Have you ever had that conversation where you don't know that someone is going to be out and they swear you approved it- and they have non-refundable tickets to some exotic location with no phone or internet service?
Maybe you've had the situation where two people want to be out at the same time? (inevitably both of them, too, have non-refundable tickets....)
A vacation request approval process can be put in place today. There's a simple request form for the remainder of 2007 linked at the end of this post. [see NOTE below] Everyone in your office should have access to the blank form. When completed, the form should be submitted to someone who can sign off on the request. Once approved, the time should be scheduled on a master calendar. A master will give an at-a-glance picture of office coverage. If updated regularly, everyone can use the calendar to select the days they want to take off.
Requiring the request form also ensures you keep an accurate record of how much time anyone has taken- you'll be quite certain of how much they have left. The instructions on the form are self-explanatory.
Vacation hassles can cause a great deal of stress and bad feelings in an office. Be proactive, use an approval and scheduling process- and vacations won't disrupt the practice nearly as much. Use it consistently and be clear that without written approval, vacation dates are not guaranteed. If there's a conflict, go with the person who first requested the dates.
Have no staff? Well, you might not need a master, but do use your calendar, look ahead and block time for vacations. That will put you in the best possible position to actually take them! Figure out what needs to be covered (can you "close" the office altogether and hang out a "gone fishin" sign? Notice of Unavailability?) and look for alternative ways to deliver. Manage your practice so that you can take 2 consecutive weeks off.
Managing resources and deadlines around vacation plans is essential. Do it in the spirit of ensuring that people have their first choice of vacation dates. You might think using a form is too beaurocratic- but this is an issue that is always a challenge, and prevention is well worth your time.
Once again, it's not rocket science, just a simple process that will make life easier!
*2012 note- the vacation request calendar is out of date and I took it down. Google it, you'll find something.