How to manage vacation requests and maintain staffing in the spring and summer

There you are: riding the waves at your local beach, maybe sitting on the sand reading your favorite book, or merely riding your bicycle on that clear summer day. After a long winter we’re all looking forward to outdoor sun and fun. Not everybody can take time off. Somebody has to manage the business. BLR, Laura MacLeod, points out the best way to handle vacation requests and PTO while maintaining staffing needs.


Summer is coming and beach weather, picnics, baseball, and family outings await. After a long, hard winter, we’re all looking forward to sun and fun. But not everyone can take time off. Someone has to mind the store. Staffing and ensuring attendance and performance in the lazy, hazy days of summer is not easy. Here is what you can do:

1. Get the Facts

Your staff all have paid vacation, personal and sick days. They also have seniority and job classification ranking. These factors directly affect vacation requests and potential callouts. Be sure you are clear on company policy for vacation requests and documenting callouts, and if you are a union shop, know the contractual policies. Get a sense of which employees will be looking for lots of time off (those with seniority and accrued time) and those more inclined to stay and work (new employees with less time accrued). Armed with the facts, you can begin to plan for staffing needs.

2. Determine your needs

Determine specifically what you need to effectively staff your business. High traffic holidays (Mother’s Day, Memorial Day weekend, July 4) may require additional employees to handle tourists and vacationing families. Traditionally slower times (Mondays and Fridays) may require fewer employees to keep business running smoothly. This will help you plan and give employees a clear picture of what you need.

3. Be direct and honest with staff

Let the staff know you are aware that many will want to take off during the summer. You would like to avoid call outs and ensure that people get the time off they want or need. That being said, you need to staff the business and would like their help in accomplishing this. Be sure staff knows and understands policies set in place (company and union) and explain what you need for specific days and times in the summer months. Elicit feedback, and encourage employees to work with each other (switching shifts, filling in) to come up with solutions.

4. Have a back-up team

Be sure you have back up staff especially for high traffic holidays. There will be call outs, and you’ll need to be prepared. Find out which employees would like to work additional shifts and overtime, and have temp employees on the roster. Be sure you have correct contact numbers, and inform employees they may be called at the last minute—and you’ll need a quick and clear response.

5. Be organized and consistent

The high-traffic days can be stressful for employees if policies and protocols are not clear and managers are disorganized and harried. This is often why employees call out. Who needs the stress? If these hectic days are planned well, expectations are clear, and there is plenty of support, employees will be more willing to come in and do the work.

Staffing in the summer months needn’t be stressful and overwhelming. Being direct, clear, and supportive goes a long way in getting buy in from employees. They’ll be more willing to show up for work and set aside sun and fun for their scheduled time off. And you’ll be properly staffed—maybe even able to get your own sun and fun.

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