Effectively Managing Your Vacation Policy During the Holidays

Planning ahead and working with an established employee vacation policy can help keep things running smoothly and reduce stress during a time of the year that may already be stressful.
vacation policy during the holidays

To help alleviate additional stress during the upcoming holidays, it may be necessary to reinforce your employee vacation policy.

"Staffing around the holidays can represent different challenges for different industries," notes Paychex area manager Matt Keup. "In the retail and hospitality sectors, for example, this is often the busiest time of year."

As a starting point, Keup recommends looking at data, "both historical from years prior, if available, and projections of the amount of business a company expects to conduct over the holidays. The process starts with projecting need."

Paychex senior HR generalist Heenle Vyas Turner emphasizes the importance of communication. "If business is slow during the holidays, then communication could include a reminder to employees of any paid time off (PTO) they may have available to them. Perhaps the company could consider a shorter PTO request requirements for November and December to encourage PTO use. It's a great time to use available PTO because people like to be with family during the holiday season, and if the workplace is slow, why not?"

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Turner adds, "It's also important to train supervisors about the company's expectations during the holiday season, and make sure they're ready to enforce these standards."

Keeping Employees Involved and Focused

Consider some of the following organizational tactics HR teams can implement to help everyone feel they've been treated fairly and ensure your team stays focused during the holidays:

Set clear expectations

A vacation policy only works efficiently if it's clearly communicated to the entire team. "Set a clear expectation regarding your company's staffing needs during the holidays," advises Lawanda Rutledge, Paychex senior HR generalist. "Ensure that everyone understands the vacation policy and that the approval process for time off is clearly outlined."

When possible, Rutledge adds, "allow employees to decide which holiday they would like to schedule time off. For example, if an employee has vacation plans for Christmas, perhaps they could agree to work around New Year's or Thanksgiving."

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Post a vacation calendar for everyone to see

In a public area of the workplace or online, post an easy-to-understand calendar reflecting vacation time that has already been scheduled. By posting an accessible vacation calendar, employees can easily see which days are still available to request PTO.  This can also help alleviate any possible frustration and time spent by employees requesting time off for days already booked by others on the vacation calendar. Additionally, it can help identify when there may be a need to hire additional holiday help.

To maintain focus, train staff in effective coverage

The job duties of an employee on vacation must often be taken up by someone else in the workplace. "Once a schedule is in place," says Rutledge, "figure out what sort of coverage you need. If only one employee knows how to do a certain task, make sure they train others on how to handle it before their time off."

Key information to share in these circumstances includes:

  • A description of current projects in the works
  • Overall job responsibilities
  • Essential contact information
  • A checklist of other to-do items

Planning ahead and working with an established employee vacation policy can help keep things running smoothly and reduce stress during a time of the year that may already be stressful. Your business – and your employees – can benefit from this advanced planning.

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