5 ways to manage your business while on vacation!

—Pngtree—fresh sea travel graduation tour_912789Vacation time isn’t just a perk for employees – business owners and entrepreneurs need a break just as much, if not more. They are a time for spending much needed time with your family and/or friends as well as for de-stressing and revitalizing yourself, while refreshing your mind with new ideas. But not only is it common for small business owners to not take vacations, they are known to worry when they do take one.

But the fact is that a vacation is one of the best things that you can do for yourself, your business and your customers:

  • A vacation gives you a physical and mental break.
  • You’ll learn that your employees and customers can live without you for a few days. Perhaps, you’ll even discover a key employee who can be your trusted lieutenant.
  • You’ll come back with a refreshed perspective and new ideas for your business
  • Most importantly, you’ll avoid burnout and resentment that can destroy employee and customer relationships.

With all the technology available today, you can thwart vacation anxiety and go on a relaxing vacation with things running smoothly in your absence. Here are some tips to get rid of vacation anxiety while you’re away, whether you’re relaxing on the beach, hiking up those mountains or chasing animals on safari.

  1. Choose the right person to hold the fort for you: The absolute first thing that you should do is to select a trusted employee to stand in for you. Make sure that it’s someone who knows your business well. Ensure that you transition smoothly by going over routine and unexpected tasks with her/him. Figure out what issues constitute an emergency where s/he should get in touch with you right away.
  2. Communicate with your customers and staff: Problems arise if customers expect you to be around but can’t get in touch. Tell them about your vacation plans in advance. Remind them before you leave. Let them know who’ll be in charge and what they should expect. Make sure you tell your employees too. Keep them informed of how much/little time you plan to spend on work-related matters. Clarify your expectations, so that your team knows how and when to reach out to you.
  3. Set boundaries for yourself: Just as you set boundaries for your customers and employees, set boundaries for yourself. Forty percent of travelers agreed that their smartphone was the most important thing that they take on vacation. And that they check work emails often. But let’s face it, it’s not a vacation if you stay glued to your phone all day. If you’ve committed to staying in touch via email every day, pick convenient time slots and stick with it. If you plan on spending an hour every day on work, ideally pick a 30-minute slot in the morning when the rest of your vacation group is getting ready and a 30-minute slot in the evening when you can check emails, calls, chats. Avoid the temptation to check in more frequently.
  4. Manage your phone and email: You may be on vacation, but the rest of your world isn’t.
    • Set up an email auto-responder and a voice mail message clearly stating the dates that you will be out of reach
    • Tell people that you will get back to them after you return if it is a non-urgent matter
    • Make sure that the message has details of who they should get in touch with for urgent matters
    • If there is an issue that you need to deal with, do it in the time that you’ve set apart for work
    • Only respond to critical matters. Make a note of the other matters, so that you can deal with them after you get back
    • If there is something really urgent and critical, then a face to face meeting with your stand-in or other employees or customers may be necessary. Use Facetime. Google Hangouts, Google Duo or Skype for a live video-chat.
  5. Stay in the loop with collaboration tools: If your team uses a web-based collaboration tool such as Trello, Asana, Slack or Evernote, use it to stay in the loop – but within the boundaries you’ve set for yourself. If your team uses project management or time tracking tools, you can check your daily/weekly reports. Again, within the time boundaries that you’ve set for yourself. With access to tools like this, you’ll realize that you can troubleshoot in real time, without being tied to your office desk. And that your business is running just fine.

Running a business on vacation, may be a challenge. But it’s definitely something that can be done. All it needs is some planning and preparation and making use of technology to stay in touch. So if you’re off on a vacation, go on. Have a great time!

EU time tracking ruling: what it means for employees and employers

EU Flag

EU FlagThe Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ) ruled last month that the member countries must establish detailed methods of tracking the hourly work of employees, so that they can be properly compensated for time worked.

The ruling stems from a lawsuit by the Federación de Servicios de Comisiones Obreras (CCOO), a Spanish trade union, against the Spanish subsidiary of Deutsche Bank. The main issues in question related to calculating overtime hours – 54% of which goes unrecorded in Spain – and protecting obligatory rest.  “Member States must require employers to set up an objective, reliable and accessible system enabling the duration of time worked each day by each worker to be measured,” the court said in its ruling.

The ECJ ruling is explicitly intended to protect the worker against potential workplace abuses. It is an effort to enforce the European Working Time Directive, which restricts employers from making employees work more than 48 hours a week, and grants people at least 11 consecutive hours of rest every day.

What the ECJ ruling means

The ECJ ruling extends to all companies operating in the EU. The ruling does not specify any guidelines for how employers should record work hours for their employees. In most cases, companies will need a clock-in/clock-out system that would allow them to monitor when employees start and end work, and when people have breaks. Employers will need to know employees’ exact work hours.

At first sight, this may seem cumbersome and backward. But given the technology available today, this could actually be a good idea, for both employers and employees. The “punch clock” has evolved, and businesses and employees don’t have to sacrifice contemporary technical flexibility for exact timekeeping. Modern time and attendance tracking software, often on the cloud, work on mobile phones. Clocking in and out is a matter of a tap on your smartphone screen or on a web page. So even if you are checking emails at home or taking a call from your boss, tracking that time isn’t really an inconvenience. Many of the software systems are priced such that small businesses can afford them. And most provide great analytical tools.

For employees

From an employee standpoint, there’s definitely a lot to be excited about.

Mobile and web time tracking
Mobile and web time tracking

Accurate time tracking provides irrefutable, objective proof against unlawful overtime. Time tracking thus becomes a tool towards building fairer, more accountable workplaces that help protect employee safety and health.

Moving beyond just clocking in and out, good time tracking can detail the time that employees spend on different tasks, when they take breaks and how long they last. It can help document off-site and off-hours work, as well as work-related travel, all of which are frequently overlooked. Basically, it gives employees full visibility into their work schedules – allowing them to address unhealthy workloads and the associated stress, anxiety and exhaustion that come with it.

For employers

Analyze employee time
Time Tracking reports

Companies can use time tracking to track employee working hours. It makes payroll much more accurate. Billing customers for work done is now much clearer and transparent and all hours worked can now be billed. The time tracking data collected is a great source of information on project budgets, project status, progress of works, employee productivity and many other aspects that are crucial for business success. For managers, it may make sense to combine data on the quantity and task breakdown of hours worked by employees with productivity information. It may turn out, for example, that a company would be better off with more workers keeping shorter hours than with an overworked team that’s less effective because of stress and exhaustion.

Conclusion

Time tracking doesn’t have to be tedious and cumbersome. With the right approach, you can make it an integral part of your business. Most makers of time tracking software tell customers that it’s vital to make it’s use mandatory to get people into the habit of tracking time, and that the data must be checked regularly to weed out abuses and negligence. If EU companies take the ECJ’s ruling seriously and apply it properly, it could do a world of good to their employees and their economies.