The holiday season is upon us, and in addition to all the food, celebrations, and holiday cheer comes the influx of vacation or PTO requests. Some people love working around the holidays – it’s quieter, less employees are in the building to distract them, and it’s a great time to catch up on some lingering projects. But let’s be honest, most of us LOVE taking a few extra days off around Thanksgiving and the week off in between Christmas and New Year’s. But as a manager, it can be difficult to juggle all those PTO requests and determine who should get the time off. After all, you do have a business to run!
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I’ve worked for several companies who have tried different approaches to this conundrum and here’s some Pros and Cons for each.
Work from Home. This one is my favorite, but it doesn’t work for everyone. Pretty much everybody has a laptop, iPad or smartphone that enables them to work remotely. If your staff doesn’t have to be on site, letting them work at home during the holidays can be a productive way to get things done. Working at home is a viable option only if the business lends itself to it and there’s a way to ensure the employees are actually working.
Seniority Rules! For employees who are at the top of the totem pole this scenario seems like a great idea. After all, they’ve put in the years and years of hard work – shouldn’t they get an additional perk? In theory it sounds like it’s a fair solution – but if you have several employees who have been with you for a while and they always want the same holidays off as the rest of the department, it may cause frustration and friction.
First Come, First Served. Rewarding those who plan ahead can make creating your holiday schedule much easier. Determine the number of employees you can afford to do without, and once you have that number of employees put in requests – all other requests will be turned down. This puts the burden on the employee to submit PTO in a timely fashion. However, you should set a timeline for how early employees can put in a vacation request – you don’t want Susan requesting the last week of December off for the next 3 years now.
Do a Lottery. Doing a lottery system for the most coveted days off when all your employees want to take PTO time may be the fairest option. Have all your employees put their name on a slip of paper, toss them into a bag, and pick as many names as employees you can afford to be without.
Split the Days Up. There are a few ways to do this one. If your employees don’t care about having the whole day off – split the shifts into mornings and afternoon and everyone works a half day. If your employees prefer full days off – split up the week instead. Give Joe Monday and Tuesday off and give Jane Thursday and Friday off. Everybody wins!
Give a Holiday Differential. If it’s in your budget, offer a small hourly pay differential to those who choose to work the day before Thanksgiving or the days surrounding Christmas and New Year’s. It may solve your scheduling problem for you.
Create Black Out Days. This one is at the bottom for a reason – it’s probably the least favorable option and won’t win you any brownie points with your employees, but it is needed in some industries: retail, hospitality, and even healthcare. If an employee wants off during a blackout period he or she would need to ask well in advance, with a good reason, and it would be at the manager’s discretion. It’s a good idea to inform employees from the beginning of the blackout policy so they aren’t blindsided come holiday time.
Handling PTO request any other time of year is typically a breeze, but navigating the request during the peak of the holiday season should be handled with care. Not only can it upset employees, but it could also disrupt your company culture and your brand.
Becoming a better vacation manager is far more important than the challenges of enduring a temporary gap in staffing. Not only are employees entitled to the time off, but research shows that taking it is critical for both their engagement and to avoid long-term burnout. You can read my blog on that here: CLICK ME!
How does your company handle holiday PTO requests? I’d love to hear about it!