Your employees will be able to do their best work for you when they take time away from their jobs to rest and recharge. It’s also important for them to be able to use their time off in a way that helps them tend to the other priorities in their lives — for example, caring for a family member or attending their child’s activities. This gives them a greater sense of work-life balance, which, in turn, makes them even more happy and productive.

As a manager, you must meet your employees’ needs for time off while keeping your business adequately staffed. That can be a challenge, but careful planning and the right tools will make it a whole lot easier.

Designate Vacation Blackout Dates

If you’re trying to better manage your employees’ time off, a good place to start is by looking at your scheduling “hot spots” throughout the year.

Maybe there are times when it’s difficult for you to grant any time off at all. For example, your restaurant may need all hands on deck during a big annual convention in your town that consistently brings in massive crowds.

In that case, you may want to simplify things by prohibiting time-off requests during those dates. To be fair to your employees, let them know well in advance about vacation blackout dates. This is especially important for new employees, who don’t have a sense yet of when your busy times are.

Set Deadlines for Vacation Requests

You’ll also want to look for periods during the year when you can grant time off, but you anticipate being bombarded by conflicting vacation requests. Maybe, for example, your gym can accommodate a couple of employee absences in August, but you typically have several workers who want to take vacation time before their kids are back in school. Or perhaps you’re always struggling to give your retail employees time off during the busy holiday season. It doesn’t help matters when employees put off making their requests!

To head off conflicts and disappointments, identify the times when many of your employees want to be off and set some deadlines for requesting vacation time. For example, you could decide that all requests for the week between Christmas and New Year’s must be in by September 1. (Again, give employees plenty of notice about these deadlines so that they can plan accordingly.) Getting a clear picture of your scheduling needs early will help you avoid both understaffing and disgruntled employees.

Ask Staff to Work Out Compromises

But what if too many people still want the same days off during one of your busy times? Instead of making all the vacation decisions yourself, ask employees to work together on compromises. When they collaborate, they may discover solutions that you wouldn’t have thought of. For example, an employee who had seemed adamant about being off on Christmas Eve could decide that he’s OK with working then if he gets extra days off at Thanksgiving.

Harvard Business Review points out that another advantage of asking employees to work out vacation time themselves is that they’ll be more satisfied with a plan they come up with together rather than one handed down to them. Giving your staff members this kind of autonomy can be great for morale.

Use Tools That Enable Flexibility

Of course, employees’ vacation requests don’t have to involve busy times of the year or big blocks of time away from work to be challenging. Maybe one of your staffers is asking for every Monday and Thursday off because of college classes or needs to work half days a few times a month because of a family member’s medical appointments.

In these cases, both your business and your staff might benefit from allowing employees to make their schedules more flexible instead of requiring them to take time off to tend to personal commitments. Using the right type of scheduling software takes the logistical headaches out of flexible scheduling. It can, for example, make it easier for two staffers to swap shifts to accommodate their individual needs. This is another way that giving employees a sense of empowerment increases their job satisfaction. Plus, you’re taking work off of your own plate.

Prepare for Employees’ Time Off

When key staff members are on vacation, you may worry about the disruptions caused by their absence. You can ease some of your worries by working with employees to plan for their days off. According to the TrackSmart blog, that means coming up with an equitable way to reassign an employee’s duties when he’s out. This helps you make sure that everything is covered and that no one is being overburdened.

You should also ensure that a vacationing employee is leaving behind all the relevant information colleagues need to cover his job, like computer passwords or a list of key duties he performs daily. This information will be a valuable resource for you and the rest of your staff, and it ensures you won’t be disrupting employees’ vacation by contacting them with questions.

Kyra Kuik
Kyra Kuik Head of Content
Kyra is Planday's Head of Content. When she's not busy spinning up blog posts or editing, you can find her with a big cup of coffee, running, or admiring the charming pups of Copenhagen.