15 Smart Strategies To Help Tech Leaders Keep Teams On Track During Vacation Season

Summer is the season when many professionals opt for an extended vacation from work. For a tech leader, this can be a particularly challenging time of year, since it’s unlikely the team’s overall workload obligingly takes a corresponding downturn. Still, it’s essential to give your team members needed time to rest and recharge, so developing strategies to deal with vacation season is a task every tech leader must tackle.

Fortunately, with some logical planning, careful groundwork and the help of your team, it’s possible to set up a system where processes tick along smoothly and projects continue to progress when one or more tech team members take much-needed breaks. Here, 15 members of Forbes Technology Council share smart strategies tech leaders can leverage to ensure the team keeps up when its various members (or they themselves) take time off.

1. Assign A Staff Member To Track Vacationers’ Assignments

First, try to stagger vacation days so that there is always someone available. This may not be possible sometimes, but it’s worth trying. You can also have someone responsible for keeping track of what needs to be done while others are away so that nothing falls through the cracks. Make sure to schedule a debriefing upon someone’s return from vacation so that everyone is up to date on what has been happening. – Dragos Rus, WeSupply Labs

2. Set Up A Searchable Knowledge Base

Prioritize transparency through companywide knowledge sharing. Information should be readily available and searchable across teams so employees can easily access materials, know what other teams are working on and stay aligned on the priorities of the business. Invest in asynchronous work by streamlining and consolidating work into a single platform to improve efficiency and workflow. – Zeb Evans, ClickUp


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3. Share Regular Status Updates With Your Team

Many of the tactics used to create a healthy hybrid work environment can also allow for a smoother transition when members are out. While leaving a digital paper trail is a best practice for any team on a day-to-day basis, it is critical—especially when leading up to extended vacations—for tech leaders to share status updates so that teams can step in without missing a beat in their absence. – Linda Brooks, Atlanticus

4. Set Up A Vacation Calendar Based On Past Data

I’ve been using a vacation calendar. The idea is simple: Look at your team’s vacation history and apply it to the upcoming year. For example, I assume people will be taking time off in the summer, and for a team of ten engineers in which everyone takes one week, we end up with ten “personnel weeks” that we’ll be short. So, during that time I either decide to onboard an additional team member or lower the team’s capacity. This decision should be based on the nature of your business. – Nadya Knysh, a1qa

5. Plan The Workload Three Months In Advance

Thankfully, vacation times are predictable. It’s a good idea to plan your workload three months in advance, giving employees ample time to mix and match their vacation schedules. Making sure that at least one person specializing in each skill/area is always available makes it possible to maintain continuity. – Robert Strzelecki, TenderHut

6. Hold 20% Capacity In Reserve

Do not load your team with more than 80% of their capacity. Having an extra 20% capacity “in reserve” can help keep things running smoothly during a resource crunch. Along those same lines, ensure that best practices, guidelines and policies are maintained teamwide so others can easily step in or take over if needed. – Nik Froehlich, Saritasa

7. Create ‘Out Of The Office’ Documentation

It is critically important that team members take their needed vacation time. With that said, using your corporate calendar system to mark your days out as well as providing an informative “out of the office” message on who will be handling your critical responsibilities will lead to a smooth transition out of the office and back into the office. – Mark Schlesinger, Broadridge Financial Solutions

8. Streamline And Break Up The Work

Reprioritize, rearrange and reorganize your tech team’s to-do lists. Provide strategic vision behind each project, activity and task, and be agile. Break the work into smaller chunks that your tech talents can self-assign and manage. And, most importantly, streamline the workflow by knocking out barriers and unnecessary tasks to help your tech team members deliver bigger things. – Sergiu Matei, Index

9. Set Realistic Goals For Q3

Account for the time off. Don’t assume that your team will maintain the same velocity over the summer, and make reasonable plans for the goals for Q3. If your team has to work long hours to make up for others’ time out or for their own vacations, then it’s not truly a break. Let vacation be vacation; disconnect and recharge. – Luke Wallace, Bottle Rocket

10. Empower Team Members To Manage Their Deliverables

Each team member knows their schedule and critical deliverables, and therefore it is their responsibility to ensure all their major deliverables are delivered on time. The vacationer can complete these items before leaving, find someone to complete the tasks, work with key stakeholders to change the delivery date and so on. This ensures the employee maintains accountability while still being able to be out. – Jay Marshall, EyeLock LLC

11. Cross-Train Your Team Members

It is essential to cross-train resources when working on a project. Continuity is one of the most important keys to business success. A tech leader needs to be prepared for disruption of any kind. Having your resources trained for multiple business functions ensures that even when the designated resource is on leave, the backup is able to run the functions smoothly. – Dharmesh Acharya, Radixweb

12. Avoid Serious Releases During Vacation Season

Cross-train your team members, and don’t plan serious releases to production while most of your team is on vacation. Implement Agile practices with two- or four-week sprints, and maintain consistent documentation across all projects. This will help all of your team to stay informed about project statuses and be prepared for emergencies. – Margarita Simonova, ILoveMyQA

13. Consider Scheduling The Bulk Of Time Off All At Once

Contrary to most tech leaders’ trying to spread out team member vacations to assure coverage at all times, I’ve found that coordinating everyone’s time off to coincide is a much more effective approach. Of course, having two to three weeks off from working on new projects has to go into the annual planning, and you have to leave a few employees on duty to handle emergency bugs or customer requests. – Peter Abualzolof, Mashvisor

14. Delegate Management Responsibilities To Prepare The Team To Cover For You

One simple rule to follow is that all management responsibilities are delegated. It gives junior team members an opportunity to build their leadership skills and understand management. Additionally, it means that work doesn’t stop while the manager is away. Lastly, it teaches delegation, which is an important skill for all managers. – Kyle Pretsch, Leslie’s Poolmart

15. Show Empathy For Team Members’ Needs

Be flexible and compassionate. Without being intrusive, learn how each team member feels at work, as well as their needs and expectations for work-life balance. Demonstrate genuine empathy while driving motivation and engagement toward team cohesion. – Oscar Segurado, ASC Therapeutics

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