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Submitted by cwatine on



Vacation/Holiday time can sometimes be difficult for a small company.

I am thinking about putting in place some tools, like

1) a "vacation form" where the happy leaver has to put :
- the phone number and time he can be reached in case of big trouble
- the list of pending points and where they are located
- the external persons that can be reached during his time off

2) rules like "Peter and John can't be off at the same time"

I would be interesting in knowing how each of you deal with this topic ?

Thanks for sharing.


jhack's picture

Cedwat, great question. I've spent much of my career in small companies, and we definitely had rules. Summarizing:

- There must be coverage for key processes. If two folks request vacation at the same time, the first one to request gets it (unless they work it out themselves).
- Yes, we ask for a way to contact people while they're out. As long as the access isn't abused, it isn't a problem. In my experience, it is rare that we have to call someone. But it happens. And sometimes it can't happen (they're in the rain forest or some such) - that's OK. And make sure that only one or two people call the vacationer (ie, there is a proper escalation procedure in place) to keep it from being crazy.
- I ask for a "status" specifically: which customers are in critical states, what projects are key and need attention, etc. This makes sure those covering know what's really key. (can simply be a modified version of your normal status report).
- Assign people to be responsible for the vacationer's key tasks/deliverables. This is a great coaching/delegation opportunity. It can become a bit of pride to handle someone else's responsibilities without having to call them.

Hope this helps.


WillDuke's picture
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We do have rules about vacations, but I rarely need to refer people to them. Vacations have to be approved. If someone has already requested the time, I simply explain that to the second person. The second person understands the need for coverage.

That being said, I then look at the time frame and projects and ask myself if I can have both out. If I can, I let it happen. They trust me to treat them right. I trust them to do what's right.

I think I'd have more trouble with this if we didn't have such good relationships. (MT tools help here)

Peter.westley's picture
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I use a couple of 'tools' here:

1) I have a guideline that any leave (within reason) needs to be advised by three times the amount of leave to be taken. So if they're going to be out of the office for an hour, three hours notice is suggested. Or if they're going to be out of the office for four weeks on vacation, about three months' notice is good. That's not to say I control this strictly - it's a guideline to help individuals understand their responsibilities to the organisation. I find it helps them to think ahead and plan what needs to be done.

2) I request that when an employee is planning leave, they arrange their own cover for their own work. i.e. it's their responsibility to make sure the critical parts of their responsibilities continue while they're away. SO that can include making sure their backup person is not also planning leave. This is a kind of 'eternal delegation', similar to what [b]John (jhack)[/b] said. It's a great way to encourage responsibility and ownership for their job.

my $0.02

ehyde111's picture

I also work for a relatively small company. We handle leave similarly as stated above.

Our dept of 12 is divided into 3 smaller teams.
Each team can have one person off basically without question.
Time off for the second is approved only if the first person has coverage arranged. As the time requested gets closer, we consider volume, and will approve the second person off if volume is low.

The major holidays are handled a little differently. We try to come together as a group to make sure everyone gets some of the time off that they want.

bradc's picture

I would like to chime in with my employee perspective on this.

I have worked in small IT departments for the last six years. Neither of the places I have worked had any rules on vacation time, but I follow my own to keep things in balance so that I'm not bothered while I'm gone.

When I go on vacation I make sure projects are covered and outside contacts are aware of the situation. I have always given two or three months notice of any vacation that will last more than five days.

With that said I refuse to be contacted when I'm on vacation and my superiors are made aware of it. Vacation is vacation and work is work.

I feel that being called when I'm vacation is the same as saying "we don't respect your time spent with family".

Mark's picture
Admin Role Badge


Well said...and dangerous. If you worked for me, and you told me you would not accept being contacted, your stuff better be PERFECT when you're gone.

Look, I love what you're saying, and I'm the most family friendly boss in the world. AND, I'd rather have someone working for me who says "My stuff is rock solid, but you can call me if you need to" versus someone who seems to think I'm engaged in effrontery if I call. Maybe we will figure it out without you, and maybe we'd like you to show us the courtesy of being human.


tcomeau's picture
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We are very liberal about vacation, and we get a lot of it. I get 24 days a year, plus three floating holidays which have to be taken as whole days.

For critical functions, branch managers are responsible for assuring that somebody can be contacted. Often this means a short list of people get paged or SMSed. Different managers do different things.

The "Commandos", who do observatory commanding, are the first people to respond to a problem with the spacecraft. They never all go away at once, and rotate support weeks. They can't go on vacation on their support week (though they can work a week trade) and they also get called during off-hours if there is a problem.

The proposal tools team does development of a tool suite used to prepare observing plans. They have to deal with two deadlines a year, so they discourage people from going on vacation those two weeks, though one or two people can be out. Otherwise, it doesn't matter. Last week there was nobody from that team in the building, and many of them were far, far away. If there's a problem (unlikely) it'll have to wait.

When people are away, they tend to really be away. A few years ago two of my guys went on vacation for two weeks. They were really unreachable, since they were climbing Denali. Last summer my vacation was in a state park in Missouri that has no cell service. When my boss is away, he's usually running a marathon, and spends the day before and the day of the run completely out of touch.

(There are non-vacation cases, too. Observatories are usually located on mountaintops, and people can be traveling for a day or more just to get to the mountain. Cell phones aren't allowed at radio observatories, for obvious reasons.)

My wife's law firm has a simpler, more consistent set of rules.

