With the beginning of summer just around the corner, employees are gearing up for vacation season — planning their trips, booking flights, and, of course, submitting time-off requests. As a manager, it can sometimes feel overwhelming to handle these requests, especially while keeping organizational needs in mind. However, there are several ways to manage these requests fairly and without causing any employee resentment.

Discuss vacation policies early

The first approach is to discuss your company’s vacation policies with your employees during the orientation — or even hiring — stage. This will cement your guidelines in their minds early on and give them ample time to ask questions and disclose any conflicts they may have (e.g., religious holidays).

Set a deadline for time-off requests

Depending on your industry, your company may face predictable busy seasons — such as the holiday season in retail. If this is the case, it would greatly benefit you to establish a deadline for employees to submit time-off requests for the season. Ensure all employees know that if they submit a request after the deadline, it may be approved or denied based on organizational need.

Establish a method to approve/deny time-off requests

Some companies operate on a first-come, first-served basis, while others base their decisions off of seniority or prior requests. However, these methods have the possibility of backfiring and raising accusations of favoritism within the management team. To avoid such conflict, take the time to research different methods to aid you in your impartial decision-making.

Allow shift trades (within reason)

If you are searching for a way to add flexibility to your vacation policies, consider allowing your staff to trade shifts based on their desired vacation time. That is, if an employee submits a time-off request for an especially busy week, inform them that they must find someone to cover their usual shifts before you can approve their request.

Plan accordingly

If you are distributing absent employees’ work amongst the remaining staff, ensure they are provided with summaries of the work that has been completed, what needs to be accomplished on a deadline basis, all necessary client contact information, and are given access to pertinent files. Furthermore, if you are able, it may be wise to offer incentives to employees who take on extra work or volunteer to work during a popular vacation time. These incentives could include an extra coffee break, an extended lunch break, bringing in breakfast for the office, or recognizing their efforts in a more public manner. This will not only ensure employees feel appreciated, but could even influence a few additional employees to join this team of volunteers as well.