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

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


1. Time off is important for productivity

When employees fully unplug from work for a vacation or the holidays, they’re better able to rest and recharge. Time spent with family and friends– and not at their desks– improves their 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 company.


2. Prevent disappointment with transparency

One way to head off PTO 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.

Employees should understand:

  1. How to ask for vacation time
  2. How long it will take for their request to be approved
  3. Any steps to take after the approval, for example updating a time-off calendar, creating an out-of-office reply, etc.

3. A competitive PTO policy 

Vacation time is the #2 ranked benefit contributing to employee satisfaction as ranked on Glassdoor, just after health insurance. This means your PTO policy can be a big attraction for job seekers considering working for your company.

Make it easy for potential candidates to better understand your company’s PTO policy 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. Create a PTO-friendly culture

In today’s Internet-driven work environment, many employees don’t feel like they can take vacation – even when they’ve earned it. In fact, 47% of workers have felt shame at work for taking their well-deserved vacation, and 47% felt they needed to justify their time off. 

Cultivating a PTO-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 PTO starts with managerial support and modeling, so make sure that management takes time off, too.


5. Post-holiday season 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 the post-holiday season 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 way to boost morale.


6. Give incentives to work during the Holidays

You can give bonus pay to people who work on major holidays, or have particular time periods cost more vacation time. (For instance, every day taken off in December could subtract 1.25 days from an employee’s PTO bank.) Adjustments like this often sort out your problem for you. If Sam wants the holiday pay, he’ll be willing to work. This allows Pam, who really wants it off, to take the time.


7. Encourage vacation during the year

Many companies have “use it or lose it” vacation policies, but employees can find it difficult to get time off at other points during the year. Make sure that requests are approved for vacation at other times. Also, tell your managers to follow up with employees who have large quantities of unused vacation time. This can prevent having multiple time-off requests come through right at the end of the year.


8. Implement a fair system 

Lots of companies use a seniority-based system when determining who gets the high-demand days off. While this seems logical, it can mean that the same three people get Christmas off every year. That is likely to be demoralizing to the newer staff. Stick with a system that allows everyone to have an opportunity.

9. Alternate Major Holidays

If your business is open on major holidays, managing vacation requests can be extra difficult. Alternating holidays can be a useful approach. So, if one person gets Thanksgiving off, then they have to work Christmas or New Year’s Day.

If your business isn’t open on the holiday but is on the days surrounding it, the same principles can apply. For instance, if Sam worked on the day after Thanksgiving, he gets priority for the day after Christmas over Pam, who had Black Friday off.


Holiday time-off requests don’t have to be a disaster for productivity. Planning in advance and providing the right incentives can help you get through this busy time.



With the major holiday season right around the corner, now seems like the perfect time to talk PTO. While the FLSA doesn't require employers to pay employees for holidays or even allow time-off, it can be difficult to tell your employees "no."


Check out our Holiday PTO infographic, and compare the facts to your company's PTO policy: 


Holiday PTO infographic


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