As we head into the busy holiday season, two forces converge—one, some workplaces get extra busy, and two, everyone is craving time off for their own personal celebrations. Here are some suggestions for helping manage employee time off so that everyone feels that they have been treated fairly—or as fairly as possible. (Remember that these rules won’t apply to every type of business; for example, a company in the retail field likely has an “all hands on deck” policy.)
- Decide whether you will create a first-come/first-served or priority schedule.
There are two basic ways to figure out how you allocate scarce days off—the first person who asked or the person with the most seniority. There are pros and cons to each one; after all, the person who’s been there the longest or has the highest position might rightly feel they deserve the days off they request, while newer people might feel they deserve the perk because they planned ahead. While there’s no right answer, it’s crucial to ensure that the policy is clearly communicated and executed fairly—and that the priority requests have to adhere to a specific deadline. That means not making exceptions to the rule and letting someone slip in extra days if they didn’t request them by the deadline.
- Give extra days to people who work days no one wants to work.
Another option is to offer a “two-for-one” type of scenario; for example, for someone who works the day after Thanksgiving when most people want the extra day to continue their family time. In order to incent people to come in if that’s a day you need to cover, offer them an extra day in the future for covering this day.
- Schedule more, shorter shifts.
If certain days absolutely have to be covered, consider scheduling morning and afternoon shifts, rather than a full day. Or, give half your staff one full day on and the next day off and then switch. The goal is to make everyone feel like they’re giving a little, so no one feels they are bearing the brunt of unpopular days or undesirable shifts.
- Encourage work-from-home if feasible.
Sometimes you don’t need employees in the office, but you also can’t have them completely taking multiple days off. If your type of work still allows employees to be productive, encourage them to pick a few hours where they can stay up-to-date on whatever project they are working on by putting in some time at home. At the least, they will avoid the commute. And, if needed, you can hold staff or project meetings via conference call or video call to keep everyone in the loop even if you aren’t all together.
- Hire part-time employees.
Sometimes it might be necessary to staff up in order to cover vacation shifts and/or avoid burning out your own team. If you feel that they would benefit from time off to come back refreshed, and yet, the show must go on, put together a team of part-time employees to lighten the load while keeping the workplace moving ahead.
- Offer a bonus to those who work.
Offering a little extra money is another way to give a perk to those who are working and help them feel appreciated, rather than put-upon that they have to work while their coworkers are enjoying down time. It could be extra pay per hour, or just a bonus check at the end of the holiday season to say “thank you.” Anything you can do to help keep morale high will pay dividends.
- Remember who worked to ease the strain the following year.
While most places are bound to have some turnover, likely many of your employees will stick with you from year to year. If you had to give disappointing news to some team members who wanted specific days off, see if you can rotate the “pain” the following year so that one person doesn’t think they always have the most undesirable days.
- Be lenient with staff.
Remember that everyone is stretched throughout the holidays, so give a little breathing room to an employee who comes in late because they were shopping over their lunch hour, or let someone go home early if work is slow. While you never want to encourage anyone to take advantage, it’s also important that your team feels supported as you minimize their stress however possible.
- Close for the week between Christmas and New Year’s.
While only about 8% of offices report closing this week, it’s a perk to consider depending on your industry’s workload; not only does it allow you to reward employees for a year of hard work, but it can also save some money by not having your operation running—and most certainly build goodwill heading into the new year. Furthermore, nearly 30% of employees say this week is wasted, anyway, with too many clients or co-workers out of the office to get any real work done.