Partners are always available, even when they are away. The secretaries know how to reach them, and they check their voicemail daily. Associates can plan vacations any time that doesn't conflict with key dates (trials, for example) and when they're away, they're away: No need to leave a number, though my wife often does. (With her secretary, not her boss.) She doesn't check voicemail until she gets back.

My sister-in-law works for a bank. She's required to take at least one full week off, completely away, no contact allowed, each year. I think this started as an anti-fraud practice, and has persisted.

My brother is an FAA Air Traffic Controller. They have a bid process, I think quarterly, where the controllers put dates on the vacation calendar in seniority order. The procedures are governed by a CBA, and there is some informal trading among controllers for preferred weeks.

tc>'s picture

James Gardner, Sales Manager, Component Force Ltd.

Dear Manager Tools people.

Please can you help me.  We've just set up a office is the US and i'm trying to work out the US vacations for general office staff.

If anyone has an outline for next year that would be really helpful.

Thank you.

[email protected]


jhack's picture

The basic ones are listed here:

Those are the Federal Holidays.  Your situation may vary.  Columbus Day is generally ignored in many regions of the country.  Veteran's Day is not typically a holiday for the private sector.  Some companies give Good Friday or Yom Kippur if their employee demographic skews that way.  

John Hack

sunil027's picture


This is very interesting questions it comes in every body who is wishing to go somewhere for holidays and vacations.

1 First you should decide where you have to go

2 How many days  and how many personal with you for the trip

3 Estimate your budgets

4 See the Agent which can fulfill the your vacation the requirement . is favorite travel agent in uk and i usually book my flights for any purpose like holidays, tours, business tours. It is big brand in the travel industry. You can bookd cheap flights offers for following destinations India, Southafrica, Middleeast, Singapore..................etc

5 The best way to mange the vacation take a holidays packages or specialized holidays packages

6 Keep light luggage and baggage for the vacation this is  important.

These are important points.

All the best!


dresouza's picture
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Great questions. This is not just a small business problem.  Even with small groups in larger organizations, having too many people gone at the same time is a disaster.

Here are some basics I have found helpful.

1) Holidays season - Identify what is most important to accomplish during this season.  Work with your team to make sure people are assigned to cover those tasks.  Then hold them responsible for tasks being done.  Accept that tasks of lesser importance may not be done due to leave.

2) Identify times when full staff are required - (Think Black Friday in Retail).  Inform staff well in advance of the black out dates for vacations.  Be clear on the exceptions to the 'no leave' policy (sickness, funerals, etc).  Then stick to the plan of restricted leave.

3) Summer vacations - In most places of work, people do take a long vacation during summer.  They often plan them well in advance.  During the cold dreary winter, bring orange juice and powerpoints of the beach to a staff meeting and ask everyone to think about summer vacation.  Then give them an appropriate deadline to get their possible vacation dates to you.  Sort out the dates; typically you can find times to keep everyone happy and the project staffed.  Requests submitted after the deadline should still be honored, but they will be worked in around the vacations already committed to on the calendar.

Knowing how to get in touch with your people is important at all times as a manager.  During the one-on-ones cover how to reach people when they are out of the office.  Also, you should discuss and agree with your directs as to when it is appropriate to call.   Be careful of forms and directories.  Some workplaces have confidentiality issues that limit the involuntary collection of personal information into directories for use by supervisors.  Better to request it one-on-one on a voluntary basis with agreement from the employee.

Finally, plan for your own vacation by having an acting manager in place.  The podcast on simple succession planning has a great discussion on this topic.

Be well and best wishes for success.



amit_shrestha's picture

I too have small company.We have some rules as below to deal with holiday/vacation for employees.

1)The employee must give their holiday application one week before the leave.

2)Holiday should be given on the basis of their reasonable reason for their holiday/vacation.

3)If the two employees apply for the vacation then the first one should be given the first priority.

4)All the details of the place,time where he/she is going for holiday should be given to the office before going on vacation.

Above are the some basic rules we follow in our company.



stephenbooth_uk's picture

 We have a number of rules around leave which basically boil down to:

  1. Must give notice at least as long as as the period being reqested of wanting the leave (so if you want Friday off the deadline is close of business on Wednesday, if you want Thursday and Friday off the deadline is close of business Monday) for non-emergency leave (so if you wake up in the morning and there's water from a burst pipe running down your kitchen wall you can request annual leave to wait in for the plumber).
  2. First come, first served.
  3. Hand over to another team member any on going work if the period of leave is more than a day or two or if some delivarable, meeting or milestone falls during the leave.
  4. No-one on leave to be contacted in anything but the direst emergency without prior agreement.
  5. Can only book leave in the current leave year so if you have a standard leave year (first monday in April to sunday before the first Monday of the following April) you cannot book your summer holiday until the first Monday in April
  6. No leave for finance staff between 1st January and 30th April.

 In practice those rules are all moderated by "it depends on how well you get on with your manager, whether your manager tends towards theory X or theory Y and whart sort of day your manager has been having."  If your manager tends towards theory Y and is a mate then you could book the next month off starting tomorrow. If they tend towards theory X, don't particularly like you (either personally or are just a misanthrope, the sulture in some parts of the organisation seems to promote such behaviours) and are having a bad day then you'd be lucky to be allowed to book one day 9 months from now.  For most of us we fall somewhere in between.  I tend to have a good relationship with my managers (even the misanthropes) so rarely have trouble getting leave.  I rarely do take leave (my quota is 34 days pa, the previous two years I took 6 days in each and so far this year I've taken 7, have a further 2 booked, but only because of some family issues without which I'd have taken 1 so far) which may contribute to my good relationship with most of my managers.




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