Quarter four is known to bring about many year-end tasks, from balancing the financial worksheets to performance reviews. As leaders are steering their staff towards the final push to meet company goals, there’s an influx of holidays between October and December that often affect vacation schedules, sick pay, and employee absences.
Managing time off throughout the year is essential to maintaining the productivity and efficiency of the business. Leadership may find a particular challenge balancing time off requests and common paid federal holidays. For example, for those who offer Thanksgiving and the day after as a paid holiday, it’s common to see employees request any time during that week or closely after off using their vacation balance. This is done so they may have additional days with family or to take advantage of all the shopping deals on Black Friday/Cyber Monday.
Why Do People Want Time Off During the Holidays?
As mentioned above, quarter four is full of holidays, breaks in schools, and the year is winding down. Holidays bring about chances for people to travel and spend time together that they haven’t done all year. Breaks in school allow for the kids to be home more often or visit if they are away in college. For those who live in colder areas, quarter four is also when it tends to cool down outside and bring about snow and ice on the roads, giving employees the perfect excuse to stay home more.
How Can Leadership Balance Requests with the Holiday Schedule?
Communication is the key to balancing time off requests. If there is historically an influx of requests in quarter four, then you should be proactive. Send out a communication to your team in September with reminders each month thereafter about taking time off and the proper protocol so your team can prepare and start to use their time. It is common practice to remind employees that all requests can be denied at the discretion of the business based on business need.
What if an Employee Has Exhausted Their Time Off Balance?
For employees who have exhausted their time off balance and are still asking for extra days off around the holidays, it is at the discretion of the leadership team on how to adjust. Work with your Human Resources and Legal department to ensure any adjustments are compliant and abide by the policies within the organization. Perhaps the employee can work a temporarily altered schedule so they can clock-out earlier or clock-in later on the requested days near the holiday for travel time or to be with family.
Certain times throughout the year are expected to be low productivity days for employees across the nation. For example, the day after the Super Bowl, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and the week between Christmas and New Years are all times when, in general, people are focused on other things. It could be that they are recovering from a fun evening with friends, still shopping for the biggest spending day of the year, or excited to see relatives they haven’t seen in forever.
As a business leader, understanding the shift in human behavior will allow you to manage your team more effectively. Instead of stressing over time off requests or scheduling big projects around low productivity times, a knowledgeable leader proactively adjusts to the transitions throughout the year. Transparent communication and collaboration may help your team understand what projects are in play and why they are scheduled at the cadence they are. Group schedules are effective on smaller teams (for example within a department), when everyone can actively view who has requested off and who will be on the schedule. When the team member can see in real time that a day they want to request off already has two other colleagues on their team out of the business, that employee may be hesitant to submit their request.
Being a thoughtful and prepared leadership team is the best practice when managing time off during the holidays. Those who understand quarter four is a common time when employees want to take time off to experience the holidays with family or to decompress is important. Communication around this topic should ideally begin around September to avoid an influx of requests in December. This will show the support from the leadership team.