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Managing Time Off Requests During the Holidays

It’s that time of year- fielding PTO requests is now a daily activity. The holidays are the same time every year, yet you may find that employees will wait until the last minute to submit PTO requests. This could make your job frustrating, but we’re here to help ease the process. When managing PTO requests, the goal is to be flexible, but realistic. 

Make a Clear PTO Policy

If you haven’t already, develop and regularly update a written PTO policy. Clearly define limits on the number of employees who can be on leave simultaneously and the duration of leave allowed. Specify the rules for carrying over PTO. If you’ll be using a “use it or lose it” policy, send reminders about remaining PTO balances. Please be advised that not all states allow such policies, and they are prohibited in Montana, Nebraska, and California. Consider the pros and cons of this approach to determine their suitability for your organization.


Ask everyone to get their PTO requests in as early as possible. Send a friendly reminder email explaining how to access your time and attendance software, and go over deadlines for request submission. Let employees know that a desired request won’t necessarily be declined if there is a looming deadline. Instead, communicate that you’ll work together to find a solution. Use a community calendar or other time off management tools to highlight dates that are taken, or have little capacity. This will help employees in visualizing and planning PTO requests. Express to them that the calendar isn’t rigid, and that changes can be made as needed.

Request Accommodation

Try your best to accommodate employee requests. This approach can significantly boost morale and trust within your department.
While we understand that blackout dates may be necessary to meet service level agreements, use them sparingly. Overuse of blackout dates can lead to a negative workplace culture, resentful employees and a high turnover. If possible, explore other ways to manage service agreements while maintaining employee morale.

Check your attendance tracking software for conflicting requests. If you find that there are discrepancies,  you may consider teleworking or even collaboration among coworkers. Depending on the situation and the employee’s flexibility, teleworking might be a better alternative to PTO. Be sure to establish clear expectations and guidelines, and explain your use of employee productivity analysis if you go this route.

Employees may also be open to negotiating with their peers if they need the same time off. Ask if they’re open to compromise- this could be beneficial to the employees and the company. Allowing employees to work out their scheduling conflicts fosters camaraderie and reduces the pressure on you to make the difficult decision.

In conclusion, we may not be able to approve every PTO request, and that’s understandable. However with good planning and even better communication, you’ll have a great chance at accommodating your employees’ needs and having a stress-free holiday season.