I’m sitting here writing this blog the Tuesday before the 4th of July (Thursday), and I have had many conversations with agencies about the big debate: Should we close Friday, July 5th? Now this is a loaded question for most agencies. Generally, we have to make this decision way back in December of the previous year, right? Not necessarily. As work/life balance and time off become more important AND those days off become more competitive, how should an agency handle this dilemma?
There are a handful of holidays that agencies must decide how to handle. They include:
Martin Luther King Day
Day After Thanksgiving*
These are bank holidays when often schools are closed, banks are closed, and everyone wants them off. Good Friday and the Day After Thanksgiving are exceptions, but it’s growing in popularity to have them off. In recent years there has been a push to have the day following a holiday off when it’s convenient. For example, the day after the 4th of July is a Friday this year, so what should we do?
If you let the entire team off, it’s a nice morale booster, and people get a 4 day weekend. It may be a slower day at the office, and often several people will use their vacation time toward this day. However, what happens if the team is already behind schedule? Since it’s a short week in the middle of the height of vacation season, will taking that extra day really pay off?
Now, holidays are easy in insurance agencies when the 4th falls on a Friday — nice and clean, right? Maybe let the team out a bit early on Thursday. But when they fall in the middle of the week, holidays often leave a dilemma.
Options For Solutions
You may be reading this blog thinking that I will say to keep the office open! That Kelly, she’s a tyrant. But I’m not saying that. What I am saying is that we need to make smart business decisions that improve the clients’ experience, the team morale and the ability to stay on top of our work. Let’s start with some considerations that should be made before committing to a holiday schedule:
- You should look at the seasonality of the book of business. If your busiest season is the summer (remember renewals in commercial run 45-30 days before the renewal date and commercial 60+ days), you should consider what is in the best interest of the agency and clients. Accountants don’t take cruises in tax season; they wait until after tax season. Why should insurance agencies stack up time off when they are the most productive? If there are 5 holidays, lean toward the ones that are in your slower times.
- Have a vacation policy that is flexible during the productive season. For example, if it’s ok for 2 people to be out normally, consider only allowing 1 during the chaos. Also, look at this across the entire agency, not just each department. Oftentimes 1 support person being out has a ripple effect to the other teams that may be short-staffed. For more information read our blog on how you work the hardest before you go on vacation.
- Be conservative on your scheduling. Sure, everyone wants to be nice and enjoy the vacation time they want, but it may not be possible. We often over accomodate to try to make people happy, but it always backfires. Maybe you can get away with 2 people being out, but rest assured, someone else will always be out too. This means you can’t account for sudden illnesses, deaths, court dates or flat tires. Plan to be conservative to protect the team.
Once you have the data you can craft a plan. This is not always a decision to either take the day off or not take the day off. You can get creative.
Half Staff Option: For these days you have the option to go half staff. This means the staff rotates the holidays. You get half off and half you have to work. The challenge is you must make it fair for everyone and avoid petty arguments about who gets what day off.
Earning the Day: This is probably my favorite because it encourages teamwork, the spirit of performance and makes people feel like they earned it. When given the option to have July 5th off, people become super productive. They stay late and clean everything up for one more day with their family. Take the day off if the agency hits certain goals or is ahead of schedule.
Using the Day for Training: You can split the difference! Why not use half the day for training and let the team out early? This way you get a better trained team and the benefit of a half day off. Not sure what to train your team on consider our training days!
Use the Day to Get Caught Up: You can “close the office” and allow people to get caught up — no inbound calls, just all crushing out tasks!
My ultimate recommendation is to put those days as working days in the calendar. Thirty days before the holiday, make a judgement call on what to do. If everyone is ahead, go for it. If they are struggling, use the day to get ahead.