Managing Smart: How Do You Manage Multiple Leave Requests?

Thursday, June 17, 2021

With many of us vaccinated and COVID cases decreasing, employees are beginning to take their well-deserved vacation time. As supervisors, we want to encourage the break from the daily grind, but how do you handle multiple leave requests from your team and ensure operations continue so we can best serve our students?

In the article, “8 Expert Tips for Handling Time-off Requests,” Sling recommends:

Defining the Rules of Time-off Requests

Everyone on your team should know and understand the rules you set to manage the requests. Keeping it clear helps avoid conflict among you and your team members, and establishing rules shows that you respect your employees and their time. Sling recommends establishing the following rules:

  1. How requests should be submitted
  2. When employees can request time off
  3. When employees can’t request time off (e.g., special events)
  4. How far in advance a time-off request needs to be made
  5. How often time-off requests can be made
  6. Considerations that are specific to the College and your department

With nearly 70 employees in his department, Boris Feijoo, assistant director, facilities services, says there can be many challenges when scheduling leave, but he has a system to ensure time off is equitable and fair to all.

“During town hall meetings we approach this topic and advise our staff of the need to request time as early as possible,” he explained. “We also have records of past employees’ vacations, especially for holidays such as Thanksgiving and Christmas. This history allows us to see those employees who have taken vacation time repeatedly and prioritize other requests from employees who never take vacation during that time.”

For Lauren Zanders, manager, student services, who supervises a staff of seven full-time and four part-time advisors, it’s very important for her to have rules in place for her team.

“My team works directly with students in a fast-paced and high-volume environment,” Lauren explained. “Office coverage is a high priority. While onboarding and on an annual basis we review the established office guidelines on leave.”

And those guidelines have changed due moving to a remote work environment.

“Prior to our COVID closure, we saw students face-to-face on a walk-in basis,” she said. “In this environment, I was comfortable approving three team members off at a time with advance notice. This allowed manageable office coverage while also accounting for unforeseen circumstances — such as sick days. While working remote, we are a collegewide team of 30-plus front-line staff. Advisors do not always report to their campus supervisor during their virtual office shift. To coordinate coverage, the collegewide management team monitors leave on a shared Google spreadsheet. If approved, the manager on duty will also be notified so they can be prepared. In cases where a team member asks to leave during a shift, we defer to the virtual shift supervisor to ensure the loss in coverage would support the student traffic.”

Lauren added, “I believe clear communication has been essential to our process. Staff [members] should be informed and reminded of the guidelines governing leave requests. In the case of managing a collegewide team and staffing a collegewide space, clear communication and consistency have been important.”

 Establishing How to Handle Overlapping Requests 

As many Valencians put off vacation plans during the pandemic and summer is always a popular time for travel, there’s a good chance you will now receive overlapping leave requests. Before the requests come in, establish how overlapping requests will be handled. Here are some popular policies from Sling:

  1. First come, first served
  2. Reason for the request
  3. Seniority-based
  4. Employee flexibility
  5. Managerial discretion

When Larry Fox, manager, courier services, receives multiple requests, he has a set minimum for the number of staff members who must work for each location in order for operations to continue. “Once I get to that minimum I let the staff [members] know that no one else can take off,” he said.

Of course all employees use the Request and Manage My Leave system to submit time-off requests, but Larry also uses the Outlook calendar to assist with leave requests. “Anytime I have a request, I look at the calendar to see who is off that day,” he shared.

Considering the College’s Needs

As a supervisor, you must ensure that an adequate number of employees are working in order for operations to continue. However, it is important to communicate this message with employees, without discouraging time off.

To manage the nearly 70 employees on his team and ensure facilities operations can continue, Boris uses a project schedule. “We reduce work tasks and become more flexible during prime vacation times. This has actually allowed us to authorize vacations to more staff during the same period of time, without compromising our performance.”

For additional tips, view the full list of Sling recommendations.

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