How to Keep Your Site Running Smoothly When Your Team Is on Holiday Break

Jamie Juviler
Jamie Juviler

Published:

As the holidays approach, you might wonder what this means for your business website. Holiday website management can be difficult when your team breaks for the holiday.

Man on the beach taking phone calls and performing holiday website management for his small business

Of course, everyone needs some rest now and again, and there are tools and processes you can put in place to prepare your site for when the team is out of the office. This post will cover seven tips to keep your company site running smoothly while your website development team takes a well-deserved break. (Psst: These tips aren’t only useful for holiday website management — they can also help you tackle year-round site management.)

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Create a pre- and post-vacation plan.

If you anticipate any tasks in your website management strategy that need to be completed around the holidays, draft a plan with action items to complete before your team heads out, as well as tasks for when they return from vacation. Be sure this plan establishes a reasonable timeline. 

Creating an action plan of important jobs (and executing it, of course) ensures your website will be ready for weeks with reduced staff. It also helps your team have a structured action plan for when they return to work.

To prevent burnout before vacation even begins, make a plan with reasonable expectations for what your team can accomplish before vacation and what can wait until after. Spread these tasks over several weeks before vacation so you’re not scrambling to get things done last minute.

There likely are tasks that can’t wait until after vacation, which should receive priority. Delegate these tasks across your team to reduce the amount of additional work per person and provide the appropriate access across your tools when needed. The earlier you plan, the better.

Implement a code freeze.

A code freeze is when no website code is added, removed, or edited. In other words, no changes are made to your website that could cause errors when fewer people are around to fix them.

A code freeze should begin “one week to one month before time off, according to HubSpot Senior Web Development Manager Cindi Brinson: “Make sure no new code is going live that could have unforeseen and negative ramifications on your site.”

Even seemingly insignificant changes to your site’s codebase could lead to negative consequences, made worse if your team is absent and/or if they occur during periods of high traffic — best to pause commits altogether until your whole team is online.

Embrace automation.

If you haven’t already automated your routine website maintenance and business tasks, now is a good time to do so. (Or, if you don’t have time before the holiday break, be sure to put a plan in motion when the team returns so you’re prepared for next time.)

Things like marketing emails and other customer communications, moving data between applications, or pulling data from your website for analysis can all be automated and take care of the “busy work” while your team is away.

If you conduct email marketing, you may have already automated your email workflows. Be sure those in charge of email have scheduled their communications throughout the break, plus a few days after they return.

The same goes for social media posting: If you use automation on your social media accounts, get your scheduled posts ready across your platforms and keep your followers engaged over the holiday season.

You also have the option of automating communications with customers. For example, you can set up an auto-reply on your customer support channel, alerting customers that your team is taking a break and will respond soon.

If you run an online store, automation can send invoices, payment confirmations, and shipping confirmations to customers, distribute promotional emails and discounts, send abandoned cart emails, and keep on top of your inventory.

Automation doesn’t just have to be for vacations — it saves hours of daily work year-round, allowing you to focus on other aspects of your job. To learn more, see our guide to workflow automation.

Establish emergency communication procedures.

Even when you’ve done all you can to prepare for the holidays, unexpected downtime or security issues can still cause problems for your website. For these cases, you must establish crisis communication procedures with everyone on your team.

Make clear which channels you’ll use in emergencies — email, an internal messaging app, or you could share phone numbers as a last resort for time-sensitive issues. Having an emergency protocol in place helps your business and your employees be prepared in advance.

Cindi Brinson also recommends making a list of who to contact in case of problems: “Create an on-call list, with responsibility shared across the team and covering the entire time of the break, and make sure everyone has all necessary contact info.” If problems arise, you’re not wasting time reaching the right person.

Set clear expectations on your team for when to use these channels. Emergency communications shouldn’t be checked multiple times a day. While on vacation, your employees should only be pinged when necessary. To minimize this, your team can rely on internal resources.

Document internal processes.

Depending on who continues working during the holidays, employees may be in charge of website-related tasks that they’re unfamiliar with. Here, it helps to document your team’s processes, including how-tos for maintenance tasks and troubleshooting guides for potential problems.

Documentation can be shared in a Google document, a company or team wiki, or your website’s code repository — anywhere that’s readily accessible. Review your team’s documentation and ensure it is thorough and easy to follow.

Monitor website activity.

Like automation, website monitoring isn’t just for vacations. A website owner should monitor their site’s activity daily, checking for irregularities or trends in traffic or security.

You don’t want customers experiencing issues with your website before you find them. Website monitoring is like a visitor never leaving your site, detecting anomalies and telling you immediately if something is wrong. Configure your monitoring software to send alerts for prioritized events while you’re on vacation, so you’re not away while your website is down.

What happens when your monitoring software detects an event or multiple events at once? Which ones do you handle first? Cindi Brinson says you should plan this out in advance as well: “Identify key potential site events, and pre-determine what severity level they fit in under. E.g., home page goes down (P1), can't add products to cart (P1), about us page has issues (P4, that can wait).”

Set expectations for how quickly your team responds to issues at different severity levels (P1, P2, P3, etc.), and consider adding these to your company’s service-level agreement.

Don’t neglect support.

As we know, your website doesn’t go on vacation when your team does, nor do your customers. Even if your support staff is limited during a holiday, that doesn’t mean you must halt support operations altogether.

Keep some support resources available to website visitors in your team’s absence, whether that means taking on temporary support staff to handle tickets, live chat (another great use of automation), and/or a thorough knowledge base that covers the majority of customer problems.

You may also consider letting customers know in advance — via your website, email, or both — that your customer services will be reduced during the holidays. Specify the dates you’ll have reduced support so customers know exactly what to expect. While this will inconvenience some, it’s still nice to receive a heads-up. It shows that you’re thinking about your customers and allows them to prepare accordingly.

Give Your Web Team a (Proper) Break

While we all need time off to stay happy and productive, your business website doesn’t take breaks. To sustain your online business when the holidays come around, it all comes down to proper planning.

Now for the final step: Once you’ve prepped, you can shut your laptop and disconnect. Yes, your website is important, but so is recharging your mental energy.

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