Guest Post by Bimal Parmar

If you are running an authoritarian management, calling the shots from your ivory tower or impregnable cabin, you needn’t be bothered about this.

Vacation RequestsBut, if you’re not―then handling your employees’ holiday requests unwisely can land you in sticky situations. As turning the requests’ down can lead to employee burnout, acrimony, even jeopardize your relations with other employees; and giving in can stymie your business.

While Google remains a trend-setter in offering vacations, new age ventures like Evernote, Zynga, Netflix, Full Contact are already re-evaluating their vacation guidelines.

In a survey of 2,534 employees by Harris Interactive it was found that even though workers are  ready to sacrifice other benefits for extra time off; in many cities across the United States, 57% of employees still did not even utilize all the offs allotted to them.

The paradigm of quality ‘off’ time is shifting, and shifting fast. As an employer, you’ll face it sooner than you can imagine. If you don’t have a plan up your sleeve till now, here are a few tips to give you a head start.

Promote vacations when your business is slim

If you can, try rolling out a policy of extended ‘offs’ during the season when your business is lean. Except for the retail sector, workflow remains slow during the first quarter of the year, in almost every industry. November and December are chock-a-block with holidays—Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Kwanza, Christmas, and New Year’s. That said, even the retail sector has an off season. Find yours. There are all kinds of seasonal businesses.

To make the policy sound attractive, entwine it with more benefits. You can include the policy in the employee contract/agreement at the time of hiring, so it doesn’t remain both a surprise and questionable. Let them know at least half of the allotted vacations should be taken during this time.

A closing date for vacation requests

Employees asking for vacation requests at very short notices can throw your plans out of gear. Rules can be made where more than 2-3 holidays in a row should be communicated at least 15-30 days prior. This should be emphasized especially during the holiday season. Give your staff a closing date to put forward their holiday requests. It should be made clear that anyone applying for vacations after that date won’t be eligible for it.

Of course, nothing is foolproof, exigencies occur out of the blue.

If your employees work in shifts, inculcate a culture where their schedules are communicated to them well in advance. Use an employee scheduling software for that if you wish. Let them know that their surprise outings can make everyone’s plan go awry.

Make it clear that work shouldn’t suffer

In case you’ve  kept a first come, first served basis for sanctioning holidays, if 2 out of 7 people in a department have taken leave, you can bargain with the third person asking for a vacation. Tell him/her that permitting vacations will cripple productivity.

As a manager or an employer, it’s a perfectly valid point to negotiate on, without giving rise to any discord.

But above all, it’s about how you manage the workflow. Try your best to accommodate requests. Do whatever you can, people will always demand vacations. It’s also their right.  In the European Union, in every country the law permits at least 4 weeks of paid holidays. You can make them wait, but can’t say ‘NO’.

Inspire, make them love their work!

“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the people to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.”  Antoine De Saint-Exupery, author of The Little Prince

If you could inspire people to love their work, it’s half the battle won. It can help you build a team spirit, and rule out the cynicism.

Holidays are mostly needed to unwind and flush out the negativity. But if you could offer all the excitement with a purpose at work itself, you can influence people’s choices to take holidays.

The idea is not to manipulate them. Your employees will see through that. Look after their comfort and recreation sincerely. And for sure it’ll curb the number of holidays they seek.

Wrapping up      

You can even increase bonuses, incentives and other perks for people who agree to work during the vacation or holiday season. But that might suit some businesses, for other businesses it may breed disagreements and disputes.

The concept of unlimited holidays might be getting popular in the Silicon Valley, but it’s not a feasible option across many industries. In fact, in small businesses and startups the manpower is required to work diligently, and extend their full support to the firm. And for that you have to keep your employees in good spirits.

Happiness can be instant vacations too!

Guest Author

Bimal ParmarAs VP of Marketing, Bimal Parmar manages the global marketing strategy and execution at Celayix, a leading provider of employee scheduling software. With over 20 years industry experience, he’s responsible for making sure the world learns about the benefits of Celayix’s solutions. You can visit their blog  for more information.