Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s are just weeks away. Are you prepared to deal with a bevy of vacation day requests?


Ninety-four percent of employers plan to close for Thanksgiving Day this year—but just 7 percent will shut down the day before, according to a recent Society for Human Resource Management survey.

With Christmas and New Year’s Eve both falling on a Thursday in 2014, it’s likely that some—if not many—of your employees may ask for additional time off to travel, spend time with family and otherwise extend their yuletide celebration.

In theory, approving every vacation request would be ideal. In actuality, however, an influx of workers being out of the office can result in reduced productivity.

Approximately 62 percent of companies say their productivity declines during the holiday season, according to a study from the Institute for Corporate Productivity. A 2013 survey from job listing site CareerBuilder found that 33 percent of workers who planned to spend 2 or more hours at work shopping online for gifts felt they were generally less productive in December.

(The survey also found that one in five workers planned to spend between one and three hours at work browsing online deals during the holiday season—which likely didn’t help increase productivity.)

If you’re struggling to create a November and December schedule that honors as many vacation day requests as possible without leaving you short-staffed, these tips can help you successfully manage operations during the busy holiday season:

• Establish a time-off policy. Setting a deadline for vacation day requests—such as a month before they occur—and specifying blackout dates you know you’ll need all hands on deck for can help companies avoid holiday schedule chaos, according to the Orlando Business Journal.

To ensure you won’t have an empty office for days, employer review resource website Glassdoor recommends potentially setting a limit for the number of workers who can be off on a given day and approving time-off requests in the order you receive them—or alternating workers’ schedules so they can have part of a day off, arranging for one employee to work a holiday morning and another to come in during the afternoon.

• Publicize vacation request guidelines. Make sure your seasonal time-off policy is clearly communicated to staff so there’s no confusion about how or when they can request vacation days. Job listing website Monster suggests requiring employees to fill out a standard request form throughout the year, which will let you track which workers still have a large amount of unused vacation days as the year comes to a close.

  • Look into holiday help. Consider hiring part-time seasonal employees, such as college students who are home from school, which Yahoo! Small Business Advisor says can help bulk up your staff on particularly popular days—and give you some flexibility to let valued employees take time off.

• Offer incentives. Providing little extras like a free lunch or overtime pay shows employees you appreciate their holiday season flexibility, according to the Arkansas Employment Law Letter article “Tips for Managing Employee Requests for Time Off During the Holidays,” published in’s weekly e-zine.

If you’ve received multiple requests for the same day off, small business management solution Quickbooks suggests getting employees to work together to create a seasonal schedule.

Having workers confer to find a solution can provide a double pay-off: You’ll be encouraging employees to collectively find an answer, taking the onus off you—and, as an added bonus, you’ll be promoting teamwork amongst your staff.