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How to Handle Time Off Requests

The holidays are a busy time, and your employees are probably eager to take time off for the festivities. Of course, you wish you could approve every request. But you still have a small business to run and need your staff to be productive (and actually at work).

If you mishandle time off requests, you could face some serious consequences. For example, if you approve too many requests, you won’t be able to give your customers the support they need. If you don’t approve any requests, however, you might damage your culture and employee satisfaction.

You need a policy to make sure you’re handling time off requests fairly. You might deal with more requests during the holidays, but a solid policy can help you handle requests appropriately all year long.

Here are important points to consider when creating your policy:

First Come, First Served

Consider approving time off requests on a first come, first served basis. This will encourage your employees to ask for time off well in advance, so you won’t be scrambling to make scheduling changes.

In addition, set a limit on how many people can be off each day. That way, you’ll be sure you have enough people working to handle your small business’s needs.

Set a Limit

If the holidays are a busy time for your business, set a limit for the number of days your employees can take off during the holiday season.

For example, if you know that December is a busy month, encourage your employees to ask for no more than three days off.

Black-Out Periods

Your store is always swamped the Saturday before Christmas. You expect this year will be the same and that you’ll need all hands on deck. When you know that you’ll need your whole staff to serve the needs of your customers, it’s okay to set a black-out period for time off requests. Black-outdays are dates where everyone must come to work (except in the case of an emergency).

Let Employees Work from Home

If your business can handle it, consider letting your staff work from home during the holidays. If your employees have the flexibility to work wherever they are, they can still be productive and are less likely to ask for time off during the busy holiday season.

Set a Deadline for Requests

Make sure your employees know how far in advance they need to request time off.

If you require your employees to submit their requests at least two weeks in advance, for example, you’ll still have time to create schedules based around who has off.

Track Requests

Whether you offer paid or unpaid time off, make sure you’re tracking all time off requests. Track how much time each employee is asking for, when they’re asking for it, and why they want time off (it’s up to you how specific the reason needs to be).

Tracking your employees’ time off requests will help you spot any problems.

If someone is asking for a lot of time off, for example, consider scheduling some time to chat with them and ask how everything is going. You might discover that they’re unsatisfied in their role, and you can find a way to improve morale. Or, you might learn that they’ve been dealing with some problems at home and can work to create a more flexible schedule to help them through it.

You might also discover that you have an employee that isn’t taking time off. To make sure they don’t burn out, suggest that they take sometime off after the holidays. They might be afraid to ask for time off and just need a nudge.


How do you handle time off requests during the holidays?