Plan ahead for the festive holidays - file your leave request early

Working through Christmas and New Year may not be ideal, but employee simply needs to file a holiday request on time rather than moan about his predicament.

There’s been that usual annual scuffle in the office over time off over the festive period. I lost out by not filing my leave request in time. It means I am working both Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. I feel very sad as I am missing out on time with my family. What should be my strategy for next year? Book leave in early or make it clear that because I worked the festive period this year, I shouldn’t work the next? PD, Abu Dhabi

Unless I am missing something here, PD, the clue is in the question. You say this is an annual scuffle and that this year you have missed out. The reason you offer is that you did not file you request for leave over the holiday period in time. So, calling on all my years of management experience, if I was in your position and I wanted a better outcome for myself next year, maybe I’d first consider filing my request for leave over next year’s holiday season a little earlier.

It’s radical, it’s extreme, but it may just work.

As always, there is a lot you don’t and can’t tell me in your short note. One is the nature of your work. By the sound of it, your job needs to be delivered uninterrupted over the holiday season. That might make you a bus driver or a brain surgeon or anyone in between or beyond either of these roles. The challenge generally around the world nowadays is that Christmas has become a secular celebration, observed globally, with the consequence that very many of us want to be at home with our families relaxing and enjoying an end of year break. So, essential and emergency services that must be maintained come under immense strain, many businesses muddle through as best they can (which seems to be the strategy your business is adopting) while other occupations simply come to a complete halt. My world of higher education takes a break from about December 23 to January 3 each year, making the end-of year-family holiday one of my favourite times. For many other families it is a time of stress and strain as work pressures pull parents in different directions.

So, if you can influence things by getting your request in early, then do so. Apply for your December leave in January of the same year if you can, get the days you want then relax, knowing you are organised. But many companies don’t open the books for end of year holidays until much closer to the date, which is what often leads to the scuffle.

In my view, there is room here for sensible process. For example, perhaps nobody can have more than a maximum of three days of holiday over the festive period. Or perhaps if someone has festive holiday in one year, they are then ineligible for the next year or for the next two years. There should be a sense of equity to the process.

In my experience, in occupations where a service absolutely must continue to be offered (medical services, the police, emergency response such as ambulance or fire crews) there is a well-balanced and structured approach to scheduling. Elsewhere, when the service is for-profit, such as a taxi service, or waiting staff in restaurants, often people who do not observe the festive season are keen to work and earn the extra cash, so a process emerges that suits all concerned.

For this year, I’d look at when I am going to be around and centre the celebrations on those times. You talk about family, so I am guessing there are children involved. Kids are up early on the big day. Can you have a gift opening session before you have to go to work? Or can you do something on the eve of the day itself? On New Year, if you have children, celebrate with a huge New Year breakfast rather than at the stroke of Midnight.

Doctor’s prescription:

Make these early morning moments seem like your special celebrations, rather than makeshift replacements, then you can still create a wonderful festive season even if you are having to work when you’d rather be at home.

Roger Delves is the director of the Ashridge Executive Masters in Management and an adjunct professor at the Hult International Business School. He is the co-author of The Top 50 Management Dilemmas: Fast Solutions to Everyday Challenges. Email him at for advice on any work issues.

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Published: December 23, 2014 04:00 AM


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