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Are You Prepared for Your Employees to Take Time Off for the Holidays?

With the holiday season just around the corner, it’s time to brace yourself for the rush. Your employees are bracing themselves as well.

 

But you know what else employees expect around the holidays? Time off.

 

When the holidays roll around, your employees may want to do the same as most other people and spend time with their loved ones, or even take a long overdue vacation. Everybody deserves time off.

 

But what about your business?

 

Do you plan to shoulder all the work yourself, or close up shop until your employees come back? While these are certainly viable (if not always fortunate) options, there are a few more things you can consider.

 
 

Managing Employee Time Off Requests

 

Holiday Time Off Policy

If you don’t already have one in place, install a strong holiday time off policy. Set up rules about time off, like how far in advance an employee has to announce their intention to take a holiday, and how many consecutive days can be taken.

 

Depending on your business, there may be times when you need all hands on deck. For example, accounting firms tend to be busier than usual around the beginning of the calendar year, when tax season hits.

 

If your business also experiences busier than usual periods that are predictable or tied to some event, you can consider blocking that section off in the calendar. This would mean that nobody can request a holiday in that period of time.

 

If your business also experiences busier than usual periods that are predictable or tied to some event, you can consider blocking that section off in the calendar.

 

Make sure that your demand is reasonable. Your employees will cooperate with your request as long as they see the sense behind it.

 

Don’t block off more than three consecutive months at a time, and ensure that your employees have ample opportunities to go on holiday in a period that makes sense. (For example, blocking off June to October as well as December to May is not a good plan, however important your reasons are.)

 

Rotating Time Off

Managing time off requests is easier if you already have a few well functioning employee scheduling ideas in place. This is especially important if you have more than a few employees wishing to take the same time off.

 

While the summer holidays are usually easier to manage (after all, you have roughly ten weeks of summer that can accomodate more than a few time off requests), the end-of-year holidays are a tough nut to crack.

 

Everybody wants Thanksgiving AND Christmas off, not to mention the time between Christmas and New Year’s Day (and probably a few additional days, at least as long as the school holidays last).

 

But unless you want to close your business for those days, you need to decide which employee gets their holiday wish and which doesn’t.

 

A system of rotating time off can help soften the blow when you inevitably decline several employees’ holiday request. For example, let Suzy and John take a few days around Thanksgiving off, while Isabel and Jeremy stay on. Then those two get to take Christmas off while Suzy and John mind the shop.

 

This way, everyone gets to go on a holiday. Keep your calendar for next year so that you can reverse the order, if your employees wish so.

 

Holiday Work Incentive

Working at a time when everybody is off can be a bummer. You can sweeten the deal if you offer an incentive to the employee(s) that didn’t get to take the time off.

 

A bonus, an extra day off, or some other perk may help raise the spirits of the unlucky person minding the shop while everybody else is on holiday.

 

Support Staff

Hiring seasonal workers is a good strategy if your regular workforce can’t deal with the rising periodic demand, like retailers do during Christmas shopping season. However, those seasonal workers can help you out in other staffing dilemmas as well.

 

If all of your employees present an equally good reason for why they should absolutely take the same time off, you can turn to seasonal workers you know and trust to fill in for a couple of days.

 

If all of your employees present an equally good reason for why they should absolutely take the same time off, you can turn to seasonal workers you know and trust to fill in for a couple of days.

 

Since they’re used to working for you, they already know everything about your business; your schedule, your procedures, how you handle payments, etc. You won’t need to waste time with training them from scratch.

 

Be Flexible

As a business owner and/or manager, you should be the one with the final say. But do you really care if it’s Suzy or John who takes a certain shift or completes a specific task?

 

If the person performing the task is not important (i.e. we’re not talking about a meeting with Suzy’s client or a task that only John knows how to handle), you can give your employees the flexibility to trade their days off with each other.

 

This will make them feel more empowered while also taking some of the pressure off your shoulders. After all, managing a team is hard work, especially if you’re in charge of big decisions like who gets to travel to their distant family reunion for Thanksgiving and who needs to stay in town all by themselves.

 

Business Holidays

One last thing to consider is closing up shop altogether for a few days. This can make sense if there’s such a big lull in business that it’s not even worth to keep the shop running.

 

For example, many restaurants that cater to office workers stay closed during the time between Christmas and New Year’s when demand is so low that potential profits would be less than the certain cost of overhead.

 

Whatever policies and employee scheduling ideas you’ll put in place, make sure you’re fair and reasonable. Managing employee time off requests is difficult, and you don’t want to be accused of favoritism or ignoring your workers’ need for a personal life.