Avoid the Summer Vacation Request Blues

The average American worker who has been with the same employer for five years gets around 14 days of paid vacation beyond the usual array of holidays. Unsurprisingly, because summer has traditionally been seen as the time for vacations, your company’s HR staff person in charge of approving leave time has probably (or hopefully) already handled most of the season’s summer vacation requests. This means they are probably still suffering from the summer vacation request blues. But there are ways to avoid many if not all of the hassles and headaches next time around, so bookmark this one for future reference!


Why are Summer Vacations so Popular?

Many people might wonder why in the world most everyone is anxious to take paid vacation time during the summer. The obvious answer is because that’s when school is out for families with children, so summertime is when the whole family can go on a trip together. But it wasn’t always this way. 


When agriculture was the predominant family concern for most households in the 18th and 19th centuries before the Industrial Revolution, kids were typically in school from December through March, then took an extended break, and were then in school again from May through August. Seems like an odd schedule, right? But it’s not when you consider that farming households needed all the help they could at two key points of the growing season: planting time in the spring and harvesting time in the fall. 


Once the Industrial Revolution took hold and cities became places with lots of factory work, the situation was far different still. Children basically attended school 11 months of the year. Parents who were factory workers needed their kids to be in a safe place while they worked, and school was the best option. 


For better or for worse, summer has become the traditional time when families seek to go on a vacation together, leading to lots of summer vacation requests throughout the workforce.


Handling Summer Vacation Requests Like a Pro

How can you handle summer vacation requests like a pro? Follow these tips and strategies:


Clear Policies and Procedures: If you have a clearly defined policy and procedures about how employees are to request paid leave such as summer vacation requests, it’s understandable why you might be frustrated when people don’t follow them. But ask yourself this: How much do you communicate in an ongoing way with employees about leave requests? It’s nice to think that the employee manual or handbook that you handed each new employee over the years is their constant companion and that they would open it up and review the company policies and procedures around leave requests before making one. Get real! That boring, dry handbook was shoved in a drawer never to be seen again. It’s up to YOU to communicate regularly with employees about these sorts of things. A simple email in late May or early June reminding people to put in their summer vacation requests as early as possible, along with a summary of the procedures for how they make requests could go a long way towards lessening the stress you experience at this time of year.


Rules of the Road: It’s also worth reviewing the rules you’ve created around summer vacation requests and changing them if they’re not working well. Your rules should cover how employees file their requests – and I sincerely hope it doesn’t involve filling out a paper form, because this is the digital era of the 21st century and there are simple, affordable leave management apps available to help you streamline all of this! You should also include when time off requests can be made, such as X number of weeks before the leave or blackout times when you know the company’s got an all-hands-on-deck event or situation coming up. If July happens to be the peak business month for your company, just make it clear that July is off-limits for summer vacation requests. And again, the responsibility for communicating all of this to the company workforce is yours, not a staff handbook sitting on a shelf.


Overlapping Requests: How do you handle overlapping summer vacation requests? Obviously you can’t have everyone deserting the office for the same two weeks of the summer. Every company has to develop its own way of dealing with this. Common options include first-come-served, a seniority-based system, a combination of both, input of the employee’s direct supervisor, employee flexibility around changing dates, and so on. But avoid using only seniority as the deciding factor because then the same people will always magically have their requests approved, creating resentment in others. They key is to communicate with the parties concerned, explaining your decision and what it was based on. If you don’t communicate and show the rationale for decisions made (i.e., explaining why you’re denying someone’s summer vacation request), employees will end up feeling resentment. The most important aspect in all of this is to make sure there is no appearance whatsoever of “playing favorites,” which only creates ill-will. 


Maintaining Productivity: It’s always important to check in with a department manager or team leader around leave requests in order to make sure the needs of the business are met. Most departments and teams can address their own needs for a one or two week vacation by redistributing essential tasks, but if a temporary worker needs to be brought in, be ready to help make that happen. 


Communication: If you hadn’t already picked up on this, the key to handling all kinds of leave, including summer vacation requests, is to communicate early and often. Anticipate summertime leave requests and remind people of the rules of the road. Explain very clearly any vacation denials to close the loop and avoid creating disgruntled employees.


In the five points listed above, I only mentioned using a good leave management app once, so now it’s time to more clearly make that point in closing. If you are still dealing with paper forms and spreadsheets to manage leave time and summer vacation requests, now is the time to discover how much time (and money) you can save with the right technological tool. You could be leveraging the power of cloud computing to make your life so much easier. Check out CaptureLeave, a surprisingly simple yet powerful software-as-a-service solution designed to streamline many aspects of leave management, including time off requests. And don’t you deserve to have the right tools to make your job as efficient as possible? You can try CaptureLeave for free during a 60-day trial, after which you’ll enjoy affordable pricing as a monthly subscription based on the number of users. CaptureLeave will ensure you never have to experience the summer vacation request blues again!

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