Vacations, illnesses, family emergencies and personal time off: These are all part of an employee’s experience. As a manager, you want to accommodate your team and their needs while balancing company deadlines. An effective time off requests policy accomplishes both.
Creating an effective time off requests policy:
- Anticipates questions employees have about taking time off
- Helps employees plan ahead
- Boosts morale and trust
- Keeps projects on track
We’ll be looking at the types of time off requests you might receive and what to include in your time off requests forms. We’ll also share tips on creating a time off policy and managing employee time off requests.
Types of Time Off Requests (And How Your Policy May Differ for Each)
What does “time off” mean in your organization?
Knowing why employees might submit time off requests can inform:
- How much time off employees receive
- Strategies and support networks companies can provide for their workers
Pro Tip: Ask your employees what reasons they may have for taking time off. Using a survey tool like Beekeeper makes it easy to get feedback and anticipate employee needs.
Here are three of the most common types of time off requests:
This type of time off can be defined as an extended period of time off for recreational activities like traveling, spending time with family, or just taking a break from work.
Some companies restrict vacation days to a certain number each year, usually depending on the seniority of the employee. Others offer unlimited PTO vacation days as long as the employee gets their work done.
2. Sick Leave or Medical Time Off
Another type of time off request could be due to an employee’s personal illness or medical care for a close family member.
Without paid sick leave, employees might go into work sick to avoid missing paid hours or losing their job. This could potentially worsen their condition, decrease productivity and spread sickness in the workplace.
In the U.S., different states have their own rules for how many sick days employees need to give their workers. Creating an effective sick leave policy requires staying compliant, supporting employee health, and minimizing operational disruption.
3. Personal Time
Employees may take personal time off to take care of miscellaneous tasks like car inspections, parent-teacher conferences and catching up on errands that take more than a few hours to complete.
Companies may group together all personal time off requests into one category, or separate categories with different policies for each. Time off requests could include:
- Jury duty
- Community service
- Emergency childcare
3 Tips for Creating a Time Off Requests Policy
The size of your team and the industry you’re in will factor into your time off requests policy.
For example, an organization in the hospitality industry might restrict the number of days off employees can take during busy summer months in order to keep up with demand.
That said, here are 3 tips that all organizations can keep in mind when creating their time off requests policy:
1. Establish Clear Timelines
To ensure that both managers and employees are on the same page, it might be useful to answer questions like:
- How far in advance do employees need to make time off requests?
- How often can employees request time off per month, quarter or year?
- Is there a limit to how many time off requests employees can make?
- Are there certain times of the year when employees can’t make time off requests?
Perhaps your time off requests policy requires two weeks notice for time off that lasts a couple of days, while weeks-long vacations require at least two months notice. For frequency, maybe employees can make up to five off requests throughout the year or up to two per month.
Clarifying these details will prevent managers from scrambling to keep up with last-minute time off requests. It’ll also allow employees to plan their time off and optimize their own schedules.
2. Create a System for Submitting Time Off Requests
Having employees simply tell their manager when they’re taking time off sounds like a good strategy. But verbal time off requests make it more likely that dates and times get misinterpreted or forgotten about.
One of the best ways to standardize how employees can submit time off requests is by adopting a mobile communication app. Platforms like Beekeeper centralize communication to make managing time off requests more streamlined.
With Beekeeper, organizations can:
- Reach their workforce anytime via mobile
- Create a standardized system for collect time off requests
- Communicate timelines and details for time off requests
- Reach out to their team members for any questions about time off
In addition, managers can also communicate whether or not an employee’s time off request has been approved with Beekeeper’s confirmation campaigns.
3. Make a Policy for Multiple Employees Requesting the Same Time Off
What happens when two employees request time off for the same days? What about when two time off requests overlap?
Managers might have to make some tough decisions as to who gets their time off request fulfilled. Creating a policy for overlapping requests makes the process fairer for employees.
Here are a few ideas:
- Create a priority list for time off requests. For example, an employee who requests time off to take care of a sick child might get priority over someone who wants to spend time with a friend from out of town.
- Consider how many requests an employee has already made. A team member who has yet to make a time off request might get priority over another who has made several already.
- Favor the early bird. Perhaps the simplest way to manage time off requests is to handle them on a first-come-first-served basis.
What to Include in Your Time Off Request Form
The basic elements to keep in mind when creating a time off request form include:
- When an employee is taking time off (dates, hours, and/or shift times)
- How many total days an employee is absent
- How far in advance an employee requested time off
- When the request is approved or confirmed
Other elements you might want to include are:
- How many previous time off requests an employee has made
- Whether this constitutes paid or unpaid time off
- The reason why the employee is taking time off
Ready to put that together?
Here’s a basic sample time off request form you can tailor to your needs:
Date of Request:
Date(s) for Requested Time Off:
Total Number of Time Off Requested:
Reason for Time off:
Now let’s look at ways companies can manage time off requests effectively.
Tips for Managing Time Off Requests
Making decisions about time off requests that take employee needs and company objectives into consideration can be a tough balancing act.
76% of Americans said that time off matters to them. But only 41% believe that their organization’s culture encourages employees to take time off.
Creating time off request guidelines is the first step to an effective time off policy. But putting more care into managing time off requests can improve the relationship employees have with their work/life balance.
Create a Workplace Culture that Values Time Off
Ideally, employees are able to fully disconnect during their vacation time. And yet:
- 32% report worrying about missing important information while on vacation
- 23% avoid taking time off because they feel guilty
- 19% avoid taking vacations because they believe they’ll be seen as less committed to their job
When employees do return to work, they may not be as well-rested and recharged as they could be to perform at their best.
Communicating the value of time off can include:
- Discouraging employees to engage with work-related communication during their vacations
- Sharing time off schedules with the team so that other team members can respect their colleagues’ time off
- Setting an example by having organizational leaders talk about how time off was a positive experience
- Granting extra time for employees to catch up on their workload when they come back
Let’s look at one more important way companies can foster a workplace culture that enables employees to get the most out of their time off.
Get Feedback About Your Company’s Time Off Policy
Gathering feedback from employees about their perspective on how their organization handles time off can:
- Give managers a better idea of how to communicate time off policies more effectively
- Show employees that the organization values improving the time off policy
One way to collect and analyze feedback is to send out employee surveys on a mobile communication app. Platforms like Beekeeper allow managers to create surveys that employees can access and respond to in real time. For frontline and distributed teams, mobile app surveys are a great way to ensure that your entire workforce can contribute feedback on time off policies even when they’re on the go.
Questions for your time off survey might include:
- Do you feel confident in understanding the time off requests process?
- Do you consider the time off policy to be fair for all employees?
- Is the time off requests process easy and convenient for you?
- Are there any reasons for taking time off that aren’t represented in the policy?
Why An Effective Time Off Requests Policy Matters
Ensuring that employees have the time off they need is vital, particularly in a post-pandemic workplace. SHRM survey found that post-COVID, 48% of U.S. workers feel exhausted by the end of the workday and 41% are burned out from their work.
Time off requests policies that:
- Take employee needs into consideration
- Have a clear process and timeline
- Are part of a culture that supports taking time off
…can go a long way towards improving employee satisfaction, engagement and overall well-being.