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How to Deal With Employee Time off Requests | MarketBox

How to Deal With Employee Time off Requests

Encouraging employees to take time off is essential for maintaining a happy and productive workforce. It improves company culture, making hiring and retaining high-quality staff easier and increasing employee satisfaction. Paid time off (PTO) also allows employees to

  • Rest and recharge, helping to prevent burnout.
  • Maintain a healthy work-life balance, reducing stress and promoting overall well-being.
  • Engage in activities that inspire creativity and innovation, leading to new ideas and improved problem-solving skills.
  • Improve relationships inside and outside of work. 

Dealing with employee time off requests can be challenging, especially for small businesses where there isn’t much role overlap. Business owners must balance their employee’s need for (and right to) rest with keeping the company operating smoothly in their absence. As businesses get bigger, the number of time off requests grows, so if you don’t simplify your PTO process now, it will only get worse. 

With that being said, here are six tips for efficiently dealing with employee time off requests while improving employee productivity and morale. 

#1. Establish a clear PTO policy 

The first step to dealing with employee time off requests is establishing a clear PTO policy that outlines what employees are entitled to. Your company’s PTO policy should include 

  • How many paid vacation days an employee is entitled to & whether this changes the longer they stay with the company
  • How many paid sick days an employee is entitled to & if they can take unpaid sick days (excluding extenuating circumstances) 
  • What the submission process looks like for time off requests
  • Any blackout periods when employees cannot take time off, e.g., during peak periods 
  • The method for allocating time-off requests in the event multiple employees want to take PTO at the same time
  • The minimum notice period employees must give about upcoming time-off 

The minimum notice period is particularly important, as Marcus Clarke, founder of, a digital marketing agency, explains. “Requiring advanced notice will give you ample time to plan for any operational changes and ensure that other employees have the necessary knowledge to cover for those who are away. By setting clear guidelines for PTO requests, you can better manage employee absences and maintain productivity in your business."

#2. Communicate the policy to staff 

Once you’ve established a clear time-off policy, the next step is communicating it to employees. For your existing workforce, it’s a good idea to outline the policy in a document emailed to all staff. This gives them something to refer back to and should reduce the questions you get about the new policy as they get used to the new guidelines for requesting PTO. 

Explain it to new hires during onboarding and add the document to their onboarding pack. Don’t forget to add the number of paid vacation and sick days (if applicable) to their contract too. 

#3. Encourage employees to notify you early

Another way to make dealing with time off requests easier is to encourage employees to submit PTO requests early. While it’s a good idea to implement a minimum notice period for requests, make it clear that employees should submit PTO requests as soon as possible. For example, if they know their cousin is getting married next August, there’s no harm in letting their manager know now and then reminding them closer to the time. 

For small businesses, it might not be possible to have overlapping PTO requests, especially during busy periods. Having a first come, first serve policy is an easy way to ensure a fair distribution of time off, and allowing employees to request time off early is an essential part of making that feasible.

#4. Have a backup plan 

For small businesses, in particular, having a backup plan is essential for keeping the company running smoothly when a key employee is out on vacation. For workforces where roles don’t overlap on a regular basis, it’s important to cross-train employees with basic skills that enable them to cover the necessary functions of that role. The key word here being necessary! 

To avoid overworking your remaining employees, don’t make them take over every responsibility of the person’s role. Instead, ask each of your team to create a list of the essential tasks they do on a daily or weekly basis that must be completed, even in their absence, if other roles are to function as normal. Payroll is an excellent example; it must happen on schedule to avoid a staff mutiny. But the report pulled every Friday on the number of likes your Instagram page got can realistically wait till Monday when your marketing role is back.  

For small teams, it might even be necessary to create a list of employees who can’t be off at the same time. Alternatively, depending on your industry, you could have a list of freelancers you can hire to cover staff absences temporarily. 

#5. Document everything 

As with many aspects of running a business, staying organized is essential. Regardless of how you deal with employee time off requests, it’s important to document everything. 

Keep records of time off requests, approvals, and denials in case of future disputes or issues. Note who’s taken vacation this year and who hasn’t; sometimes, the most hardworking employees need a reminder to take time off. And, of course, keep track of how many PTO days each employee has used to refer back to when they submit a new request. 

#6. Have a dedicated method for collecting time off requests 

Lastly, it’s important to have one method for collecting time-off requests to avoid losing track of who submitted what and when.

Rahul Vij, CEO of WebSpero Solutions, a digital marketing agency specializing in SEO, web design, and development, suggests a two-part approach to this. “One approach is to delegate responsibility to a specific manager or supervisor who can handle the process, establish policies, and communicate with employees. Finally, consider implementing a digital system that can automate the process and reduce administrative burden.”

For small businesses, having one person that everyone comes to with requests is an easy way to deal with PTO requests. To simplify things, consider setting up a dedicated email address where all employees can submit a standardized PTO request form to make recording and organizing requests easier. 

For larger organizations, having employees submit requests to their managers is more practical; they have a bird's eye view of projects and are best placed to decide if allowing a particular employee time off is feasible. 

Final thoughts 

With a little organization and adequate notice, dealing with employee time off requests for your small business can be stress-free. Once you have a good idea of each employee’s “must-dos,” you can take steps to ensure these functions continue in their absence, and with a clear PTO policy, employees get the rest they deserve, and your business operates as normal.

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