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The 5-Step Guide to Time-off Requests

April 11th, 2022

As a manager, you want to respect your team's time-off requests to promote a strong culture and employee happiness — this will help you retain top talent and keep your team motivated and engaged.


On the flip side, you also need to balance deadlines, team-wide projects, performance expectations, and more. This means you have to manage time-off requests in a way that makes sense for the greater team, too.


Needless to say, handing time-off requests can be difficult at times, which is why we've created this guide. No matter how large your team is or which industry you're in, these steps will help you effectively manage time-off requests.


1. Establish how far in advance and how often time off should be requested.

The first rule for handling time-off requests is making it clear how far in advance you will be accepting requests. That can depend on your individual business and may range anywhere from two weeks to two months.


The timeframe can also be dependent on how many days are being requested off; you might only need to know two weeks in advance if it's one or two days but require several months' notice if someone is taking a two-week vacation.


In addition to how far in advance, employees should be made aware of how often they can request time off — do you have a strict rule on frequency?


Perhaps employees can only request up to three days off in a month, or maybe they can only submit a total of six time-off requests throughout the year. Whatever your limit may be, make that clear to employees well in advance and keep these rules consistent for all employees.


2. Make clear any time frames during which employees cannot request time off.

It's obvious that there are certain times of year that employees may be Hunger-Games-style battling to be the victorious one with time off. Those typically include the holiday season, school vacation time, and during the summer months.


Just because those are times when more employees want work-free days doesn't mean business is slowing down. It's difficult to keep up demand if there aren't as many people staffed on shifts.


Thus, if you have to block off some time frames during which employees aren't allowed to request time off, you should make that clear right when potential employees interview.


However, it's important to remain fair; if you're going to make that a strict regulation, it's never okay to bend the rules for one or two employees but not others.


3. Create a system for handling overlapping requests.

Similarly, regardless of it being a busy time of year or not, there may be times when more than one employee requests off the same days. This might be okay if it's only a couple of people who can easily be covered.


However, if too many staff members are asking for the same shifts off, you might have to make some hard decisions regarding who gets their request fulfilled. Here are some ways to handle overlapping requests:


First Come, First Served.

The simplest way to handle this scenario is on a first come, first served basis. Whoever submits the request first gets the days off. This policy will also encourage employees to submit their time-off requests further in advance, which is a bonus for you.



If multiple people want the time off for different reasons, consider comparing the reasons and selecting on that basis. For instance, if one individual is requesting time off to attend their sister's wedding, while the other has a friend in town that week, you might prioritize the former, as that reason seems to be more pressing.


Number of Prior Requests

Another potential policy is to consider how many time-off requests each employee has already submitted — or is expected to submit. If one individual has already requested off three other shifts during that month, while the other is only requesting off this one shift, you may decide to go with the latter.


4. Build a rotating time-off schedule.

Rather than treating each employee's time-off request as a clean slate, you could consider a rotating time-off schedule.


Without even realizing it, you might be granting the same few employees time off over and over again, leaving others to continuously fill in for those unpleasant shifts. Some employees may feel irritated that they've always been screwed over.


In order to keep things fair, a rotating time-off schedule can be a great idea. Perhaps, at the start of each year, you can assign vacation time periods for each employee during which they're allowed to take off work.


Otherwise, if they need time off, they have to find replacements on their own. This method might be more helpful if you rotate shifts, too, such as rotating who has to work weekends, early morning, and late nights, if your workplace requires such shifts.


5. Reward employees who go a certain period of time without requesting time off.

You never want to lose track of the loyal employees who rarely take time off from work. There's nothing wrong with employees who sometimes need time off: there could be emergencies or special occasions that require them to need shifts covered. However, the steadfast employees who are always at their shifts are the unsung heroes.


So, to give them a shoutout of appreciation, you may consider rewarding employees who go a certain period of time — perhaps a month, three months, or six months, depending on how frequently employees have shifts — without requesting time off.


They could get a bonus, paid vacation time, a pick at their first-choice shifts, or even a raise — if your budget permits it. Show these employees that you recognize their loyalty to their jobs and willingness to organize their personal lives around shifts.


Automated Time-off Management?


We get it. Manually managing time-off request can be cumbersome and time-consuming. This is why we went ahead and automated the entire process for you on TriblockHR!