Employee Engagement

Managing Holiday Time Off: 5 Things to Keep in Mind

For many HR professionals, the end of the year is more like a festival of stress than a festival of lights. From planning your company’s holiday party to managing paid time off requests, there’s enough extra work to make even the jolliest HR manager cry “Bah! Humbug!”

Reconciling employees’ expectations with your company’s needs can be a real challenge at the best of times. Throw in family obligations, travelling and immovable deadlines and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. So what can you do when everyone’s clamouring to take holiday all at once?

To help you stay sane this holiday season, here are five things to keep in mind:

1. Time off is important for productivity

When employees fully unplug from work, they’re better able to rest and recharge. Time spent with family and friends (and away from their desks) has been proven to improve employees’ well-being and health, so that when they do come back, they’re happier and more productive.

Taking a break from the daily grind is good for your people and your organisation – in fact, 84% of managers agree that when employees take time off, they return to work with improved focus and creativity. (1)

2. Holiday transparency helps prevent disappointment

One way to prevent time off misunderstandings during the holidays is by ensuring everyone is on the same page. Providing clear, well-managed guidelines about your paid time-off policy is key, as is outlining the approval process and how far in advance requests must be made.

After reading your guidelines, employees should understand how to ask for annual leave, how long it will take for their request to be approved, and any steps to take after the approval (like updating a time-off calendar, creating an out-of-office reply, etc.).

3. A competitive paid leave policy boosts recruiting & retention

Paid leave time is the #2 benefit contributing to employee satisfaction as ranked on Glassdoor. (2) Which means your paid leave policy can be a big attraction for job seekers considering working for your organisation.

Make it easy for potential candidates to better understand your company’s annual leave entitlement by incorporating details into your employer brand communications. For example, you can include it in a benefits summary in your job descriptions and on your company’s website.

4. A holiday-friendly culture is worth the effort

In today’s always-on, Internet-driven work environment, many employees don’t feel like they can take holiday – even when they’ve earned it. In fact, half of UK employers don’t take their full leave entitlement. On average, they take three-quarters (77%) of their leave. (3)

Cultivating a holiday-friendly culture is just one more piece of the retention puzzle: when your people feel supported to take time off, they’re less likely to burn out. A culture that supports paid leave starts with managerial support and modelling, so make sure that management takes time off, too.

5. Re-entry is easier when it’s planned

Returning to hundreds of emails and a brimming task list is no fun, especially after the holidays. While some employees welcome the return of their routine, others find it a little more difficult to get back into a rhythm. You can make re-entry easier for everyone with a plan.

Start by working with managers to anticipate the amount of time employees will need to catch up and schedule projects accordingly. Helping everyone ease back into work after the holiday break is a simple, effective way to boost morale.

(1) Project Time Off, State of the American Vacation, 2016

(2) Glassdoor Economic Research, Which Benefits Matter Most?, June 2016

(3) Glassdoor, UK Annual Leave Survey, 2014

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