How to Plan for Holiday Time Off


By Rieva Lesonsky, CEO GrowBiz Media & 

For retail entrepreneurs, the holiday season, which entails scheduling, time tracking, and managing your employees, is absolutely crazy. For business owners in every other industry, from construction to consulting, this is also a hectic time of year — but for different reasons.

  • Employees may want time off to travel, visit family, and attend holiday celebrations.
  • Cold and flu season kicks in, leading to unscheduled absences from work.
  • Stressed-out employees may call in for mental health or personal days.
  • Employees may request random hours off to attend children’s events like school plays or holiday parties.

Of course, you’d probably like a little time off for the holidays, too. How can you handle all the chaos and still keep your business running smoothly? Here are some tips to help.


1. Get ahead now.

If your employees power up and knock out extra work now, there will be more downtime later in the month, when the holiday season really heats up. Plus, getting ahead on tasks will free up time for any last-minute emergencies that arise (as they inevitably do).


2. Communicate clearly.

If your office is as informal as many small workplaces, it can be hard to keep track of who approved whom to take time off or leave early. Remind employees of your policies for requesting and approving time off. Use a time tracking system that records employees’ PTO so your accruals are always accurate.


3. Give companywide time off.

If it’s appropriate for your industry, your customer base, and your workload, consider closing your business during the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day. Employees can plan personal activities for that time and take less time off elsewhere.


4. Discourage sick employees from coming to work.

It sounds counterintuitive, but germ-laden team members can infect other employees and cause big problems for your business. Some employees are reluctant to use their paid time off to stay home with a cold. And if possible, allow employees to work from home, so they can stay “quarantined” from the rest of the team while still doing their jobs.


5. Use a cloud-based scheduling system.

If you’re still trying to keep track of employee schedules on a whiteboard in your office, you’re asking for confusion. Instead, implement employee scheduling software that you and your team can access from anywhere. You and your employees can see, at a glance, who’s working when and who’s out of the office each day.


6. Go mobile.

Cloud-based scheduling and time tracking software is even more convenient if it has an easy-to-use mobile app. You’ll be able to update schedules wherever you are. Use a tool like TSheets mobile time tracking so your employees can clock in and out on their mobile devices. That means even workers out in the field will always have accurate timesheets.


7. Integrate your time tracking software with your payroll and accounting information.

Preparing payroll at the end of December is often a nightmare, as your bookkeeping department struggles to reconcile everyone’s actual hours worked. You can spare yourself a few headaches by using time tracking software that integrates with popular accounting and payroll services and tools like QuickBooks, Gusto, or ADP.


Taking these seven steps should help you keep your employees and your customers happy. And last, but not least, put some time off for yourself on the calendar — you’ve earned it.

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Email Rieva at, follow her on Google+  and, and visit her website,, to get the scoop on business trends and sign up for Rieva’s free TrendCast reports.