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Managers often face a tricky balancing act when it comes to requests for time off. There’s denying that everyone deserves time off from work throughout the year for vacation, medical appointments, or illness. The problem is that approving time-off requests without careful consideration may keep team members happy, but the practice can seriously disrupt business operations over time. 

At the other end of the spectrum, you can’t run a business by discouraging and denying time-off requests. Team members who feel their requests aren’t being treated fairly may become burned out and decide to leave. A time-off request policy is one of the easiest ways to streamline the process of requesting leave while ensuring that most requests can be approved.

Create a Time-Off Request Policy

This type of policy lists the guidelines and process for requesting time off, including details like how far in advance the request should be made and how much time can be requested. For teams that have designated ‘busy seasons,’ the policy might specify certain days or times of the year when time-off requests could be refused. 

A good time-off request policy should reflect business needs while adhering to local regulations about leaving. The policy should be clearly communicated, especially to new hires, and it should be honored by management as much as possible.

Use a Time-Off Request Form

To help track time-off requests, HR experts recommend using an official request form that team members fill out online or by hand. Once the system is in place, a verbal request should never replace a formal request form. 

Whether you are full-time in the office again, or if you are still working from home, you should have a project management system in place. Within the project management system, you should have a section that is easy to access for each team member where they can request time off. 

Once someone requests time off, a manager or HR department should be notified, and then the request can be approved or denied, based on the policy that was implemented. 

Handle Overlapping Time-Off Requests Fairly

Many issues related to time-off requests can be alleviated with a proper time-off policy and a formal system for submitting and managing time-off requests. Even so, there will always be times when multiple team members request the same days off. If a request impacts business operations, approval might not be possible. It helps to have a standard method for determining which requests to approve instead of deciding how to handle overlapping requests on a case-by-case basis.

The simplest method is to approve requests in the order they’re received, refusing later requests that will cause a team member shortage. This method encourages team members to request time off early. Another approach is to approve requests based on need, with the team leader deciding if one person’s family emergency is more important than another’s vacation. Approval can also be based on who has waited longer for time off or who has the most seniority. There are many criteria that can be applied, but team members will be happiest when the same standard is applied equally to all requests.

Use Time-Off Requests for Planning

Instead of waiting for team members to request time off, you can be proactive about time-off requests. Be aware of holidays and local events when multiple team members may request leave. Pay attention to a team member who requests the same days off each year. Set up an online calendar that shows approved time-off requests. This allows everyone (not just management) to see when staffing will be low, and team members can plan their leave accordingly. 

If there are tasks that must be completed during a shift, encourage team members to find their own replacement before requesting time off. For emergency time-off requests, create a list of qualified team members who are willing to cover for absent team members. This saves you the trouble of looking for last-minute replacements and trying to convince them to work.

Support Time Off

Glassdoor conducted a study that asked team members of different companies if they took time off, how they spent that time off, and if they worked during the time off. The results were shocking. 

The study showed that only 54% of team members were able to fully “check out” of work compared to 63% in 2014. More than 27% of the team members are expected to remain aware of work issues compared to 20% in 2014. Around one in ten of all team members who take vacations are expected to be reachable and be able to work while on said vacation or paid time off. 

“When we do take care of ourselves, we see benefits to our physical and mental health, performance, and productivity,” Anna Huffington, Thrive Global Founder & CEO, said. “When we don’t, we pay a price: innovation, creativity, resilience, empathy, decision-making, and team-building are the first to disappear when we are burned out and depleted.” 

Taking time off is important for every team member’s physical and mental health. Encourage team members to take the time off that have earned and to let you know when need emergency leave. They’ll appreciate being able to make plans with confidence that their time-off request will be approved. Of course, there may still be some tough trade-offs between business needs and team member requests for leave, but a fair and reliable time-off request policy will help keep everyone engaged and refreshed about the process.

Contact us to learn more about how coAmplifi’s unique solutions can adeptly manage your team’s work-life balance and boost productivity!

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