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How Am I Supposed to Handle Vacation Requests During the Cooling Season?

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With summer right around the corner, many employees will be interested in taking time off to enjoy the warm weather and spend time with their loved ones. However, the cooling season is the busiest time of the year for the HVAC industry and when there are multiple vacation requests during the same time period, this can be stressful for management from both small and large businesses.

Oftentimes, some businesses black out the summer months and decline all vacation requests. Unfortunately, this can be dismissive towards your employees and can negatively impact their work performance. At some point, vacation requests that fall on the same period are inevitable. There will be instances where Sarah and Nancy, who are good friends from the HR department, will plan a trip together while Drake from the IT department will have a wedding to attend. Even though vacation requests can be a nightmare, it is a normal occurrence and it is important to encourage your employees time off in order to create a work-life balance and the opportunity to recharge.

How do you do this when it is the busiest time of the year? The secret: try to plan ahead (we’re talking months in advance) and know that you can’t please everybody. In this article, we will be talking about four tips that you can incorporate to your business. These tips will prevent you the headaches and the misunderstandings that follow when handling vacation requests during the busiest time of the year.

Communicate Time Off Policies

From the get go, it is important to communicate your vacation and time off policies with your employees during the hiring and orientation process. During this time, provide them with the written procedures and policies, and make sure to answer any questions they may have. If they have any prior commitments or if they celebrate religious holidays, discuss these conflicts in the beginning to prevent any disruptions in the future. When possible, try to email a staff wide reminder regarding vacation requests when you are close to peak season. While this may cause more time off requests, getting a head start will avoid conflicts and less things to worry about when scheduling.

In addition to early communication, try to enforce a deadline when submitting vacation requests. In this case, have the same day of each month as a deadline for the following month. For example, if an employee wants to submit a vacation request for the month of May, have the deadline by the 5th day of the prior month (April 5th.) By using this technique, this can provide you an idea of who might be absent for when you plan future schedules. In the event that there are numerous people submitting the same vacation dates, try to opt for a “first-come, first-served” basis or by seniority within your company in order to prevent misunderstandings.

Although, be cautious when using the seniority method as this can make new employees feel wary about time off requests. Try to attempt to use both methods and be flexible as much as possible. For example, if Susan who has been working at the company for 5 years is requesting time off for a party, while Kevin who’s only been working for 5 months is requesting time off for a surgery, it will make much more sense to approve Kevin’s time off instead of Susan’s.

Lastly, another great method to use when handling vacation requests during the busy season is to track past vacation requests. For example, try to keep track of the employee who requests time off the most and the employee who rarely requests time off. This will give you an idea of what their situation might be like and will provide you their time off patterns. This may seem tedious but keeping a spreadsheet or a document that keeps track of these kinds of employees will make it easier for you to know who to give the time off to while being as fair as possible.

Be Understanding

One of the biggest things you want to avoid when handling vacation requests is making your employees feel like you aren’t understanding their situation or that you are playing favorites. While it may not seem like it, simply approving someone who you have a better relationship with is considered playing favorites, and this can easily frustrate the rest of your employees.

We want to avoid unhappy employees as this can influence their work ethic but by having a strong time off policy and clear transparency, this can help avoid future problems and misunderstandings.

Ask for Additional Support

As mentioned, the summer is the busiest time of the year and this means more clients and appointments. At some point, additional help will be needed and hiring seasonal or temporary workers will be the best way to go. Also, hiring more staff during the busy season can help maintain productivity and balance.

In addition, do not be afraid to ask for help. Even though you are the manager, simply asking your team members to work with each other and to treat the business as their own will be of tremendous help. By doing this, your team members will be inclined to plan ahead and work with each other by covering each other’s shift while other staff members are out of office. When team members coordinate with each other regarding vacation requests, this will not only give you one less thing to worry about, it will keep the business running smoothly.

Lastly, don’t forget that you can always ask managers from other departments for help.

Consider Other Perks

Even though the cooling season is the busiest time of the year, try and consider other benefits such as implementing a half-day on Friday’s, especially on a holiday. If this is not doable, provide employees a chance to work from home a few times a month as the pandemic has clearly shown that working from home is easily doable.

Another perk that might defer vacation requests is to offer a pay differential. For a lot of people, money talks and if you are having difficulty with finding staff members to work during the holidays, offer a pay differential to influence staff members to come forward and help out.

While it is not considered a perk, simply acknowledging your staff’s hard work will make them feel special. By organizing a small party to provide the recognition that they deserve, they will be inclined to not only work harder, but may also reduce vacation requests.

By having these kinds of perks, employees will feel that they are important and that you value their life away from work. This way, the situation will feel balanced and a fair trade-off.

As we mentioned earlier, you cannot please everybody. It’s almost impossible to accept all vacation requests throughout the year, especially during the summer when everyone wants to spend time outdoors. If you do, this can cause disruptions to the business. In order to avoid the headache, plan ahead and incorporate these four tips to have a smooth-sailing summer.

Posted In: Management

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