5 Expert Tips for Handling Time-off Requests

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While dealing with time-off requests certainly isn’t a manager’s most challenging task, it can prove to be pretty high on the list if you’re not careful. Over 72% of employees take their work-life balance very seriously, and if you don’t take their time-off requests seriously, you’ll face greater employee burnout and possibly higher turnover rates. 

Perks such as adequate vacation days and paid time-off are just as crucial to today’s workers as their salary or medical insurance, so you need to handle every vacation request form with care. Here are some of the best tips that will help you get on top of all time-off requests. 

Create a Time-off Policy and Inform Everyone About It 

Every business is different, so you likely have your own unique needs when it comes to employee time-off. Perhaps you need more people during the holidays or often find yourself short-staffed at the beginning of the school year. 

Whatever the case, you need to develop a time-off policy that reflects your business’s needs, but that also considers your employees’ needs. 

Once you’ve developed a suitable policy, you need to ensure that every employee is informed about it – from your remote workers to your janitorial staff. Explain the policy at every hiring interview or during onboarding, and make it easily accessible to everyone so that your employees can take a look at it if they have any questions. 

With a comprehensive time-off policy, you’ll prevent some workers from asking for days off more frequently, and you’ll encourage your more hesitant workers to take a break and avoid burnout. 

Establish a Time-Frame for Requests 

One of the biggest mistakes that many family-owned SMBs make is allowing each employee to take time off whenever they need to, without announcing it more than a day in advance. 

While this practice might not immediately cause problems if every employee is considerate of your business’s needs, it’s still a recipe for trouble down the line. It could shift scheduling issues and force some employees to work overtime due to the unexpected staff shortage. 

What this means is that you need a well-defined time-frame for requests. Determine the deadline for submitting vacation request forms, but also put a limit to how much in advance an employee can schedule their holiday. 

You don’t want employees to book Christmas vacation time a year in advance when you have no idea whether any current employees will quit or whether you’ll need to hire new people by that time. 

Come up With a Policy to Handle Overlapping Time-off Requests 

Even if you have just two employees under your wing, chances are you’ll face overlapping time-off requests at some point. You need to have a transparent course of action in situations like these, as you don’t want to be guilty of favoritism. 

There are several different policies you can establish for overlapping time-off requests. For most businesses, having more than one policy is often the best choice: 

  • First come, first served 
      • Easy to understand, but one employee might consistently come first and always take prime vacation time. 
  • Seniority 
    • Sensible in situations when all requests are equally valid but could be discouraging to new employees. 
  • Reason 
    • Medical emergencies are more important than holidays at the beach, but some employees might make up their reasons to get time off. 
  • Flexibility 
    • If one employee can be more flexible with their time-off, you can solve overlapping requests, but few employees would disclose this information without an incentive. 
  • Managerial discretion 
    • As the manager, you should know the needs of your employees and those of your business. When using managerial discretion, be clear about your reasons for approving or denying time-off requests to avoid favoritism. 

As you can see, every overlapping policy has its pros and cons. It would be best if you used a combination of these policies to ensure every employee has a chance to take time off when they need it. 

Make Sure Everyone’s Treated Fairly With a Rotating Schedule 

A rotating schedule can take care of many overlapping problems and give everyone a chance to take prime time off. Ensure each employee gets to have their Christmas vacation occasionally and gets to work weekends from time to time. 

While it might be easy for you to forget who’s always stuck at work and who’s still taking prime time off, your employees remember. Make sure everyone’s treated equally. 

Let Employees Find Their Replacements If Necessary 

Finally, neither you nor your employees can predict emergencies. So, regardless of all your time-off policies and vacation form deadlines, you could still face unexpected time-off requests. 

In this case, it’s best to allow employees some flexibility in finding their replacements. Allow shift trading or day trading as necessary. But keep in mind that if the employees cannot agree between themselves, you’ll need to step in and make a decision. 

The Bottom Line 

Time-off requests can, at times, be challenging to handle. But, as long as you have clear, easy-to-understand policies in place and use good judgment, you should have no issues dealing with them. So, follow the expert tips for handling time-off requests, and enjoy working with satisfied, well-rested employees. 

5 Expert Tips for Handling Time-off Requests

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