The Christmas holiday season is fast approaching, which means that most HR managers are coming up to one of the busiest times of their year; whilst juggling reduced staffing levels, due to the holiday season.

HR teams see a sudden influx of annual leave request forms, all of which need actioning. But how do you decide who gets their request approved, while equally remaining fair to everyone, and letting down gently those whose leave you are unable to sanction?

So, how can HR managers effectively manage multiple holiday requests while ensuring the staff who remain at work remain in positive spirit and productive?

Below, you will find our five top tips to ensure your workforce remains in good cheer throughout the Christmas holiday season.

Offer an open policy

Annual leave policy should be readily available to all staff and should form part of the induction process for any new starters you have. Managing everyone’s expectations from the outset ensures your workforce are in the know about their holiday entitlement and what conditions need to be met before the leave can be sanctioned. For example, if you work within a small department it is worth outlining that the office must be manned throughout each working day. This may mean that only one or two people can be off at any given time.

Plan, plan and plan some more

Good practice here is to ensure all requests are received a minimum of six weeks prior to the date requested. This can ensure that a week before the festivities commence your team knows who is off and when, and it will also mean you aren’t dealing with multiple requests at short notice. Planning well in advance can also mean, that if needed, internal or temporary cover can be found, ensuring your productivity remains high.

The ghost of Christmas past

If you work in certain industries, you may be unable to afford your workforce the luxury of a Christmas break. For some industries there is a demand for a continuous services, such as in healthcare, but this is also becoming common in the retail sector too. If you work in an industry where you continue to operate throughout the Christmas period, it may be worthwhile to keep track of previous annual leave requests from the year before. Often managers can arrange a rota whereby shifts are split so everyone takes some of the workload. Alternatively you could offer leave on alternate years. For example, if a member of staff had Christmas Day off last year, it will mean they will be scheduled to work it the coming year.

Bartering can often pay

Following on from the point above, if you do work within a nonstop industry, such as retail, incentivising staff may be useful. For example, you may wish to consider offering premium pay to those willing to work, or honour the day worked by allocating an extra day’s holiday. It might even be as simple as ensuring those workers who don’t take holiday don’t miss out of the festivities by arranging an extended lunch or a dress down day. Staff who feel valued are much more likely to go above and beyond, and the price you end up paying may be a lot less than you imagined.

Place the power into the hands of your workforce

We can imagine what you’re thinking. Asking your staff to manage their own holiday request forms would probably descend into an all-out brawl, especially if you work in a big organisation. However, empowering your workforce to take responsibility for their own annual leave not only reduces your workload, allowing you to get on with more important tasks, but by giving your workforce a sense of responsibility is an effective way to ensure everybody gets the result they want.

Equator HR offers a number of employee self-serve functionalities, allowing employees to post requests for holidays, absence and overtime and to monitor the progress of such requests through to approval. What’s more the Equator HR Employee Portal allows employees to make any necessary amendments to their personal information, freeing up even more of your time to carry out other tasks. If used effectively, the Equator Employee Portal can become the main tool used by your employees to satisfy their HR needs for life, not just for Christmas.