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Tips to Manage Vacation Requests

Tips to Manage Vacation Requests

Holidays are a time to spend with family and friends, relax and recharge. Employees often look forward to pairing holidays with taking time off. Holidays a can also mean a vacation planning nightmare for a manager – the whole company can’t all be off at the same time, especially when it comes to small and medium businesses.

There will come a time when vacations requests will conflict and as a manager you will need to rearrange requests to make sure that core business functions are adequately covered.

5 Tips for Managing Employee Vacation Requests

1. Communicate Your PTO Policy

Make sure to go over your PTO (Paid Time Off) policy with each employee – during new hire onboarding is the perfect time to do this. Have the policy in writing accessible in your company’s handbook and have each employee sign off on acknowledging the PTO policy. Make sure the policy clearly states what the policy is, when requests must be submitted by and how conflicts will be handled if they arise.

Examples of conflict resolution might be seniority, first come first serve, manage discretion or prioritizing off-season requests if they worked during the holidays. Firgure out what priorities you’ll take into account to solve conflicts.

2. Create a Standardized PTO Request Process

One employee left you a voice message, one texted you, another emailed you, while another stopped in your office to ask – the perfect storm for issues such as missed requests or missing information that requires extra effort on your part to handle requests.

One example would be to create an online form that must be filled out when requesting PTO. A form would ensure all required data is collected, help to prevent lost or missed requests, and allow HR managers to keep track of request activities. Make sure to include a field for the reason for the request. This could help you resolve conflicts as well as make sure you’re complying with The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

3. Make a Vacation Calendar

By creating a calendar accessible either electronically or on paper, that shows approved requests, can help employees plan accordingly to avoid conflicts. If you find employees monopolizing holiday time off by requesting it too far in advance you might consider opening up the calendar by quarters. Even well-planned strategies can’t accommodate unexpected time off, such as medical or bereavement leaves.

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4. Offer Incentives

Consider offering employees incentives for working during periods where vacation requests are at their peak. This might be rewarding them with bonuses or 1-2 extra days off during off-peak times of the year. Even better, ask your employees what incentives they might be interested in. Employees will appreciate the opportunity to be listened to.

5. Allow Employees to Swap

As long as the PTO policy is clear and you’ve been transparent about the needs of the business during that time, empowering employees to work together to trade or swap out days off can help reduce chaos. Be clear it’s expected that swaps should be worked out fairly and amicably but be prepared to step in to help with resolution if necessary.


Holidays are some of the most anticipated time of the year. You can avoid most vacation request nightmares by:

  • Having a clearly written and shared PTO policy
  • Providing a standardized way to request PTO
  • Creating a visible vacation calendar to allow employees to proactively avoid conflicts
  • Empowering employees to trade/swap
  • Offering incentives to reward employees willing to work on holiday

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