Managing employee time off requests can be a harrowing task. Everybody is predisposed to believe their time off is the most important, and peak seasons are particularly difficult to manage. The winter holiday season and summertime are two points of the year in particular when most people try to take vacation, not to mention other common breaks and holidays.

As a manager, there are ways to take the stress out of this scheduling task. Simply follow these ten business rules for managing employee time off requests:

Rule #1: Set the rules for time off requests

Setting clear rules is one of the best ways for managing employee time off requests. Make a set of rules that your employees can easily abide by. For instance, a time limit that indicates how long in advance someone must request time off or an order of priority that will automatically be given, like seniority. Your employees will be less likely to get upset over their denied requests if they understand the reason behind it.

Rule #2: Be consistent with the rules

Set your guidelines for managing employee time off requests and abide by them. If you are constantly making exceptions to the rules you have laid out to accommodate people’s time off requests, it will look like favouritism. In the moment, it may make some people unhappy, however over time people will see that you abide by a fair system, and they will appreciate the consistency.

Rule #3: Organize the employee time off requests

Make sure that you are keeping all the employee time off requests requests safe and secure. There would be nothing worse than an employee saying, “hey boss, how about that time off request?” and you drawing a blank because it’s been lost somewhere in the shuffle. This is where an absence management software will come in handy to manage employee time off requests. Just make sure all the data is backed up somewhere securely!

Rule #4: Create a submission process for time off requests

Develop a standardized form that all of your employees can use. This will create conformity in the process, and make it easier for you to analyze each request on a case by case basis. It will be especially helpful to have a uniform process when multiple time off requests are made. You may consider using software for managing employee time off requests more easily.

Rule #5: Prepare for conflicts with the time off

It may happen that while one or two of your employees are on vacation, another one or two get sick or have emergency situations that require them to take time off. Then what? Having a backup plan is important. One way companies manage this type of situation is having some part-time or casual staff on the books, who can be called in when scheduling gets tight. It’s also a nice way to be able to provide more lenient time off for your full-time staff, if these individuals can be called on to fill in while they’re out of the office.

Rule #6: Rotate time off request approvals

A method that can help you ensure you are being fair to all of your employees is to rotate the approvals you give. Try to keep track of who was allowed to go on vacation last time, and make sure that anybody who was denied gets the time off this time around. A rotation system allows for managing employee time off requests in a fair and sensible way.

Rule #7: Understand you cannot accommodate all requests

As much as you may want to accommodate all of your employees’ time off requests to make them happy, it is not always possible. Recognize in advance that you won’t be able to make everyone happy. When managing employee time off requests, understand that you have to stick to your guns and you can’t accommodate everyone’s wishes.

Rule #8: Be flexible with time off requests

Although it is important to have a solid set of rules, don’t just make up strict rules for the sake of it. Try to show that you are flexible when it makes sense. For instance, if employees find their own replacements and there is no reason why the replacement couldn’t do the job, then consider allowing these kinds of swaps. It saves you the trouble of finding someone, and the person is still able to take their day off.

Rule #9: Be mindful of showing favouritism

It is very easy to slip into autopilot when it comes to managing time off requests, but it is important that you actively monitor yourself for favouritism. It may be completely unconscious, so it is crucial that you analyze your own processes, and ensure they aren’t favouring anybody in particular. You may also consider having another manager involved in the process to ensure fairness in managing employee time off requests.

Rule #10: Don’t compromise the organization

Remember: you aren’t there to be friends with your employees, as nice as it is to have good relationships with them. You’re there to ensure the continued success of the company you are managing. As such, make sure when granting time off requests that you have the specific members of the team available who are needed to get everything done. If you have only one person who knows how to do a specific task, train someone else – that person is not going to be there every single day, you can count on that. Make sure you have backup staff.


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Alison is one of the writers working at Ultimate Business News. If you have any media inquiries, please contact Alison for further questions and feedback.

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