Thursday, October 29, 2015

On Scheduling Vacation

This is how I envision vacation... Photo by Janne Hellsten
I posted earlier this year about taking vacation and here I am again. A couple of years ago, my library switched our vacation "schedule". Instead of taking your vacation time by your work anniversary date, we now have everyone on a January-December schedule. Employees here are awarded their vacation time January 1 and it must be used by December 31. A limited amount can be carried over each year, but I really try to encourage my staff to take their vacation time throughout the year.

One practice that has helped us with this is penciling in potential vacation time for the year at the beginning of the year. I know that in January not everyone is going to know every vacation date that they want for the whole year, so we are flexible about changing things around as we go. But having my staff look at the calendar and pencil in when they might want to take their time helps us in a couple of ways:
  • It helps me plan programming and school visits around folks' vacation time. I always want to give people the time they want off when they want to take it. We earn our vacation time and it's part of our salary. Planning ahead helps me give people the time they want off without driving everyone crazy because we scheduled a ton of programs when we're short staffed. 
  • It allows me to see where I have two or three people wanting the same time off (happens most often around the holidays) so I can figure out our staffing levels. If I have to tell someone they can't have the exact days they want, it gives us plenty of time to figure out who will get what and what is a fair compromise. 
  • It helps my staff be aware of the vacation time they have and it helps remind them to take it. My library is generous with staff vacation time, especially for staff that have been here awhile. If we go ahead and pencil in weeks for the year, even if they are kind of random weeks, it helps everyone remember that they can use their time even if they're not expecting to go out of town.
I prefer to make my staff schedule pretty far in advance. At the beginning of the month, I start working on the schedule for the next month, so we know our schedule up to 8 weeks in advance. Of course, as we get around to each month, situations may have changed. Staff may or may not want to take the time they penciled in 7 months ago, but I can check with them and make any changes. A couple of days before I start working on the schedule, I send everyone an email asking them to submit any time off requests that they haven't already put in. That has really helped cut down on the amount of times I need to make changes or redo part of the schedule once it's published.

I try with all my might to get staff to schedule their vacation (or at least pencil it in) BEFORE we plan major programs, which requires sending out some reminders. For instance, I just put out a call for winter/spring vacations since I'm about to schedule booktalks for the spring semester. Summer vacation requests must be in by March 1, etc.

We can almost always keep everything covered, but I make sure to maintain a good relationship with our circulation staff and our reference staff just in case we get in a jam and need someone to babysit our desk. Other departments are willing to help us out because they know we are willing to jump on the circ desk if there's a long line or send someone up to the reference desk to cover during a meeting.

How do you or your workplace handle scheduling staff vacations? Any tips or tricks for me?