Employee Time Off Requests for the Holidays

Sarah Nicole Nadler

Every year, around the holidays business owners prepare for what I like to call "The Mass Exodus"; the multitude of time-off requests from employees!

How do you keep a business functioning at the busiest time of the year...with only half of your team?

This week on The Six Figure Biz Show I'm breaking down for you step-by-step the strategy I use to save business owners hours of time, help keep them from being 'the bad guy' who must deny requests, and bring holiday cheer back into your life.

So, as always, let’s pull this problem apart. 

How to Prepare For The 'Mass Exodus': Holiday Time-Off Requests - Episode 57

FREE Holiday HR Blueprint

How to deal with employee time-off requests over the holidays (when you DON'T work with your husband!) Get my Holiday HR Blueprint with step-by-step instructions sent right to your inbox. 

With every episode of The Six Figure Biz, I like to empower you with a POWERFUL free resource that goes with the episode which you can implement right away to create some of the same results, if not better, in your business.

This week, since we are talking about holiday time off, and how hectic and aggravating holiday planning can be, I put together a Holiday HR Blueprint so you know step-by-step how to implement this strategy.

After going through this freebie you will be able to save hours of time responding to random questions or emotional employees, and know precisely what boundaries to set around holiday time off.

You can download it right away by clicking on the button above 👆

Prepare For The Holidays

The holidays are a time for joyful celebration, crazy travel plans, loads of extra family time, nutty family traditions, reflection on faith and dreams for the new year.

If you’re an employer, the holidays can also mean dealing with an overwhelming flood of vacation requests at once.

Obviously, if you are to remain open during the holidays your entire workforce can't be on vacation simultaneously! But the holidays understandably are important to many people, and so conversations around time off can become emotional; tempers run short and the discussion can quickly become confrontational.

Here are some tips that can help you get through the holidays without making this an unpleasant task – and even avoid the entire situation in the first place.

PTO or Time Off Policies Should Be Established

Having written policy that provides the guidelines of how and when time off or paid time off (PTO) will be approved is the first step in preventing misbehavior. Your business should have a policy outlining scenarios for personal time off, when it will be approved and when it will be denied, and under what circumstances the company offers paid time off or paid holidays.

When a team member requests time off that is denied and takes it off anyway, the absence is considered job abandonment and can be treated as a voluntary termination.

Questions that should be answered in your time off policy are:

  • Are there limits to how many people can be out of the office at once?
  • How far in advance do employees need to request time off?
  • Are there certain processes you’ll use to approve vacation, especially if the number of employees wanting PTO during a certain time period exceeds the maximum number of employees that can be out of the office at once?
  • For how long can each employee be out on vacation at a time?

Create A Time Off Request Form

Standardizing the format used by employees for a time-off request makes it simple to approve and provides the owner or manager with all the information they need to make a decision that will benefit all involved. (For an easy template to give your employees, download my Holiday HR Blueprint!)

Predict The Holiday Schedule

On September 1st, send out a memo to all employees, asking for all holiday time-off requests to be presented IN WRITING by September 30th.

This gives you enough notice to have a sit-down discussion with any members of the team whose request must be denied or revised. It also allows you as the business owner or manager to predict the future workload over the busy holiday season!

Encourage Responsibility & Peer-to-Peer Cooperation

It is a good idea to set the expectation ahead of time that employees should collaborate and help one another take time off by encouraging them to cover for each other.

This encourages camaraderie and responsibility for their job, as well as preventing the awkward position they put YOU in when they expect you to be the 'bad guy' and decide who gets to take the same days.

Let your team know that they should at least attempt to find coverage for key duties prior to submitting their time off request.

In the likely event that two or more employees ask for the same days off, making coverage impossible, ensure your written policy covers in detail who will be given precedence.

In some cases, it might be best to close the business for a few days or a week while all staff take time off at once. If this is in your plans, inform your team early so they have plenty of forewarning. Planning ahead also allows you to begin setting aside weekly savings, if necessary, to cover costs during the week you are closed.

Dealing With Time Off Denials

The primary barriers to successful holiday planning are the emotions and reactions employees sometimes have toward you, the general circumstances and their job duties.

Learning how to overcome these and push forward to your goals is an important skill for any executive.

One scenario that comes up frequently in small businesses is having to tell an employee that their time-off request was denied. When this happens, the employee may become emotional, beg you to reconsider, or act unprofessional and disgruntled.

If left unaddressed, this upset may poison the employee's relationship with the company, or lead to toxic behavior on the part of the employee.

Inside The Holiday HR Blueprint there are several scripts for addressing various scenarios, including the employee complaining, or becoming belligerent and confrontational.

But here are a few general guidelines that may help:

Listen before you decide you're outraged.

Clamp down on those emotions and ask the person calmly to explain why they disagree with your decision. You may find extenuating circumstances that need to be taken into consideration.

In either case, becoming outraged at the employee's unprofessionalism or behavior is often ineffectual and even a hindrance in resolving the matter.

While anger can be an effective tool of management, it loses its power when you lose control of your temper!

Acknowledge (make the employee feel heard and understood).

When we don't feel heard or understood, we tend to repeat ourselves... sometimes in ever-increasing volume! Make sure you acknowledge what the employee says.

Note: An acknowledgement doesn't have to mean that you agree - only that you heard them and understand where they are coming from. If you don't understand, calmly ask questions until you do.

In Summary

The holidays can be a joyful time of year for employer and employees alike when you use written policies as guideposts to keep everyone going the same direction!

There is a direct correlation between agreement and willingness to communicate with someone. By creating written policy as agreements between boss and the team, we can build up the agreements that make a fantastic company culture.

About the Author

Sarah Nicole Nadler is a business + balance coach for 6 & 7-figure business owners who want to build a dream team & profitable biz so they can spend more time on the things that matter. A digital nomad, she currently calls Tampa Bay, Florida home.