How would you assess time off requests?

One of the most critical jobs a manager has is managing employee time-off requests, and failing to do so can result in staffing shortages and morale difficulties. Employee time-off requests, on the other hand, can help keep your staff happy, create a more positive work atmosphere, and ultimately help your company prosper.

Developing a time-off policy is an excellent opportunity to consider your company’s needs and establish your expectations for your employees. Having a clear policy and applying it evenly is the best way to manage employee time-off requests.

Every industry has its own high-intensity seasons, during which taking too much time off can be disastrous to a company’s bottom line. During the winter vacations, for example, retail need all hands on deck. You might want to set a timeframe for when time off requests can be made during specific times. You could even want to go a step further and set a deadline for when requests can be submitted. This is to avoid people making requests for the following year when some of the people who will be working have yet to be hired.

If you set a request deadline, let all employees know at the same time. This matters, because you’ll likely get time off requests that can’t all be granted and you’ll need a process for deciding who gets their request and who doesn’t. Some of these methods are based on who asks first, which is only fair if everyone is equally aware they can make a request.

The first-come, first-serve strategy is the most prevalent way used by businesses to handle time off during the holidays, followed by seniority. The time off is awarded to the person who makes their request first. This is why you should inform all employees of the deadline at the same time and with ample notice. You want to be flexible because certain employees may always be first, and you don’t want to keep the same employees working every holiday just because they didn’t submit their request until the next day. If you rely on seniority, it’s better to do so when there are multiple requests for time off, all of which are equally valid and contradicting.

Avoid what appears to be arbitrary administrative discretion on a regular basis. It smells like favoritism, especially if you don’t have a good justification for who gets time off and who doesn’t. Be mindful of first-come, first-served policies and putting too much emphasis on seniority. It can be discouraging for new employees to believe that because they haven’t been there long enough, they would never be able to request ideal time off. Keep in mind that younger generations frequently change jobs every few years, so traditional seniority methods to vacation time penalize them and potentially speed their departure from your company.

A positive approach is usually preferable to a punishing one. People feel oppressed when there are a lot of rules. Consider rewarding employees who are willing to work during peak times such as holidays, weekends, or other periods when time off requests are common.

Let’s imagine you have an employee who is available to work every weekend in December. Her prize may be first dibs on the first two weekends off in January, or a guarantee that she won’t have to work any closing duties on those weekends. Of course, other types of incentives are effective, but time off bonuses to address a time off issue make sense. Some employees do not desire time off (which is a separate issue), but for the most part, this form of incentive works well.

Whatever approach you use with employee time off, make sure all employees are aware of it as soon as they are employed. You’ll get one of two outcomes if your employees are unaware of the time-off limitations you’ve established. Because there are no restrictions, some employees will frequently request time off for any reason. The other employees become resentful as a result of this. Some employees will be hesitant to ask for fear of being denied since they are unfamiliar with the company’s policies. Frustration and exhaustion result as a result of this.

Time off policies may be included in a union contract, depending on your industry. In that case, you are bound by those policies. Otherwise, you might want to include some wiggle room in your vacation policy. This flexibility should include managerial discretion to account for situations that cannot be anticipated in advance. Put your policies in the employee handbook, make them accessible to employees so they may look them up if they have questions, and discuss them during the hiring process.

That chirpy coworker who always appears to want weekend off throughout the summer? That coworker who constantly seems to have a family emergency? It’s just too easy to demonstrate favoritism without even recognizing it. After all, the squeaky wheel gets the oil, and quiet and restrained employees don’t get the same vacation time as other employees. This is where a rotating schedule of time off comes into play.

When it comes to holidays or weekends, rotating the time off plan for employees is a fair way to manage requests. Employees have lengthy memories of being trapped working holidays, every Friday evening shift, or if they worked last Thanksgiving, whether you realize it or not. They remember, even if you don’t. Rotation is a deliberate method of avoiding this.

Keep note of employee requests for time off, including when they made the request, why they made it, and how much time they took off. While keeping track of employee time off requests may be time consuming, it will help you recognize problem trends and put you in a better position to reject time off requests from employees who may be requesting for time off too frequently for the same reasons.

You can also notice if there are any employees who rarely request time off depending on how you track the requests. Perhaps they are entitled to some time off but lack the confidence to ask for it on their own.

Emergencies arise (real ones, not the ones that tend to occur solely on hot summer weekends), and you want to be able to grant your staff time off in those situations. But what if you have a rigid rotational schedule, or if the employee has exhausted his or her leave requests? Allowing employees to exchange shifts or days, or come to an arrangement among themselves, takes you out of the equation and eliminates any suspicion of bias.

Fairly managing time off requests requires a combination of defined policies, flexibility for emergencies, and a conscious effort to avoid partiality. Allowing employees to volunteer for a shift provides them a sense of control, as they are no longer at the mercy of their boss’s whims.

Check out my related post: How do you welcome staff returning to office?

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