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A Manager’s Guide to Holiday Season Time Off Requests

Here is the situation. You’re a manager. Maybe you’ve been entrusted with the keys to leadership recently. Maybe you’re a seasoned driver. Either way, as you were commuting to work this morning you looked up and couldn’t help but notice an ominous cloud forming overhead.

Ah…it’s the dreaded time off requests cloud.

It comes back every year and it’s only a matter of time before you’re directly under its shadow. To help you stay out of the storm this holiday season (or at least give you a sturdy umbrella), consider following the advice below!

Communicate deadlines

Your first goal is to establish exactly how far in advance time off requests must be made. If standard policy states 2-3 weeks, consider announcing that requests must occur 4-6 weeks before the holiday season. If you missed the boat this year, apply the same rule next year.

Additionally, since most employees will request at least a few days off, try implementing rules like first come first serve, and seniority. Both of these are widely accepted as fair and will help you understand who will be on the clock and when. Keep in mind, maintaining one or more experienced supervisors can also be important.

Create a specialized holiday schedule

One method for ensuring sufficient staffing during busy stretches is to create a staggered work schedule. Instead of granting a full day off, ask team members to work a half day, or just a few hours during a critical window. Alternately, ask staff to rotate their schedule and work nontraditional hours.

Contact backup employees

The holidays are a perfect time to reach out to part-time employees. Maintaining strong relationships with staff who demonstrate a willingness to work during busy times is a tool talented managers have leveraged for a long time. Make sure you provide these staff with sufficient opportunities throughout the year in order to keep them engaged.

Create a reward system

It’s important to remind yourself that not everyone will be granted their ideal schedule. Show your appreciation for those who worked, especially when it was inconvenient. A genuine word of thanks, a gift card, or a generous holiday bonus can go a long way in keeping employees motivated. If a monetary reward is possible, make sure you communicate it in advance, since some staff may volunteer.

Let employees work from home

If the nature of your work allows this, show a little trust in your employees. Holiday traffic and winter weather can make commutes less pleasant than usual. Allowing staff to work from home or at a coffee shop can also save money your company might otherwise spend on part-time employees.

Final thoughts

At the end of the day, no matter how hard you try, it isn’t likely that every team member will be equally satisfied with their slice of the time off pie. Make sure to note which employees made sacrifices this year so you can offer them priority next year. Remember, establishing clear rules will not only help you manage employee time off requests, but it will also help you demonstrate great management skills, and will give you peace of mind as you prepare for the holiday season.