Briefings Magazine

When Everyone Leaves for Vacation

This time of year requires creative staffing solutions.

See the latest issue of Briefings at newsstands or read in our new format here.

By: Arianne Cohen

The numbers were great last summer for the travel industry, with people breaking out of two years of lockdowns to vacation in full force. Now experts are saying that global travel could jump even more in the coming months—as much as more than 20%.

But what’s great for airlines and hotels may not be so wonderful for the corporate world. Sure, employees who hit the beaches can come back invigorated, but a company can handle and grant only so many vacation days in one season. With travel expected to be so huge this summer, HR officials worry that motivation or even absenteeism could become a serious issue as the dog days of August settle in. “Getting compliance on vacations can be an unexpected fiasco,” says Erika Duncan, cofounder of HR consultancy People on Point.

What’s bumping heads this year in particular are two megatrends: On the one hand, the economy is forcing firms to push hard to make their financial goals, or facing more falling stock prices and angry investors. On the other hand, worker burnout continues to be high (over 43 percent, according to Slack’s Future Forum). The result, HR officials fear, could be a spike in people “working” on vacation, calling in sick, or resorting to the “quiet quitting” approach of a year ago.

How firms handle all this is tricky: Be too stringent, and they risk ticking off employees and creating trust issues between managers and the company; too lax, and a firm’s summer deliverables suffer. Experts say that leaders need to encourage people to enjoy their time off—but also to plan ahead. A good strategy is to work backward from dates of team deliverables and gatherings. “Let’s not leave coworkers in the lurch because it’s a beautiful day,” says George Atkinson, senior client partner in the Human Resources Center of Expertise at Korn Ferry.

As happens with winter holidays, employees tend to be less flexible about summer trips because their entire families are often involved. Managers should be aware of this, but let people know that corporate plans can shift, especially in today’s business world. To align with industry norms, Atkinson suggests checking in with peers at other firms about how they’re handling this.

Finally, another key but rarely used move may be cross-training. The practice of teaching staffers how to do other teammates’ tasks can pays dividends year-round. When inevitable family emergencies or kid sick days strike, the team doesn’t miss a beat. “You don’t hear about cross-training as much anymore,” says Liz Schaefer, a Korn Ferry senior client partner and leader of the firm’s Human Resources practices North America. “But it’s something that managers should have top of mind."


Download PDF