Summer is well within view, and for millions of Americans, that means securing vacation time will become a top priority if it hasn’t already. While time off can be a welcome break from workplace stressors, that’s not always the case for business owners that need to manage operational needs. Things become even more challenging when employees are vying for the same dates.
It may not always be easy, but there are some things you can do to manage employee vacation requests and keep business up and running as usual.
Have clear vacation policy in place
One of the best tools for managing employee vacation requests is your employee handbook, specifically your time-off or vacation request policy. This policy should clearly state the request-off policy as well as any rules, caveats, etc.
For example, a good policy will include the following:
- Information about the proper channels through which to request time off (e.g., reporting manager, HR, etc.)
- How far in advance requests should be made
- Specific policies as they relate to the seasonality or popular vacation times (e.g., Christmas, 4th of July, Memorial Day, etc.)
You should review your vacation policy with all new employees; however, it’s also helpful to remind employees of your expectations a few weeks before summer requests typically begin to roll in.
One of the advantages of an employee vacation policy is that it helps you make decisions in an equanimous way. However, when you have numerous employees vying for the same days, including the days immediately before or after holidays, things can still get complicated.
As such, you may also want to consider implementing other measures to ensure fairness. For instance, some companies use a lottery system to determine who gets to take off popular dates, and others will require employees to work another holiday in exchange for example — working the 4th of July in exchange for Memorial Day, for example.
How you maintain a “fair” approach depends on your business and workplace policies. However, it’s typically best to avoid favoring specific individuals or departments – doing so can have a negative impact on moral and leave you and your employees miserable for the bulk of the season.
Cross train employees
Even if with a policy in place, even a few less than ideal requests or last-minute needs can leave you and your employees struggling to keep up with everyday operational tasks.
One way to combat this is to cross-train employees so that they’re prepared to jump in where needed. This doesn’t mean that you need to train every employee for every position, but you should have at least one or two employees who have been trained to jump in and help if need be.
If you don’t plan on cross training, or you don’t have time, it’s helpful to maintain a document that clearly outlines basic operational processes. That way an employee(s) can refer to them if necessary.
If you consistently run into staffing shortages during the summer months, it may be helpful to bring in temporary or “seasonal” help to help you bridge the gap.
For some businesses, particularly those that experience a traffic increase over the summer months, typical seasonal employment efforts may be the right answer.
Another option, particularly since summer also represents a break from the school year, is implementing an internship program. Doing so can help bridge gaps, lighten the load on full-time employees, and help you identify skilled, upcoming professionals who may serve as full-time employees down the road.
Either way, it’s important to start your efforts early, take note of the financial implications of hiring extra workers, and abide by all legal requirements as they pertain to benefits, employee classifications, and taxation.
Though many of your employees may prefer to take their vacations in the summer, particularly around major holidays, you may be able to persuade them otherwise. If you’re really struggling to meet vacation requests, consider giving employees a reason to vacation during the slower months.
Not sure how? An extra day off, early access to Q1 or Q4 time-off bids, or flexible working arrangements, like working from home, may make it worthwhile for some employees to consider alternative vacationing plans.
If time off-requests make the notion of “summer vacations” far more stressful than satisfying, you’re not alone. Many business owners and department heads struggle to accommodate employee requests, particularly during the warmer months when beach getaways and stay-cations alike dominate the calendar.
However, that doesn’t mean you need to place a May to September ban on summer fun. Instead, use the tips above to make vacations more manageable, and while you’re at it, considering setting aside some time for your own little getaway.
This article was originally written on April 23, 2019 and updated on January 29, 2021.