Managing Time Off in the 24-7 World of E-Commerce

Netflix and Evernote recently made some big changes to their holiday policies: they decided to give employees as much time off as they want. If an employee wanted to take a month off, they could. How did the employees react to this new freedom? They often had to be told to take time off. They simply didn’t want to miss anything. Phil Libin, CEO of Evernote, even had to give employees $1000 to encourage them to take week-long vacations.

Still, if employees act like this, how much more does the entrepreneur feel the pressure to constantly monitor the business? And how much more do people working on E-commerce sites feel the pressure? The world of E-commerce never really stops, and there is always something to respond to, be it site performance, traffic, customer queries and social media interactions.

Managing time off running your ecommerce business

Jennie Rutterworth, Creative Director at personalised greeting card website, puts it this way: “In the online [greeting card] sector, we get daily or even hourly feedback on the product. In the old world, January’s designs would have scoring in February.” Rutterworth knows as well as any the pressure E-commerce retailers share. In this article, she shares her top tips for managing time off in the 24-7 world of E-commerce.

Know when the rushes happen, and plan and organise around those.

Most E-commerce businesses have seasons. At a greeting cards website, the big rushes correspond with specific holidays like Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day. Rutterworth says, “The dispatch team will work until Christmas Eve, for example, and the whole company will be involved in fulfilling last minute orders. We do have a rush a few days before every season ends. But we’re used to it. The seasons don’t change year to year, so we’re pretty good at being organised!”

The rushes happen at the same time every year, so we can plan ahead and stay organised.

Automate tests to keep yourself informed.

Rutterworth explains how an automated test keeps the employees at in the loop. “We don’t host the main server, but I always know if it’s up or down. I get informed 24/7 if it falls – sometimes we’ll know before the host does. We developed an automated ping – a simple card that gets rendered to test the live environment every two minutes.”

There is no need to constantly monitor the website because a simple test – generating a basic card – gets carried out every two minutes. That means they can see and respond to issues almost instantly, without having to constantly check the site themselves. Instead, they can relax, knowing they will be alerted if something goes wrong.

Fix small problems before they become big ones.

In a 24-hour environment, an ounce of medicine is worth much more than a pound of cure. Rutterworth remembers the one major problem she has seen with the website and how they dealt with the issue.

“When the clocks went back in October,” she says, “our version of the Direct Smile personalisation technology went into chaos. We found out from the original coders in Germany that the time change hadn’t been reflected properly and it caused a crash. We’ve solved that for the future now.”

They fixed the issue so that it is no longer a problem. But they took it a step further, too.

Use your experiences to anticipate other problems and build in solutions.

The team took the experience of the time-change crash to look out for new issues and work to solve them before they become major problems. “We learned from that crash. For us, it’s about fixing little things as we go along, instead of going into crisis mode once or twice a year. And of course it’s going to be in the busiest of seasons that issues arise, so we’re all plugged in and listening for hiccups. That way, we can catch issues when they are manageable,” she says.

Fixing small issues as they go along usually means they can maintain their site during standard work hours, instead of spending days in crisis mode. Still, that doesn’t mean they rest on their laurels. They know that the busiest times of year are also the most likely to throw up issues, so they keep themselves alert in rush times.

In the nonstop world of E-commerce, having time off might seem like an impossible dream – especially during the seasonal rushes – but there are many ways site owners and employees can take it a bit easier. With automated alerts, constant low-level monitoring and careful planning, it should be possible to take time off and manage the E-commerce site.

About the Author: This article is written by Rebecca Lee