As a manager, you’re faced with a variety of challenges every day, such as hiring and retaining the best people, meeting clients’ expectations, maintaining a competitive edge and handling unexpected crises.
Managing your team’s vacation requests is high on the list of dilemmas every leader encounters at one time or another. Here are some tips for handling time-off requests in a way that meets your employees’ needs while ensuring that critical projects get completed.
Understand Why Time Away is Important
Your heart may sink when an employee submits a vacation request. After all, that means you have to figure out how the same amount of work is going to get done while your employee is away. But increasingly, managers understand that taking a break from work is essential for employees to avoid burnout and remain engaged at work. And, ensuring your employees have adequate time off benefits you as the employer, too, enhancing your team’s productivity and loyalty.
Ensure the Work Still Gets Done
Most companies or teams don’t have a deep bench. That means that when one person is out on vacation, the other people on the team have to figure out how to get the same amount of work done with one less person.
One of the best things you can do is to make sure that you’re encouraging your employees to cross-train and collaborate with one another. That way, when one person is out, the others on the team can quickly step in to fill that person’s shoes. No single employee should be so critical that if he or she is gone, the whole team suffers significantly.
Another way to ensure that work doesn’t suffer when one person is out is to have your team members make sure their work is covered before they leave for vacation. Give each team member a checklist of tasks that must be completed before they leave on vacation, including:
• a summary of their ongoing projects
• outline important deadlines
• identify where critical files are located
• and provide contact information as a last resort
Having such information will give you the peace of mind you need to know that the work will still get done.
Offer Incentives During Busy Periods
Despite your best efforts to plan, there are times when having too many people off at one time could be detrimental to your business, particularly in sectors such as retail and hospitality. In those instances, offer bonuses or other incentives to employees who opt to work instead of taking time off. These incentives could include extra pay or an additional day off during a slower season.
Set a Deadline for Vacation Requests
To help you plan for staff shortages, ensure your team members submit vacation requests by a certain day. That way, you can look ahead to anticipate whether too many people will be out at the same time or if you lack enough coverage during a particularly busy period. And, you will give yourself extra time to resolve any conflicts if too many people want time off at the same time.
Discuss Vacation Requests as a Team
If you alone are responsible for granting or denying vacation requests, your team could become resentful or feel that the process is unfair. Inevitably, more than one person on your team will request time off at the same time. Maybe Emily needs a day off to send her child to kindergarten on the same day that Sam’s parents are in town for his sister’s wedding. Rather than making a unilateral decision on whose vacation request is approved, explore alternatives and see if there is a way for both employees to be off at the same time. Better yet, encourage your employees to work out conflicts among themselves: Let them trade days off as long as they can ensure that all of the work will get done.
Have a Formal System for Time-Off Requests
Develop a formal policy for time-off requests and make sure each of your employees has a copy of and understands the policy. That way, everyone knows how and when to request time off, as well as any conditions for those requests.
To minimize conflicts, you may also want to formalize how time-off requests are approved. For example, you could simplify the process by granting requests on a first-come, first served basis. Alternatively, make a list of all of your employees. The employees at the top of the list get to choose their vacation days first. Next year, those employees go to the bottom of the list, and others get priority. That way, the process remains clear and fair, with little room for dispute.
Empower your workforce to manage their own time
To make it even easier, HR software can do a lot of the work for you. With an employee self-service module, team members can select the days they want to be off and provide details on the reason for their absence. If the absence merits supervisor approval, the request will automatically be sent to you via email notification for review.
Managing time-off requests can be a challenge for any company. But by following the steps outlined above, you can develop a system that is both fair and rewarding for your employees and ensures that critical projects still get done.