Manager and employees looking at a clipboard together

You want your employees to use their paid time off. At the same time, your business must stay on track. And if you approve too many vacation requests during a period, your company risks falling behind.

When it comes to paid time off, managers walk a tightrope. It’s a balancing act to make sure that your employees can take their paid time off without compromising your company’s productivity. With the right approach, you’ll be able to effectively approve vacation requests, even during busy times.

The Importance of Encouraging Your Employees to Use Their Vacation Days

Your company and its employees can enjoy the many benefits of vacation days, which include:

  • Improved Work-Life Balance: Give your employees a break from the hustle and bustle of work, so that they can rejuvenate their bodies and minds. When your employees return to their jobs, they’ll feel great and be ready to perform their best once again.
  • Lower Turnover Rates: When your employees feel and perform their best at work, they’re less inclined to pursue career opportunities elsewhere.
  • Reduced Risk of Burnout: Taking time off helps ensure your employees are less susceptible to burnout and the physical and emotional symptoms that come with it.

Set an example for your employees by encouraging them to use their vacation days. Make the process to request time off as simple as possible and manage their requests as best as you can.

Clear Expectations and Team-Centric Approach

How you manage time off requests is key. Establish a request process that’s backed by clear-cut policies and guidelines and ensures your workers know what to expect when they ask for time off, even when you have to deny their request.

The Team Approach to Time Off Requests

It is critical to have enough staff members in place to keep your business running as planned when team members take time off. To avoid giving too many employees time off at once, put your team’s needs front and centre.

Emphasizing the Team as a Whole

Declining a worker’s request for time off can be uncomfortable, but it will help to focus the conversation on the needs of your team and make sure the employee understands that the team comes first.

Collaborative Thinking for Coverage

If you’re worried about how an employee will respond to declining their time off request, approach the situation with collaborative thinking. Explore solutions together to make sure that sufficient coverage is in place for their time away from work. If you can’t find anyone to cover, you and the worker can brainstorm other alternatives.

Setting Ground Rules for Time Off Requests

Be specific with how your employees will submit time off requests. When you have rules in place, your employees know what they need to do to ask for time off. For example:

Establish Clear Policies

Include your policies in your employee handbook and require your workers to review them annually. Respond to any concerns or questions from workers regarding how to request time off.

Identify Critical Roles

Distinguish which roles are critical and require coverage at all times.

Balance Employee Rights with Operational Needs

Be respectful of employees’ rights. If a worker asks for time off but you have to decline their request, empathize with the worker. But keep in mind that your operational needs are also crucial.

Declining Time Off Requests: How and When

In Canada, workers are legally entitled to take their time off, but employers may decline specific leave requests, depending on the situation. It’s important as an employer to familiarize yourself with the applicable laws in your province and act within them. But beyond legalities, you should also take into consideration the impact on the employee and the rest of the team when deciding to approve or decline a request.

Why Should I Deny a Time Off Request?

Deny a time off request if approving what your employee wants will ultimately hurt your business. Remember, your company consists of many employees and you want every worker to get the support needed to succeed. This means ensuring employees take their allotted time off, but also that you have adequate coverage to avoid overwork and burnout for the rest of the team.

Communicating Effectively

If possible, decline a time off request in person. Meet with the employee, explain why you have to decline their request and respond to any questions or concerns about your decision. Afterward, put the time off denial in writing—a follow-up email or other documentation. Encourage them to contact you if they wish to discuss the matter further.

Vacation requests can be a source of contention for workers, so if you can’t approve a specific time off request, be ready to explain why. Open communication can help foster trust, create a more positive workplace and improve retention.

Providing Alternatives

Give an employee a list of possible dates in lieu of the day(s) off they requested. Some companies have online portals where workers can view their vacation balance, see available dates to request off,  and digitally submit their requests. If there is a situation where you have to reverse an original decision to give a worker time off, let the employee know right away. Explain your reasoning and if possible, consider offering extra time off or other forms or reimbursement to make it up to the worker.

Hiring Temporary Staff for Holiday Coverage

If you have many workers requesting time off during specific times of the year (i.e. over the summer or in December), you may need to look at staffing-up. Partnering with a recruitment or staffing agency can give you quick and easy access to top talent to fill gaps seasonally or permanently.

The Contemporary Work Landscape and Time Off Management

Time off management is evolving and it’s important to to ensure you’re well-equipped to manage time off requests, maximize productivity and keep your employees happy.

Adapting to New Generations and Modern Work Dynamics

Use employee engagement surveys to get feedback about your business’ time off policies. Based on this feedback, update your policies periodically.

Flexibility and Remote Work Considerations

If employees can work outside of an office or outside of a standard work schedule, give them the opportunity to do so. This flexibility can contribute to improved work-life balance and productivity and can be a powerful tool for attracting and retaining top talent.

Industry-Specific Considerations

Some industries run 24/7. If your business operates in one of these industries, plan ahead. Make sure you have staff in place who are available to support your team and customers around the clock. If you don’t, your employees and customers will suffer, and your business risks losing revenues and damaging its brand reputation. For example:

  • Customer Service – Meeting Urgent Demands: If necessary, hire temporary customer service professionals. This gives you access to a customer service team that’s available to your clients at all times. If urgent issues come up, customers will be able to reach out and get the support they need.
  • Healthcare – Balancing Lives and Operations: For hospitals and other healthcare organizations, staff must be in place who are always available to assist patients. These organizations must also account for staff burnout.
  • Safety-Critical Jobs – Ensuring Adequate Staffing: Utility providers deliver critical services and need to staff accordingly. If your company has safety-critical jobs, temp staffing is available. When you partner with a temporary staffing agency, you’ll have no trouble filling safety-critical roles at any time.

Collaborative Planning Sessions

Make time off planning a group effort. At the beginning of the year, explain that the window to request time off is open. Employees can then submit their requests. Meanwhile, you can work with your employees and other managers to go through these requests and make sure that your business is adequately staffed.

Importance of Regular Team Meetings

Set up team meetings to discuss vacation requests and other work-related topics. These meetings help you and your team prepare when employees take time off. They also allow you to proactively address any potential staffing issues before they escalate.

Creating a Transparent Request System

Be clear about how time off works at your company and what employees need to do to ask for time off and keep the lines of communication open. Make sure that your employees know any time their requests are approved or rejected.

How to Encourage Your Team to Use the Vacation Policy Responsibly

Encourage your workers to ask for time off as soon as they know they want it. Communicate how decisions are made regarding time off requests (i.e. is it a first-come policy, where whoever’s request for a specific day off comes in first is the one approved, or are decisions made in another way?). Ensure your employees understand policies on vacation rollover and what happens to vacation days not used up by year-end.

Ensuring Employee Well-being During Time Off

Make sure that your onsite and remote workers are connected to their jobs, but not to the point where they feel the need to complete job tasks while they’re taking time off. Ask your workers to set up an out-of-office message and notify their peers when they’ll be away. You should also encourage your employees to turn their work devices off and not to check work emails, voicemail or Teams/Slack channels. This boosts the likelihood that workers will spend their time away from their jobs focusing on what’s most important: taking care of themselves.

Encouraging Work-Life Balance

Teach your workers about work-life balance and why it’s important. Promote the benefits of taking time away from work to focus on your overall health and well-being.

Offering Mental Health Support

Discuss the mental health tools and resources that your company offers. Encourage your workers to come forward if they are struggling with burnout or any other issues and assist them in finding the appropriate resources for support.

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