not give me a heads up!” “Do you know where Jane saved the Smith Company proposal on the network? It’s due today.”
Here is a list of things to consider when crafting a vacation or out-of-office policy:
1. Permission to take vacation. Set up a procedure on who the employee needs to ask if they can take time off for a vacation. Should you design an internal form that needs signatures or will an email request do? Have a team calendar set up online or a hard copy calendar in a public area so when vacation requests are approved, they can be added to the calendar. This is especially helpful when other employees are planning their time off, and if people already have requested the same dates, it might be a tougher sell to get that same week off. The manager(s) who approves time off also need to realize that they should not just be saying yes to every request without reviewing the vacation calendar. It’s tough saying no, but if there isn’t enough people left to cover the work, then those left behind will be disheartened by the lack of consideration.
2. Who to notify when someone is unexpectedly out of the office? Who will notify the rest of the team? Set up a communication chain so when an employee notifies their supervisor they will expectantly be out of the office, someone will notify the team via email. Some offices utilize an in-and-out whiteboard than can be updated with absences and vacation time.
3. Communicate to those internally and externally that an employee will be out of the office. Make sure employees know to set up an out-of-office reply on their email. They should also set up a message on their voice mail letting callers know when they will be out of the office, and on what day they are returning. It’s important in both of these cases to include a name and number of another person who can be contacted if help is needed before an employee returns to the office. And a small, but important note, let that person know they are the point of contact for the vacationing employee. There is nothing worse than being blind-sided by a question when you did not realize you were covering someone in their absence.
4. Workload coverage. Make sure employees know they are expected to let their point person know what critical items need to be addressed while they are away on vacation, where to find information, and if they are available during their vacation in a case of an emergency.
5. Encourage the overworked to take a vacation. It seems weird to force someone to take time off, but we all know that person who just never wants to leave. For their own health and sanity, as well as those who are working with them that might notice a curtness in a co-worker’s personality, gently bring up the subject with their supervisor who can determine if that employee should be approached. If you are comfortable approaching them yourself, assure them that you and the rest of the team are their for them and will handle the workload in their absence.
A little planning can go a long way in keeping your team well rested and running smoothly. BTW, all of these tips are applicable to managers as well! They need time off too, and the sign of a good manager is when a team functions well in their absence! Make sure they feel confident they are leaving the office in good hands.
There never seems to be a good time of year when things slow down enough to do some deep cleaning and get organized. You might just have to be the person to say, “I”m picking a date everyone is available and we are going to clean this place up!” Coworkers might complain about not having the time to participate, but how much time does each individual spend looking for a missing file, or rummaging through piles of paperwork and empty coffee cups scattered across their desk? You need to be the person to step up and help the team not only be more productive, but to start an annual tradition of spring cleaning your office.
Office Maven’s handy guide to organizing an office spring cleaning!Step 1: Get management on board. They want to work in a clean and organized office too. If they have your back, you can take the lead in rallying the troops.
Step 2: Pick a day where the majority of the staff have blocks of unscheduled time available. Send out an appointment to schedule time during that day for staff to participate.
Step 3: Decide where you need to focus. Does the office and those who dwell within it need to do some deep cleaning? Most cleaning crews give the place a light dusting, vacuum and take out the garbage. Do employee need desk organizers or file cabinets to help keep their workstations organized? Are there community areas that need a team of employees to pitch in and clean up? Make a list of special areas that need attention and recruit help for tackling the bigger jobs.
Step 4: Purchase cleaning supplies. I find that disposable cleaning wipes work best, but you can always buy bottles of cleaning solution and use paper towels or washable cotton rags. Cans of air are vital for cleaning keyboards and other hard to reach areas where dusts builds up. Special monitor cleaners might be a good idea, along with making sure the kitchen is stocked with dish washing soap to catch up on all of those coffee mugs lying around the office. For hard to reach areas, an extendable duster might be in order. Most items should be available through your office supply distributor, such as OfficeMax. Purchase enough so several employees can be using them in their workstations simultaneously, then they can be returned to a central location for other employees to use.
You might also check with your cleaning service to see if carpet cleaning is included in your contract. After your spring cleaning day, a nice carpet cleaning would be icing on the cake. Make sure to ask them for extra garbage bags and paper towels to use during your cleaning spree.
Step 5: Schedule document shredding service. If you do not already have access to one, contact a company like Iron Mountain who offers onsite shredding services. They can give you a quote for the number of bins needed during your spring cleaning. I would recommend keeping the locked bins onsite for one week. Communicate to employees that have until Friday to finish tossing paperwork.
Step 6: What can be recycled? Pop cans. Outdated brochures and other collateral. Unused and unwanted packing supplies. Prepare bins for items to be tossed during the big clean up.
Step 7: Determine your storage needs. Do you have onsite storage for items that will be needed in the short term? If storage is tight, do you need off-site storage for long-term items? Make sure that it is secure if you are keeping confidential company information. Any organization should check with their finance or legal department on rules and regulations regarding record retention.
Step 8: Identify employees that might need support. Assign other assistants, interns, or yourself to help those who are organizationally challenged and needs some support.
Step 9: Order lunch. It’s amazing how motivating food can be. The day doesn’t have to be all work. Build in a lunch break for the team to enjoy pizza or a boxed lunch. Keep it simple so you don’t have more to clean up than you already do.
Step 10: Get feedback. Was there something missing? Did employees appreciate your efforts? Did they need more time block off in their schedule to finish the job? Take these comments and tweak spring cleaning for next year.
I can already smell the lemon scented wipes as your office is cleaner and more organized than ever! The first time you orchestrate this activity will be the hardest, but if you make it an annual event, your office will have a positively clean vibe.
I find it very fitting that I decided to get my act together and start blogging the week of Professional Administrative Day. To tell you how long I have been at it (admin work that is), we used to call it Secretary’s Day, but that is a bit outdated in today’s working world and hasn’t been called that since 2000. I have been meaning to start up this blog for about a year now, but that’s not to say that I have been slacking by any means. I’ve been busy assisting in the creation and launch of the very first Doctor of Audiology program in the State of Oregon, co-founded an internet start-up & applied to a few business incubators (did not get into any, but it was a great experience!), and went back to school to finish my bachelor degree. In the back of my mind I wanted to work on my personal branding, which if you haven’t figure out yet, I’m Office Maven! And along with that, start blogging about my office management, business development, small business marketing, and technology experiences. I’ve done a lot and seen a lot over the past 18 years and hope that you will find my postings useful; perhaps starting dialogs that will help us learn from each other.
Thank you in advance for stopping by and reading my new posts! Please spread the word to those who manage offices, assistant executives/managers or small business owners who you feel might benefit from my words of wisdom. My goal is to have monthly postings, but there might be more than one if appropriate topics arise.