5 Tips for Handling Holiday Vacation Requests

by Jennifer Goforth Gregory on November 13, 2012
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It’s inevitable: Your employees will want time off between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. They may even request the same vacation days. You’d like to accommodate everyone, but you also need to take care of your customers and keep your operations running smoothly.

What’s a small-business owner to do? Here are five tips for handling holiday vacation requests and creating a schedule that makes you, your customers, and your employees happy.

1. Communicate your vacation policy. Let employees know well in advance which days (if any) are company holidays and which days that you plan to close up shop early. Some small businesses shut down completely between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, because the last week of the year is typically slow for many companies. However, if you have deadlines to meet or customers to serve, let employees know as early as possible. Retail businesses that plan extended hours for holiday shopping should communicate their expanded schedules to employees as well. If needed, consider hiring seasonal help.

2. Give a deadline for vacation requests. One problem you may face is employees asking for vacation days at the last minute and then feeling frustrated if you don’t grant them. Give your staff a deadline for submitting vacation requests for Thanksgiving, Christmas/Hanukkah, and New Year’s. Let them know that any requests submitted after that date may not be approved.

3. Ask for employees to work together to figure out holiday coverage. If too many people want the same days off, ask the employees to collaborate on a holiday schedule. Many business owners find that employees will compromise with one another, which fosters teamwork instead of resentment. One employee might be willing to work on Black Friday in exchange for having the day after Christmas off.

4. Create a fair and balanced schedule. If employees are unable to come up with a workable schedule, design one that shares the holiday work hours as much as possible. Some small businesses use seniority to determine who gets the most-coveted days off. Others use a lottery system. You could also use first choice of holiday time off as an incentive for employees who meet sales and productivity goals.

5. Post the schedule as early as possible. As soon as you have a completed holiday schedule, let the employees know which days they have off. By posting the schedule as early as possible, employees will be better able to make plans and less likely to be frustrated by the schedule (and with you).

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