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Managing Holiday Vacation Requests in a Small Business

#healthy work environment#holiday scheduling#vacation requests

Written by prositesfinancialAug 6 • 4 minute read

It’s the end of the year, and you are looking forward to holiday meals spent with family and close out another year at your business. Some business owners dread this time of year, overwhelmed by how much still needs to be done and unsure how it will all happen. Others look forward to it in an almost giddy way, anticipating holiday sales spikes and surges of customers buying gifts for loved ones.

Regardless of which approach you tend to take, holiday vacations are something that will affect most businesses. You don’t want to be the scrooge ruining your employee’s holidays (and motivating them to take a job elsewhere), but at the same time, you need to ensure each responsibility at your company is covered during the holidays.  

Managing Christmas Through New Year’s

The week between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day tends to be the week that businesses struggle with the most. If you are in a business that can schedule a planned shutdown during that week, it may be the best solution for everyone. If not, try to take an honest look at your minimum personnel requirements, and to handle shifts in such a way that it is considerate of each employee’s family time and vacation schedule. This is a time to show your employees how much you care and demonstrate family values to your customers.  

Managing Black Friday & New Year’s Eve

What about Black Friday and New Year’s Eve? These are also days that will vary from business to business in terms of employee coverage needs. Some retail stores in recent years have closed on Black Friday to encourage people to spend time with family. Others count on Black Friday as their biggest sale day of the year. You will need to evaluate your business’s goals to determine which approach is best for your company, your employees, and your customers. Finally, you will need to create a schedule that works well within these values and needs. If you modify your business hours for the holidays, be sure to notify your employees and customers as early as possible so they can plan accordingly.

Create a Well-Defined Vacation Policy

Each business may have its days, which are considered holidays within the company. For example, is the day after Thanksgiving automatically a holiday? What about the day after Christmas? The days that are considered holidays should be emailed out a few times a year and posted in an obvious, visible location for employees to see.

If you have determined previously that you don’t need complete employee coverage on certain days, be sure to communicate that to employees. On days where you need some coverage but not necessarily full-time on-site coverage, consider allowing employees to take half-days or work remotely. Remember, employees have families, too, and those families have schedules, kids, and other needs to fulfill. If an employee can be allowed a day off or some additional schedule or location flexibility without causing any major issues for the company, try to accommodate them.

The most important aspect of all of this is to communicate early and clearly to employees. Most scheduling problems occur by miscommunication or employees and employers having conflicting ideas or information. Lastly, if your business works with clients or customers, remember that they are human too and will have families and modified vacation schedules, so they will probably be understanding of any adjustments.

Requesting Vacation Days  

Everyone may want the same days off. It is also possible that employees could schedule their time off around each other to create a schedule that works for everyone. Again, this all comes down to clear and early communication.

In your company’s vacation policy, set out guidelines as to how early vacation days should be submitted. For example, for holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, and New Year’s, you could request that employees submit their vacation requests four weeks prior, to allow for scheduling accommodations.

Handling Conflicting Requests

Schedule conflicts will inevitably arise, and when they do, there are different ways to handle them. You could prioritize whoever filed their request first. You could prioritize those with the most seniority. You could also ask the employees to talk to each other and work out an arrangement that works for both of them. Most of the time, this last option will work the best, as it eliminates any possibility of favoritism and encourages good communication.

Once a mutually satisfactory arrangement is reached, make sure the employees check with you to make sure it will work and then add the details to the company calendar. One useful way to do this is by using online shared calendars, such as Google Calendar or Outlook Calendar. These tools can be used with time tracking software to manage who is taking time off when. They can allow employees to request and coordinate time off dynamically from anywhere, at any time, while allowing you to see these requests in real-time.

Publish the Prepared Schedule  

As soon the schedule is finalized, be sure to post the calendar publicly, in-person and online so that employees can all be on the same page regarding vacation days. If you have employees that work with particular clients or customers, you could ask that they inform their clients as well, to make sure things go smoothly. Information sharing helps keep everyone in sync and ensure good communication.

Provide Incentives for Popular Days

If you have days that a lot of employees tend to request off, consider doing things to incentivize them to come in on that day, like having a casual day or providing a nice catered lunch. You could also consider closing early or letting employees take off early on those days or allowing them to come in later.   

These sorts of incentives can make your business run a lot more smoothly too. The last thing you need is a disgruntled employee with a short temper causing issues with customers or doing poor quality work, all because they are frustrated about missing a family event or being denied days off that they had been anticipating. Remember, creating a workplace with a healthy environment, good communication, and high team morale leads to a more successful business where people enjoy working.

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