With the approach of warm weather, employees often find themselves needing to readjust their work-life balance, especially if they have children who will soon be home on summer vacation. As an employer, you may be searching for ways to help your team members be more available to their families while maintaining productivity in the office.

It’s important to remember that many of your staffers might not be unplugging from work as often as they deserve to or should. Employees are often hesitant to use their vacation time. A study by Oxford Economics found that U.S. workers had an average of nearly five unused vacation days in 2014, totaling $65.6 billion in unutilized time off.

While many employees opt for some form of child care for their kids’ summer vacation, many would like to be more available to their families during these months. If you give your team options that help them achieve that goal, they may feel less apprehensive about taking advantage of those benefits. That means you’ll need to find ways to provide employees with additional personal time — without productivity taking a hit.

Flexible and Alternative Scheduling

Many businesses choose to implement flexible summer hours from late May or June to August or September each year. Companies might allow employees to request a flexible schedule during these months, or the policy can operate company-wide. There are a few common types of flex schedules, such as:

  • Allowing employees to leave work early on a specified day, often Friday.
  • Allowing employees to work remotely on certain days or at the employer’s discretion.
  • Providing a “4-10 shift” (four 10-hour workdays with one day off weekly), often offered to different employees on rotating weeks to ensure the office is staffed as necessary.

Of course, not all of these options will be feasible for every employer. It’s important that you take into account the needs of both your business and your staff and create an alternative scheduling policy that will work for both parties.

Filling in the Gaps

As the summer months approach, employees will begin submitting their paid-time-off requests. While it’s important to give your team the freedom to utilize these benefits, work will still need to be completed in their absence. With some preparation, you can help employees use their vacation time without having to do work when they should be relaxing.

Consider cross-training employees in the necessary tasks of co-workers on the same team or in similar positions. Not only will this strategy allow the person vacationing to actually vacation, it will also provide the supporting staff members with insight into operating processes across the company.

Managing Vacation Schedules

While every employee who has earned vacation time should have the opportunity to take it, no organization can have a large portion of its workforce out of the office for extended periods of time. Based on your number of employees and the nature of your business, you can create guidelines for summer vacation scheduling that will ensure your company continues to run efficiently and productively:

  • Decide the maximum number of employees that can be on vacation at any given time, based on your specific business.
  • Require that employees request extended vacation time at least three weeks in advance.
  • If too many employees request vacation during a certain time window, adopt a first-come-first-serve policy to maintain fairness.
  • If necessary based on your business needs, schedule blackout dates that prevent employees from taking time off during specific periods.

Creating a flexible policy that offers employees options will help your team continue to be productive while still meeting their outside-of-work responsibilities this summer — not to mention improving morale by helping them get the rest, relaxation and family time they need.

Allison Hutton is an experienced writer, editor, communications professional, researcher and social media consultant. During her more than 15 years of communications and writing experience, Allison has worked with a variety of clients, from small-business owners to Fortune 500 companies. She has an M.S. in entertainment business, a B.A. in communication and lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with her husband and four children.