It’s that time of year again, we’re in July and the end of term is approaching. The summer holidays in July and August often lead to the highest amounts of staff Annual Leave in the year.
This period can be a huge dip in productivity for small and medium sized businesses, where the absence of a single employee can lead to work being delayed until they are back or a project stalling as key resources are unavailable.
You can plan around this as best you can, but the everyday realities of work mean something will always come up that has to wait because the right person isn’t there to deal with it.
There are a few things you can do to improve the situation though, particularly as your employees may be more willing to help than you would think. Surprisingly recent research has shown that one third of UK office workers are failing to take their full annual leave entitlement, and 27% “felt guilty about requesting holiday” because it would leave their colleagues “in the lurch”.
Set notice periods for annual leave and rules around the number of staff from a single area allowed off at the same time – avoid an entire area of the business being without staff, unless it’s a one person department of course!
Flexible Working Hours
Flexible working is a buzz word of late, but few employers really practice it. Subject to core hours, let your staff start early and finish early if that works better for them. Give them flexibility around when they are in the office and you may find you can reduce the amount of holiday taken in the summer period as childcare arrangements often don’t require the full day.
What is BYOD? Very simply it stands for Bring Your Own Device, and it’s a productivity boon. Small and medium sized businesses can ill afford to be handing out smartphones and tablets to their employees, but what if you could take advantage of ones they already own?
Nearly every smartphone is capable of email now, and whether you have a very basic POP/IMAP email solution or a more sophisticated Exchange solution, your IT staff should be able to setup their work email on their phone or tablet.
You need the answer to a simple question from a member of staff, but they are on leave. Everything has to wait until they return, or simply email them taking advantage of the email configured on their personal device and get the replay you need? It’s not a difficult decision.
According to research by Logicalis, demand for BYOD is being predominantly driven in growth countries like Brazil, Russia and India but even in mature markets like the US and Europe 44% of respondents indicated they were happy to use their own device for work purposes, and large companies like O2 and Shell have embraced BYOD with increased efficiency a result.
The dirty secret about email, as Blackberry discovered some time ago, is people don’t like to let it build up. They like to process emails daily, often sending quick replies or requests well outside work hours as they periodically check if anything new has arrived.
It doesn’t have to stop at email, you can often make other elements of your business available externally on mobile devices, and have your staff action things while they are out of the office. Citrix software for example allows you to stream specific business applications to mobile devices extremely efficiently so you can open heavy CRM or Accounting packages remotely and work on them as if you were in the office.
If they can get even some of their work done outside of the office, you can be more flexible about when they have to be in it. And we’ve just made Flexible Working Hours even more realistic.
Of course, your business doesn’t own and therefore control these devices, so be careful of damage to the devices and the risk of bringing a virus into your workplace.
All of the above need to be planned in conjunction with your HR and IT services, but the benefits of BYOD are compelling and typically outweigh the risks they present.