How To Manage Summer Vacation & PTO Requests

by | Jun 6, 2014 | Blog, Employee Morale, Employment Policies, HR Policies

  • 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. Contact us for more insights - 502-753-0970 or

Managing Vacation and PTO requestsIt’s already June and if you haven’t been on vacation yet, chances are that it’s coming up. Maybe you have a countdown in your office. Maybe you have an alarm set everyday to remind you of how many days you have left. (Or is that just me?)

As excited as you are for your own vacation, the impeding influx of vacation requests from your employees gives you a little more heartburn than usual.

You want your employees to take vacations (at least you should). We all deserve time away from the stresses of daily life so that we can return to our lives refreshed and better equipped to handle whatever comes.

It’s a fact – if employees don’t get a chance to recharge, they will just mentally check out (ie: surf the Internet when they are supposed to be working on that big project). And we all know that’s not adding anything to bottom line!

But that doesn’t make it any easier to juggle all those vacation requests coming your way. Here are some steps you as a business owner or manager can follow to make this vacation season a little easier to bear.

6 Steps To A Stress-Free Summer At The Office

Time To Approve Vacation Requests1. Give Yourself Enough Time Approve Vacation Requests

This is a biggie. You need to be very specific about when vacation requests are due. Be sure to set a deadline for submitting vacation requests that gives you enough time to project how employee absences might affect production schedules and project delivery dates and to resolve any conflicts (like two employees asking for the same week off).

Some organizations require employees to submit vacation requests at the beginning of the calendar year; others have more lenient procedures. When employees submit vacation requests earlier in the year, it allows you to plan accordingly with staffing availability as well as work with employees on altering the requested time off.

Now would be a good time to remind your employees of when their requests are due so you don’t get a ton of last minute requests cluttering your desk.

2. Communicate Your Vacation or PTO Policy

On that note, let’s go ahead and talk about communicating your policy. It’s never a bad time to remind your employees of your vacation and paid time off policies. (If you don’t have a time off request policy, we need to talk.). Of course, this was hopefully covered during the orientation process. Alas, that process can be quite overwhelming so a refresher is always nice.

Communicate Vacation PolicyMake sure your employees know when request are due, how vacation time can be taken and how disputes will be handled (all things that should be in your policy).

Send out an email, bring it up at the next team meeting, or staple the policy to the bulletin board. Just make sure everyone is well aware of the policy before it’s too late in the season!

3. Be Fair

You can’t please everyone. That is Lesson 1 in the How To Be A Good Manager Handbook.

However, you should have a strategic and reasonable process by which vacation is granted. 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) and how you will handle disputes.

You might choose to keep the lists until next year and allow those who did not get their first choice this year to get prime pick in 2015.

Perhaps you could allow workers in identical positions to trade off vacation dates among themselves, so long as it won’t jeopardize production or quality of work.

Whatever vacation approval procedure your organization chooses to elect, it is imperative to ensure that a consistent process is in place to avoid a perceived or actual situation of discrimination or favoritism. Whether your company uses seniority or a sequential method to decide which employees will be granted time off per their requests, employees will perceive a process that is consistent to be more equitable, in turn reducing the company’s exposure to liability  (Which is always important!)

4. Staff Accordingly

Times have been tough. If you’ve recently reduced your workforce, you may run into issues when employees take vacations this summer. It is always a best practice to consider vacations, sick leave and other kinds of employee absences when you’re planning your staffing levels.

Ask yourself: who could cover for this position if that person took a vacation?

Maybe the answer is hiring temporary workers if it is a critical position and you can’t afford to have a full-time back up on your team.

Prepare for your vacation from workCreate a back up list for everyone on your team. If the employee taking a vacation has a lot of his/her plate, you could parcel out his/her duties among several colleagues so that one person isn’t trying to do the work for two.

5. Prepare For The Absences

Didn’t we just cover this? You may be prepared for employees to take vacations, but what about if they have clients they work with? You need to create a checklist for your employees of things to do before they leave for vacation.

Here’s an example:

To Do Before You Leave for Vacation:

  • Notify your clients ahead of time that you will be out of the office. Make sure to tell them who on your team can be of assistance to them during this time.
  • Brief someone in your office on all open projects, and what to do with them. Make sure to provide a list of key contact information and details on how to access related files.
  • Record a vacation greeting to let callers know that you will be out of the office and when they can expect you back. Also do this for your e-mail in the form of an auto-reply.

Make The Office A Place People Want To Be6. Make The Office A Place Employees Want To Be This Summer

First, look at your forecast. When are your busiest times of year? What do you have coming down the pipeline this summer? Once you identify your “busy” season this summer, you can encourage employees to work during those times.

You can offer premium pay, bonuses or other incentives to those employees who work during the most popular vacation times. You don’t have to shell out millions of dollars to get your employees to work during the hot summer months. Even small gestures are appreciated.

Here are some ideas to make summer more enjoyable in the office:

Treat yourself and your employees. On your way back from lunch, pick up a treat for the office. Stop at Kroger and get some popsicles. Or stop at Dairy Queen and get some ice cream cones (you may need some help to carry those back). Rent an ICEE machine for the summer. (Seriously, can you do that? Let us know.)

Encourage casual Fridays. Or Mondays. Or Wednesdays. It doesn’t matter the day, but in the heat of summer we all need a break from professional clothing. Let your employees wear flip-flops or shorts just once a week. See how it goes and if everyone can handle the freedom to chose appropriate summer clothing, then maybe you could make it more than once a week. You may want to outline some rules so no one shows up in beach attire.

Create summer activities. Tell your employees to put a favorite beach toy on their desk.  Have a sunglass decorating contest. Encourage everyone to bring in the recipe for their favorite beach cocktail. Play The Beach Boys or tropical music in the break room.  Replace lunchroom chairs with lounge chairs. Suddenly, your office will feel more like vacation than work. Employees can focus on work because they will no longer be Googling vacation spots. (They’ll be in one!)

There you go! Those are 6 steps to a stress-free summer at the office. Now, wring out those swimsuits, dig out that metal detector, remove the cobwebs from your lawn chairs and hit the beach!

To end this blog, we thought we’d give you some interesting facts are vacations from the Expedia® Vacation Deprivation® 2012 Survey…because who doesn’t love useless facts?

Vacation Deprived Countries:

  • United States 🙁
  • Canada
  • Mexico
  • Singapore
  • Japan
  • South Korea

Mean bosses: who doesn’t support vacations?

  • Italy (61% not supportive or unsure)
  • South Korea (59%)
  • Denmark (44%)
  • Argentina (41%)

Nice bosses: who supports vacations?

  • Norway (86% supportive)
  • Sweden (84%)
  • Brazil (83%)
  • India (76%)

The top vacations, by category:

  • Beach holiday (35%)
  • Romantic holiday (19%)
  • City holiday (12%)
  • Outdoor holiday (12%)

Why we skip vacations

  • Banking days for the future: 23%
  • Coordinating family schedules: 23%
  • Can’t afford it: 19%
  • Have to schedule too far out: 18%


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