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It’s that wonderful time of year when people synchronize their house lights to Trans-Siberian Orchestra tracks, litter their front lawns with inflatable Santas on motorcycles, and use their elbows as lethal weapons to get that last Justin Bieber Christmas album. Such a beautiful time.

Unfortunately, when employees are dreaming of half-priced electronics and eggnog by the fire place, the furthest thing from their minds is work.

This is the time of the year when employees want to be off with their families celebrating the holidays.

As the employer, you are often perceived as Mr. Ebenezer Scrooge who chains his employees to their desk without even offering them frosted gingerbread cookies or space heaters, just to keep the business operating.

When your business is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, every day of the year, you have to have a staff at all times and this includes holidays. Even if you aren’t open every single day of the year, you may still need to staff your business during the hectic holiday season. Scheduling during the holidays can be a nightmare! Deep down inside, you wish you could let everyone take the time off they want and just run the place yourself (or with self-sufficient robots), but that’s not an option (yet).

This is quite a predicament, but hopefully with a well-placed plan, everyone will be on board with a fair way to do what needs to be done without leaving the same reliable employees on the hook for the holidays year after year.

Here are a few ideas from the HR professionals at Integrity HR for scheduling during the holidays:

Remind your managers in advance of when the four major days fall during the winter holiday season.

Christmas Eve
Christmas Day
New Years Eve
New Years Day

This is then an opportunity to work on holiday/vacation scheduling.

Also: Don’t forget that since Christmas Day and New Years Day are on Sundays this year that means Monday is the “holiday.”

Make sure you are sensitive to other holidays around this time of year including Hanukkah (Dec. 20-28) and Kwanza (Dec 26-Jan.1).

If you can give everyone their first choice, that’s great.  If not, their second, and so on. Make sure you create an office policy of who gets their first choice (some companies do it by seniority while others do first come, first serve). Keep the lists until next year and those who did not get their first choice this year will get prime pick in 2012.  (Of course, if someone’s scheduled a vacation that includes the holiday, that’s considered his or her first choice – no double dipping!)

Managers have also found it successful to split shifts—everyone takes blocks of four hours rather than eight.  This may mean everyone ends up working, but no one loses the full day.  A successful way to do this is to have employees sign up for shifts if your rotation of staff will allow it.

Ask for volunteers to work—you may be surprised.  Some employees may be celebrating with their family the day after Christmas due to so many family obligations for children and grandchildren, so this may be the day they want off.  It never hurts to ask first what schedules would be preferred.

Sometimes, however, you simply have to schedule based on the demands of your customers.  All we can do then to make things easier on our employees is explain that too much work is a good problem to have, and then make the work environment on the holiday as pleasant as we can (this may include frosted gingerbread cookies and space heaters).  Perhaps treat them to lunch, let them leave as early as you can, and have an incentive for them, whether it’s additional pay or a token of appreciation for working the holiday.  Most of all – be present for them.  Even if it’s just for part of the day – it’s important that they know that they aren’t doing it alone.

There you go. Those are the helpful tips from the HR professionals at Integrity HR. If you follow these tips, your employees will be less likely to call you “Scrooge” behind your back or put coal in the stocking hanging on your office door.

Remember, Integrity HR is here for all our HR needs. Have a question about how we can help you? Visit this page or contact us at 877-753-0970

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about the author: Amy Letke

Amy Newbanks Letke, SPHR, GPHR, is the Founder of Integrity HR, Inc. Amy provides workplace solutions to improve performance, reduce liability and increase profits. She is passionate about helping other entrepreneurs and business owners achieve success.