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5 Tips for Managing Winter Holiday Time Off Requests

With the big winter holidays approaching, the issue of time off will probably become more prominent in most offices over the next few weeks. And will likely be rather problematic, as, perhaps more than any other time of year usually everyone wants the same days off, and will usually submit their requests at the same time. So, how do you keep your employees happy and your business running?

It’s not easy, but there are some things that you can do to make it easier. Not every solution works for every business, here are five helpful suggestions.

1. Alternate Time Off for Major Holidays

If the nature of your business dictates that you are operational during the major winter holidays then managing time off requests becomes especially difficult. One commonly used and effective solution is holiday alternation. For example, John gets Thanksgiving off, Jane works. When Christmas rolls around Jane is off, John works.

If your business isn’t open on the holiday but is on the all days surrounding it, the same rationales work well. For instance, if John worked on the day after Thanksgiving, he gets the day after Christmas off, unlike Jane, who works, because she was granted Black Friday off.

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2. Be Honest About Holidays When Hiring

If your company can only offer limited time off during the holiday season ensure that employees know that right from the start, before they are hired. Some managers avoid doing this as they don't want candidates to turn down a job because of that fact. That however if flawed thinking.

Being honest about limited holiday time off may indeed cause some otherwise good candidates to walk away, but the people you do hire will be prepared and won't develop resentments when they do end up working on a holiday.

3. Never Make Assumptions

Some business owners may consider having Jewish employees work the week between Christmas and New Year’s while letting Christian employees take it off.

While this might seem like a logical approach, consider the fact that all employees’ kids have the same days off from school, and this may be the only time they can travel to see family, regardless of whether they celebrate Christmas. They may also celebrate both holidays- or completely different ones as Judaism and Christianity are not the only religions practiced by US employees – so don’t prioritize requests based on assumptions or when you think employees might want the time.

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4. Offer an Incentive for Employees to Work During the Holidays

Working on a major holiday usually sucks, but if, in order to keep your business going someone will have to do it the least you can do is make it as pleasant as possible. Offer a special holiday meal, a bonus, and/or an extra 1/2 day's PTO at a later (non-holiday) date. When working on the holidays is incentivized this way people are more likely to do so without too much griping, and you may even find that you get volunteers.

5. Don’t Use a Strict Seniority System

Many companies make use of a seniority-based system when determining who gets the high-demand days off. While this seems logical, it can mean that the same three people get Christmas off every year. That will probably demoralize newer staff. Stick with a system that allows everyone an opportunity.

Holiday time-off requests don’t have to be a disaster for productivity. Planning in advance and providing the right incentives can help you get through this busy time.

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