Tips for preparing your holiday schedule

Written by Sarah Pounders

Client Integration Specialist

Applied Business Solutions

November 16, 2021

It’s crucial that your business plans accordingly for the upcoming holiday season. Mishandling your holiday scheduling could be crippling to your business during this busy time of year, as well as lower the quality of service provided to your clients. To help prevent this from happening, our HR experts have provided some tips to help ensure coverage while handling multiple employee requests for time off.

1. Plan your businesses holiday schedule in advance

Most businesses that successfully navigate the holiday season plan their holiday schedules well in advance. Some businesses even require employees to submit their PTO requests for the coming year so that their schedulers know exactly which employees will be available to work during holiday season. In some industries, holiday schedules are often written as early as three to five months in advance.

2. Adopt a first come, first served time-off policy

If your business expects to be busy during the holiday season, one way to fairly schedule time off for employees is to limit the amount of time off available to a first come, first served policy. Some supervisors will notify employees in advance (as early as September) that requests for time off need to be made as soon as possible, and that your business has a clear cap for the number of employees that can submit time off requests for the upcoming holiday season.

3. Stagger your employees holiday vacation schedules

Your business may not be able to keep a full staff during the holidays, however by staggering your employees’ vacation schedules, you can divide shifts by available employees based on the time of day, half-days or specific days of the week. The goal of a staggered schedules is to offer a compromise between maintaining coverage while accommodating employee time-off requests during the holidays.

4. Allow your employees to work from home

If your employees don’t need to be on site to do their job, you may allow them to work from home during the holidays in order to accomplish tasks without having to bring in additional staff. Working from home has become a viable option if your business accommodates a work-from-home environment and you have tools in place to manage your workflows.

5. Rely on part-time workers to help fill in the gaps

If your business employs part-time workers, it may be beneficial to schedule them on days when you anticipate being short-staffed. Check ahead of time to see if your part-time employees are available to work during the holidays and over periods of time that employees have requested time-off. You may also consider hiring seasonal workers that you know will be available to pick up these shifts.

6. Offer employees a holiday pay differential

Offering a holiday pay differential can help to keep your business staffed during holiday periods where more employees may tend to request time-off. It’s important to keep in mind that this type of tactic should be a fixed part of your company’s pay structure; and not prompted as a last second enticement to prevent employees from submitting time-off requests.

7. Institute a vacation blackout period for all employees

If the holidays are the busiest time for your business, which means that you require no less than a full staff to operate, a way to prevent employees from taking off may be to institute a holiday blackout period. If an employee needs to request time-off during a blackout period, they will need to ask well in advance and it would be at the sole discretion of their manager. It’s important to inform employees during the onboarding process of the blackout policy so that they won’t be surprised later during the holiday season.

While these are just a few examples of ways to help ensure staff coverage during the holiday season, you may discover other ways to help prepare your schedule. Make sure you openly communicate your needs and expectations with your employees well in advance, and adopt time-off strategies that align with your operational goals and business culture.

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Human capital management (HCM) provides an overall strategy to hiring the right talent, managing performance and optimizing productivity.

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Applied Business Solutions has 75+ years of combined Payroll, Insurance and Human Resources experience with companies ranging from 1 to 2,500 employees.