How to Handle Staff Requests for Time-Off During the Holidays
With the winter holidays quickly approaching, employees are likely looking forward to some time away from the office. Here are a few tips from an HR pro on balancing time-off requests with getting work done.
Thanksgiving is just next week, and December’s holidays and even the start of 2018 aren’t far behind. But this most wonderful time of year can also be a little stressful for managers, who are balancing both the needs of their employees and productivity at the workplace.
“For a lot of organizations, this time of year is not busy at all,” according to Eileen Levitt, founder and president of The HR Team, adding that it’s not unusual for some organizations to close Thanksgiving week or the days that stretch between Christmas and New Year’s.
Still, for managers of organizations that are busy this time of year—or at least need to keep things running—Levitt offers a few tips:
Manage expectations about holiday time-off. One way associations can do this is by having clearly stated policies in the employee handbook regarding time-off requests, the time-off approval process, and the dates of the organization’s holidays, Levitt said. That way, employees can’t be surprised at which days they have off this year or the deadlines for letting their supervisors know about the additional vacation days that they want to take.
Remind staff about time-off request deadlines—and stick to them. Even if the time-off request deadlines are clearly stated in the employee handbook, managers should still remind their employees about them. It’s also important that supervisors hold to those deadlines. Levitt warned about being too casual about the deadline—and allowing employees to submit time-off requests whenever—since this might leave supervisors open to a situation where everyone gets their time-off requests in at the last minute, and they’re struggling to figure out which time-off requests to grant and which to decline.
Refresh staff on the company’s time-off approval process. It’s also a good idea to remind employees about the company’s approval process. For example, do employees automatically think that submitting a time-off request on time is tantamount to getting that request granted? Or do they understand that the employer has the right to decline the request, based on the association’s workload at that time, seniority, and those that put their requests earlier, among other considerations?
Try to accommodate staff’s time-off requests. Still, in general, Levitt suggested that managers should try to work with their employees on their time-off requests, even if the requests come in late. Maybe an employee wants the Friday after Thanksgiving off, but too many others are already taking that day off. The supervisor might suggest taking that Wednesday off instead. Or depending on the association and the type of work that needs to get done, the supervisor could suggest remote work—or even hire a contract worker or temp. “I would hope that the manager would exhaust all of the options,” Levitt said. “Even when it’s not the holidays, there are times when everyone wants the day off.” And those are times to get creative and extend a little goodwill.
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