How to Manage Time-off and Public Holidays for Your Remote Team — Andy Sto
If you manage a team of global nomads who are living in different cities and countries around the world, it can be a challenge to manage time-off and public holidays.
Every country celebrates a different set of public holidays, and there are a myriad of cultural and religious holidays that are celebrated internationally.
Celebrating different holidays can also be a challenge for team members working together, even if they are location independent. If there’s not enough planning and sharing of holiday calendars, teams can be caught off guard during times of important deadlines or heavy workloads.
It’s important to communicate clearly with your teams to effectively manage time-off and public holidays. It’s also important to share holiday calendars with all relevant teams or staff so that they can plan ahead and make contingencies for when people are off on leave.
By being upfront and discussing holidays and expectations around leave time, staff and managers can come to agreed terms and shared expectations.
Below we look at the types of time-off and leave days, types of time-off policies, and how to effectively communicate with and manage time-off and holidays with your remote team.
Types of holidays or leave days
There are a wide range of holidays around the world and also many reasons that employees may want to take time off work.
Time-off may be used to celebrate a national holiday, a cultural holiday, a birthday or even a special occasion like the birth of a baby. Employees also need to be able to take sick days, mental health days, and to attend medical checkups. Working parents frequently need to take time off during school holidays to look after their children, or if their children are unwell.
Whatever the reason for taking time off, you need to ensure that your employees give you some warning before taking leave, if possible. Having a remote work policy that covers how many holidays and paid sick days employees are entitled to, as well as how much time they can take off without being paid is an important step in communicating your expectations with your staff.
It’s usually also prudent to add a section to your employment contract that specifically addresses any rules and expectations around sick leave and vacation days.
Types of time-off policies
When you hire new staff, and you draw up employment contracts, you will need to consider how to deal with time-off. There are a range of ways to deal with vacation days, sick leave and time off.
Traditionally, employees are given a set number of time-off days each year. For example, you may give staff 15 days of vacation a year and 3 days of sick leave — all of which is paid time off. Often the vacation days are increased incrementally the longer an employee has been working for the same company. This option can be costly to the employer if they need to pay for days not taken at the end of each year. They are also quite rigid from the employee’s perspective.
Another option for your HR department to consider is having a paid time-off policy whereby staff are allotted a certain number of paid time off days each year without the need for staff to define them as sick days, vacation days, or personal days. This can be attractive for staff who then have the choice of how to manage their days off; but again can be costly for employers who need to pay for leave that is not taken at the end of each year.
A third option is to have a policy of unlimited paid time off. This can be a very attractive benefit for prospective employees and does away with the administrative burden of tracking days off. It also gives employees more flexibility in how to use their time off.
Whichever option you choose, it’s important to give employees some flexibility and to allow them enough time off to fully recharge so that they can continue being highly productive employees.
Discuss expectations around holidays with your remote team
It’s good to plan ahead and be prepared by asking employees about which holidays they would like to take and whether there are any public holidays that you should know about as an employer.
It’s also good to discuss expectations about leave days and public holidays so that there’s no misunderstanding.
Likewise if your company has certain days of the month or year that are particularly busy in your line of business, and you need a full team complement to be working those days, then it’s best to be upfront with employees about that to ensure their support.
It can be disastrous for companies to have lots of staff all taking time off at the same time. That can undermine business operations and the ability to deliver customer service. One way to avoid this scenario is by limiting the number of employees that can take time off at any one time — and to institute a “first-come-first-serve” basis for taking vacation days. That way, staff are also encouraged to put in their holiday requests in advance.
Managers can also help remind employees to take their leave days that are owing by tracking their remaining holiday days, and by sending all staff reminders to get their vacation requests submitted.
Create attendance schedules and vacation trackers
When managing a remote team, it’s important to set up processes for them to request holidays and for you to track attendance and holiday days that have been taken. There are many apps that can track when a person is working at their computer or not, but it’s obviously much better to have employees book their leave days in advance.
By using a vacation tracker, managers can have an accessible overview of the team’s attendance and future time-off plans and can then manage staff workloads more efficiently.
Certain vacation tracker apps can also provide a list of all holidays in specific countries, which can be a useful starting point when allocating holidays to staff. These can then be adjusted so that all staff have an equal amount of days off.
However, also take cognizance of the fact that if you’re employing staff in foreign jurisdictions, then you need to ensure that you are compliant with any HR laws around holidays, work hours, and public holidays.
While some countries only have a few public holidays each year, there are others that have almost 30 days of public holidays each year. It’s therefore wise to plan ahead to manage these disparities between the countries your staff may find themselves working in.
Celebrate diversity of cultural and religious holidays in your team
If you have a team distributed across the globe, you’re bound to have employees from a range of cultural and religious backgrounds. To help build an inclusive and diverse working culture, you can take the time to highlight some of the most popular cultural and religious holidays that team members are celebrating.
You could create a platform or opportunity for staff to share news about their vacations or cultural or religious celebrations. This can be a good way to share cultural understanding and to help foster connectedness and engagement amongst your teams.
Encourage staff to take holidays
It’s important to take proactive steps to help your staff create a work-life balance and to reduce stress. By encouraging staff to take their vacation days, you can create a work culture that supports a work-life balance and you can help employees take time to recharge.
When staff are able to take enough vacation days each year, they get the chance to relax and unwind, which can help them to remain productive and avoid burn-out.
Final thoughts on managing leave days with your remote employees
It’s important to give careful consideration to your company’s time-off strategy, as it can affect your ability to attract the best talent, retain staff, and create a healthy work-life balance.
By encouraging staff to take time off and to be proactive in planning their leave days, you can ensure that not too many people are all on leave at the same time. And it allows you the time to plan how to deal with a loss in capacity when people are off on leave.
You should also consider relevant laws that may apply to vacation days in the countries where your remote staff are based. There may be a range of public holidays that people are entitled to.
By ensuring good and open communication between staff and managers, you can avoid any misunderstandings about time off. And by using a vacation tracker you can help your teams with planning how to deal with deadlines or workloads when members of the team are taking time off.
Being inclusive and celebrating or recognising cultural and religious holidays around the world, you can create a diverse and inclusive working culture. And by encouraging staff to take time off, you can ensure a better work-life balance, work culture, and enhance productivity.
Originally published at https://andysto.com on July 22, 2021.