How to manage employees’ holiday requests

| December 4, 2018

Are the holidays a difficult time for your company? This season can be one of the most challenging when it comes to managing employees. For many companies, this is the busiest time of year, with more are more employees asking for time off.

Ignoring your staff’s personal needs could lead to disaffected employees and a setback to company culture. Too much missed time could lead to lost revenue. In the worst case, it could alienate customers and employees both, representing damage to the business brand you’ve spent so much time building.

Here are some tips to keep the team, and the work, flowing smoothly into the next year.

1. Have Part-Timers Ready

If you have a company where demand for your products or services spikes during the holidays, you know you’ll probably need extra help when your staff starts requesting time off. Prepare ahead of time by interviewing for part-timers who can work during this season. There may always be a pool of retirees or students looking to make some extra cash.

Another possibility is to make arrangements with a temporary staffing agency. In either case, if you find people who work out well, get in touch them well ahead of time each season so you can be sure they’ll come back when needed.

2. Opt for Remote Work

One solution is to let employees work from home. In addition to shopping, there’s a lot of time needed for decorating, cooking, and watching kids home from school. With remote work, people can spend a little more time with their families and still get job-related tasks done.

There are a number of technologies that make this an increasingly popular option. Video conferences, cloud services, and file sharing apps like OneDrive support communication and collaboration so teams can function from anywhere. OneDrive has the added bonus that it works seamlessly with the popular MS Office suite of tools.

3. Post a Holiday Schedule in Advance

Have your people put their vacation requests in early as possible so you can work out a plan. Align estimated holiday demand with the minimum number of man-hours necessary, at the least. While you may not be able to accommodate every one, you can fit the bulk into an arrangement where positions are covered as much as possible and backup employees are slotted in necessary.

Share the schedule with the entire team. The more employees you have, the earlier you should start planning out the hours worked by department and employee.

4. Offer Incentives

Handing out a few rewards can help to keep employees at their desks during the holidays. The office celebrations can be spiced up with giveaways, raffles, gift exchanges, sumptuous holiday decorations, and other ideas. You might also think about offering a pay differential for those willing to work the holidays, or buy back holiday vacation days as a little bonus.

With some good incentives, employees won’t feel so bad about missing out on the festivities at home. They might even look forward to coming to work if you provide the cheery atmosphere and the rewards.

5. Break Up the Routine

You could also break up the usual Monday-through-Friday, nine-to-five routine. Allow employees to set their own hours and make up for missed time. They might choose to come in early or work on Saturday if it means having the freedom to do some shopping and spend time with the kids.

You could also go to 10-hour or 12-hour shifts for the holidays so every employee gets at least one full day off. Then you would stagger these shifts so that there’s always someone in the office to take care of business.

6. Set Limitations

If you’re worried about coming up short-staffed on the holidays, limit how many total hours employees can use. Announce months in advance that only so many people were be able to take vacation time on a first-come, first-served basis. You could do this by department.

This will encourage everyone to get their vacation requests in early so you have more time to plan and make arrangements. So long as the process is fair and consistent, those who failed to get their requests in on time will have to accept the outcome.

7. Institute a Holiday Lock-Out

If you’re in an industry such as retail where full staffing is essential, you could deny vacation altogether. While you may or may not choose to provide some holiday incentives, make it clear that nobody takes vacation during the holiday season.

Alternately, you could insist that all requests for time off are in by a certain time, such as November 1st, and all those after this date will be rejected.

Whatever staffing solutions you choose for the holidays, be sure to communicate them to your staff well ahead of time. This includes all new hires, especially those you take on to help out with the holiday staffing. Unhappy employees could wind up costing you just as much as lost sales.