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!

Did time tracking begin with Fred Flintstone?

Ben Franklin - an early time keeper

If you are one of the millions of people across the world who need to track their time on timesheets, you know how tedious and monotonous it can be. Tracking every minute of your workday is not fun. So I’m sure this video of Fred Flintstone joyfully punching out with the red dinosaur will put a smile on your face.

Never fails to cheer me up 🙂

But timesheets are an essential part of the business. Virtually every industry measures the cost of labor, in hours and minutes. And it’s timesheets that make this possible.

Code of Hammurabi
Code of Hammurabi at the Louvre

The Ancient Roots of Time Tracking

Tracing back the history of time tracking takes us to ancient Babylon and the Code of Hammurabi. Yep, him of the “eye for an eye” fame! This ancient treatise written in 1754 BC, set a typical worker’s daily wage at 6 grains of silver. Without adjusting for 3,772 years of inflation, that works out to about $ 0.25 per day.  It also mandated specific pay for specific types of work. While wages were set by the day at that time, it laid the foundation for the time-based labor practices that we follow to this day.

The Timesheet

Ben Franklin - an early time keeper
Ben Franklin – an early timekeeper

So let’s fast forward to a more modern time – the 18th century. We begin to see more emphasis on effective time management as the workforce began to shift from being mostly independent work to an employer-employee business model. One of the key champions of time tracking was Benjamin Franklin. He kept the most meticulous and detailed time tracking records that could ever be. In fact, looking at what he could accomplish in one day, would make most of us feel worthless. He’s even credited with coining the term “time is money” to drive home his point.

Following Ben Franklin’s views about time and money, employers wanted to make sure that they only paid for time worked. While employees wanted to make sure that they were actually being paid for that time. Obviously there was a need for accurate and efficient time tracking methods. Pen-and-paper based time tracking records were the solution at the time. Though the system was error-prone, time-consuming, and relied heavily on employees maintaining truthful and accurate records, the practice continued for years and is still used in some businesses.

The Time Clock

The Bundy Clock
The Bundy Clock

Move on to the 19th century, and finally, the world caught up with Fred Flintstone’s punch clock method of recording time.

As timekeeping technology developed, the daily wage was replaced by the hourly wage. In November 1888,  an Auburn, NY jeweler named Willard Bundy started producing a time-tracking product by the name of The Workman’s Time Recorder. His brother Harlow started mass producing the clock and in 1890, they filed for a patent for the clock.

Several other inventors during that time period developed mechanical time recording devices to help businesses keep track of their employees’ hours. Over the next century, entire companies dedicated to time tracking solutions emerged, improving on the Bundy design. To this day, many manufacturing plants and business office employees use a time card and a black box system similar to Bundy’s Clock to record their attendance and payroll. But not all professions paid so much attention to the clock. Engineers, lawyers, and architects still charged by the job and not by the hour.

The Billable Hour

A paper timesheet
A paper timesheet

During the 1950s, the efficiency experts who had squeezed extra production out of factories brought their skills to bear on the service professions. They created a new measure: the billable hour. Thus laying the foundation for your <insert profession here> charging you hundreds of dollars while you discuss last night’s game with him 🙂 Billable and non-billable hours became a significant part of project estimating and forecasts. Workers tracked their time on paper timesheets, creating a huge repository of information about how long different tasks would take.

Time Tracking in the Digital Age

As computers became more ubiquitous in the workplace, many companies started replacing the cumbersome paper timesheets with digital ones. Programs like Excel and eventually time tracking software revolutionized the way that businesses tracked their employees’ hours and time-off.

Rather than punching in and out, employees now swipe a card, enter an identification number or perhaps just click a button. All the data is then stored digitally for easy access at any point. Better yet, it’s now remarkably easy to discern patterns in and trends in the timesheet data through automatically generated reports and dashboards.

Mobile Time Tracking

Mobile Time Tracker Clock out
Mobile Time Tracker Clock out

Increasingly, supervisors and employees in the field are using mobile devices such as phones and tablets to capture the time spent on different projects and tasks. Automating these tasks frees up employees to focus more on their work and less on writing down their time.  In addition to time, employees can also track notes, photos, expenses, and other details all on their mobile devices. With mobile devices, employers can also choose to track GPS locations as well. And with all-time now efficiently and easily tracked, businesses are pleasantly surprised by the addition to their bottom line when they move from paper timesheets to mobile time tracking.