Home for the holidays — that’s where everyone wants to be, right? Not too many people are happy to find themselves behind their desks come holiday time. A slower business pace this time of year benefits everyone, as people struggle to spend free time with loved ones or simply try to take a break from the daily grind of their professional lives. However, not every business has the luxury of being able to shut down completely for the entire holiday week.
Here are some helpful hints on how to structure and strategize holiday vacation schedules without leaving employees frustrated or your business understaffed:
- Consult the calendar. Most companies tend to shut down completely on both Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. Depending on which day of the week these holidays actually fall, many companies also give their staff the surrounding days off. Check the calendar to see what days the holidays actually fall on and use this to predict the volume of business you can expect to see on the surrounding days. Typically, the week between Christmas and New Year’s is a slow one for many businesses, but that will depend on the industry you’re in.
- Determine which days you’ll need coverage. Look closely at the days prior to Christmas through the first business day following the New Year, and decide which days you’ll need coverage in the office. Do certain operations occur during this time period while others go on hiatus? Will your offices be closed entirely, or will they observe shortened hours? Do people’s posts need to be manned in person or is working remotely a viable option? Do certain positions need to be filled while others do not? Take all these factors into consideration before drafting your holiday coverage schedule.
- Clearly communicate the company’s holiday staffing needs. Inform employees as early as possible about what will be needed around holiday time. There’s no quicker route to “Grinch” status than denying holiday vacation requests for seemingly arbitrary reasons. If your staff is clear on what is needed to keep the business running around the holidays, there will be less confusion as employees start formulating their plans.
- Be generous with vacation time. Your employees have likely worked hard for the company all year, so do them the favor of granting as much of their holiday vacation requests as possible (within reason). Know that most people will want the same days off, so consider alternatives to having them physically in the office, such as offering some people the option to telecommute rather than taking the entire day off (this works especially well for those folks who must travel a long way during the break). If you enable your employees to spend as much time as possible with their loved ones, you’ll boost morale and earn your staff’s loyalty and admiration, which always pays off in the end with increased productivity and reduced turnover.
- Share the responsibilities. If you are in the position of asking your staff to work during the holidays, you’d better be prepared to do the same. An office full of assistants and junior staffer but few, if any, managers is a surefire recipe for employee resentment and low morale. Be certain to distribute the business responsibilities evenly during this time period.
- Keep the far-from-home top-of-mind. While some of your employees may not be traveling very far over the break, keep in mind that there are some employees who must travel large distances just to get “home.” Defray problems by being cognizant of which staffers are traveling a long way for the holidays. It might be easier to understand why Jane needs five days off for Christmas if you know two of those days will be devoted solely to travel.
- Rotate annually. Keep track, from year to year, of which employees took which days off during the holiday season. If you’re asking some staffers to sacrifice extended breaks to man the office this year, you should know who they are and when they worked so you can shift that responsibility to others the following year. Your employees will be much more prone to working around holiday time without complaint if they know they won’t be forced into the same situation every year.
If your company does not already have a solid employee vacation day policy in place, be sure to read our informative step-by-step guide to Setting Up Employee Benefits, which covers the topic of developing vacation and sick leave policies, along with many other key employee benefits.