Nobody likes working the holidays, but in the medical field it’s a necessity. Deciding who has to work on a holiday can be a difficult decision, and can be a real struggle. Larger operations like hospitals with hundreds of employees can rely on classic methods like seniority or hours worked to assign priority for holiday time-off requests.
But what about smaller offices? Relying only on seniority can lead to the same employees getting the holidays off over and over. That leads to low morale for more junior employees and can accelerate staff turnover. In order to address these problems, consider these simple techniques.
- Offer options. Different employees consider different holidays more important. Some prefer New Year’s Eve over New Year’s Day. While others love travelling for Thanksgiving, some feel Christmas with family sacred. Knowing your employees and their families, you can allow employees to choose which holiday is more important to spend at home. Try to avoid allowing one employee to have both holidays off unless your staffing is large enough that there’s no choice. When employees see things handled fairly, they’ll be more understanding about making compromises.
- Take a long-term view. We already know what days employees will want off every single year. Take a long-term view of holiday scheduling. The holiday season is usually considered to be from Thanksgiving to New Year’s, but many people also observe Easter. Don’t discount the other less common holidays when asking an employee to work one of the main ones — if someone is willing to work Christmas in exchange for Thanksgiving, Easter, or Valentine’s Day, this gives you more options!By scheduling holidays long in advance, you’ll avoid unpleasant holiday surprises, and employees can plan accordingly. Employees who are able to plan their lives will feel more in control, and stay happier, so discuss holiday scheduling now, before people have made their own plans.
- Rotate the holidays. For offices with long-time employees, try to avoid giving the same people the same holidays off year after year. If newer employees sense that senior employees always get the choice holiday schedule, they may not be as willing to cooperate with your needs. Still, if there’s no bad feelings, there’s no problem.
- Try to schedule the days surrounding holidays. People with families with small children often want off Christmas day, and will be happy to get it, but that’s not always possible. When it’s not, consider splitting the holiday, giving someone the few days before Christmas off, and another the few days after. Include Christmas on one of those two splits. If someone can’t do Christmas on the 25th, they may still be happy to celebrate the 26th. Not everyone celebrates Christmas religiously these days, so consider prioritizing someone you know wants off on religious grounds.
- Make the policy known. However you decide to assign holiday work, make it clear how you made the decision. Broadcast how you decide widely and don’t let it be a surprise. If you always prefer to honor religious commitments, make that known beforehand. Employees won’t see you as “playing favorites” if they understand your methods for deciding. Being clear with everyone about how you choose to schedule, well in advance, will help soften the blow of being scheduled for a holiday.
No matter how you determine to decide on holiday scheduling, in small to medium offices it’s important to try to keep everyone happy. While you can’t please everyone, using the principles above can be a great way to ensure a happier holiday season.