workflow planning for vacationsLike most others, communications professionals look forward to summer vacations. Unfortunately, vacation time produces additional stresses for the remaining staff. Covering the assignments of those on vacation can be problematic for both management and staff.

The conventional viewpoint holds summer is a slow time for PR since many people, including journalists, are on vacation. In reality summer offers superb PR opportunities. Projects must proceed, deadlines must be met, and clients must be satisfied. In addition, a PR crisis can occur at any time, regardless of the season.

Managers must balance competing requests for vacation time while still meeting the needs of clients and corporate departments. PR and marketing professionals must make sure their assignments are completed, revised or rescheduled. Co-workers must cooperate to cover each other’s tasks.

Martin Waxman, Spin Sucks CMO, recently asked the Spin Sucks online community how they handle workflow when a key person goes on vacation. The Forbes Agency Council also asked members how they manage scheduled vacations. These are some of their responses as well as tips from other experts.

Match vacations to assignments. Review schedule of projects to compare it to people’s vacation requests. Make sure key people don’t take vacations at the same time and that a key person is not away when their expertise is most needed, advises James Lang at JungoHR. Sometimes managers need to revise schedules. Hiring offers a prime example. If the interviewer has vacation scheduled for two weeks at the end of July, try to start the hiring process a little earlier or later to compensate.

Stagger vacations. Projects can keep moving forward even as key people take their vacations if different people complete different stages of the projects. Try to sync vacations of people who are working on particular parts of projects, Lang says. If the project will be with another team for a week or two, it’s the perfect time for these people to take vacation.

Hire summer help. Hiring some summer can help ease the work burden. A seasonal employee can help with smaller tasks to free people to work on projects and keep them moving while others are away. Interns and independent consultants or freelancers are possibilities.

Create a rolling allocation chart. A rolling allocation chart can assign client hours to team members each month. When employees vacation, managers can use the allocation chart to make the necessary adjustments. “Often that means giving more hours to other team members to ensure that we are staying on top of work and deadlines,” says Catherine Seeds of Ketner Group Communications, a member of the Forbes Agency Council.

Compensate for being on-call. PR professionals often remain on-call during vacations to respond to crises. Compensation time can ease the burden and maintain a work-life balance. For instance, Pan Communications embraces “Summer Fridays.” Although all team members remain on-call, employees start the weekends Fridays at 1 p.m., notes Philip A. Nardone, PAN Communications president and CEO and Forbes Agency Council member.

Assignment meetings. Before their vacation, have the vacationer meet with other team members to review assignments to complete and top concerns. Then place their out-of-office message on a large screen and tweak as needed so the responsibilities go to the right team members. “On our team of five, that makes it much more of a conversation and often reveals some spots that the vacationer can leave be,” says Tyler Adams at TINYpulse a member of the Spin Sucks community.

Inform clients. Informing clients about vacation schedules and who they should turn to during vacations engenders healthier client relationships. A real-time calendar can keep clients updated.

Bottom Line: Summer can place extra work and stress on communications personnel who cover job duties of colleagues on vacation. Advanced planning and organization can ease the stress and keep the team humming smoothly.