Avoiding Time-Off Turmoil
With Thanksgiving fast approaching—the busiest travel time of the year—employers from Los
Angeles to Louisville will be juggling the same problem: employee time-off requests. With so
many employees asking for time off, and some of them pleading at the last minute, it’s easy for
businesses to find themselves short staffed during the holidays. Although the holidays are
synonymous with vacation time, efficiently managing time-off requests can present a problem at
any time of year.
The key to effective scheduling is establishing a clear policy for time-off requests. The
employee handbook should outline the procedure to request time off, including how employees
can request time off, how much advance notice is required, how many employees can be off at
one time, and how time-off requests are processed, whether by seniority or by order of request.
Formal written requests are recommended to properly document employee time off, such as
through an e-mail or a standardized form. Once a request is approved, the employee’s manager
should calendar the time off in a place where all affected management staff can see it and
arrange for adequate department staffing. Communication is always critical to successful
scheduling, both among management staff and between managers and employees. Before the
holiday rush, employees should be made aware of scheduling deadlines and staffing
expectations, such as how many people need to work the day after Thanksgiving.
While it’s important to maintain clear time-off procedures, sometimes flexibility trumps policy,
especially since last-minute requests are known to crop up around the holidays. Employers on
the brink of scheduling chaos should be fair and let employees know the decision regarding their
time-off requests and why that decision was made. Flexibility can go a long way toward
employees feeling positive about the decision and feeling like they were treated fairly, even if the
outcome wasn’t in their favor. The more employees feel valued, the more they may be willing to
schedule time off in advance or to be flexible if someone else suddenly needs time off.