Each year every employee is entitled to some time off. This is legally mandated by the government, regardless of which country your company conducts business in. Besides what the legal mandate is, study have proven that time off for employees is a good thing for the staff and the business. Dealing with time off requests, however, can be a challenge. It disrupts business and productivity each time someone takes time off. Being able to deal with time off requests gracefully can make a great difference to your organization’s bottom line.
In this discussion of time off requests, I’d like to focus on dealing with the planned time off requests. There are other time off requests such as sick leave and emergency time off that we will cover separately.
Giving employees time off to relax and unwind throughout the year is a good thing for both the employee and the business. Studies has shown that when employees are able to have time off, their performance and productivity increases upon their return to work. On the flip side to that, studies have also shown that there are personal health risks to employees who do not take time off during the year. Giving time off is important to the success of the business as well as the individual employee. You can read more about one of the study of health and productivity of time off here.
The problem with time off requests is how it’s handled by leaders. Simply put, if all your employees requests to take time off at the same time, that’s a problem. Leaders have to manage and deal with this annually. This instance generally tends to arise during the holiday seasons. Many employees will save their time off so that they can take it during the holiday season. This would allow them to extend their time off by piggy backing on the national holidays. In the western culture, this happens during December and January. In cultures which still follows the lunar calendar, this occurs during the January and February timeframe, depending on when Lunar New Year lands each year.
The larger the team size you have, the more employees you have to deal with in terms of who gets time off and who doesn’t. However, the smaller the team you have, the more difficult it is for you to plan and schedule to cover their workload when they take time off. This is not a simple juggling act but a very necessary one. Leaders typically have to answer the following questions when dealing with time off requests.
- What time off is still available to the employee?
- How does this impact productivity?
- Who will cover the workload?
- Are there conflicts with other employee’s time off requests?
- In conflicted situation, who gets approved and who gets declined?
- How to deal with moral?
Understanding the importance of time off and wanting to accommodate your team members, obviously want to approve for everyone’s requested time off. But in most cases, you can’t. Some will have to be declined and be disappointed. There are things you can do to mitigate these situations so that employees do not get demoralized even if they are denied of their time off requests. From a company’s perspective, there must be a clearly defined policy and process on how to request and approve for time off.
- Employee Handbook – Every organization, large or small, should have an employee handbook. In this handbook should be a resource for the employee to learn about how their time off is to be earned, tracked and handled.
- Guidelines – Included in the Employee Handbook and to be made easily available for employees are guidelines on how they can submit their requests for time off. How soon do the employee need to make the request before they can take the time off? This should be a quick and simple process.
- Priority – The needs to be a written policy for priority of time off requests so that employees are not left in doubt as to why they may be rejected or why other employees got approved and they didn’t. Things to consider here are items such as first come first serve. Seniority given to the most senior employee or the longest employed staff. Priority could be given to the employee who has the most time off left, or to someone who’s taken the least time off.
- Tracking System – It is a must that your organization have a single location to track time off for employees. This will make it easier for leaders and the business to track employee requests, how much time off each employee still have and how best to approve for the request. For the employee, it will make it easy for them to track their own time off availability as well as submit and track their personal requests.
When you have to decline any one of your team member time off they’ve requested for, it’s not a good or fun situation for anyone involved. It doesn’t matter how well intent you were or how well defined the company policies are. It is just normal for employees to be disappointed and even demoralized. What you could do it improve the situation is to apply the CHIE leadership philosophy in this situation so that your member understands your decision. Be Consistent in your decision making process when approving for time off request. This leaves no doubt on why you approve for some and why you must decline others. Be Honest in your decision and with your team member. They may have thoughts about the possibility of favoritism, but if you’re honest and consistent in your decision making, this will remove the doubt. Your Integrity is always on the line. So make sure you put your team and the business above yourself. Show Empathy when you make your decision. Especially if you must decline someone’s request. You don’t feel good about it and they certainly don’t either.
Dealing with time off request isn’t simple and many leaders underestimate the importance and impact. Have a well-defined policy and plan of how to handle the situation. You can’t and will not be able to please everyone in the process. Practice CHIE and you will put your team members and yourself in a better situation to deal with time off requests.
Photo by: Vectorjuice
Denny Nguyen, a veteran IT leader and experienced operational manager with 15+ years working in the software and software related service industry. Currently, Denny oversees global operations of LogiGear including IT infrastructure and services, and facility worldwide and marketing and business development for the APAC region.
Started out as a test engineer, Denny has excelled his career into project management, IT management, account management, customer relation management, and marketing and sales management. In 2004, when LogiGear began to establish its present in Vietnam with two Software Testing & Research centers in Saigon and the third center in 2009 in Danang, Denny was instrumental and the key leader who was chartered to build out the entire foundation and infrastructure for LogiGear to grow for the next twenty years.