4 Tips for (Almost!) Painless Holiday Staffing

November 18, 2016 • 5 min read

These tips are from our friends at Homebase, who offer free, cloud-based timesheets and schedules to small businesses.

No matter what kind of business you run, scheduling employees around the holidays can cause a few extra headaches.

You’re likely balancing increased demand with your employees’ personal schedules over the holidays, which can be a challenge, especially if you have employees with a wide range of unique roles.

The most important thing you can do right now to ease the complications of holiday staffing? Start planning ahead.

1. Ask your staff for their time-off requests early.

The earlier the better. If you’re using an employee scheduling app like Homebase, it’ll store all your employees’ time off the requests until you’re building the schedule for that week. Set a deadline for holiday time-off requests, then publish the schedules weeks in advance. (It should only take a few minutes.)

seasonal hiringWith scheduling software, you can limit changes after you’ve published the schedule, and allow employees to trade shifts amongst themselves, with your approval, if something comes up. It leaves a little flexibility for them, while giving you a little more breathing room.

With some apps, you can also choose to restrict time-off requests within a certain number of days—so, for example, you could require 14-day advanced notice for any time off. This is a good option if you aren’t quite ready to schedule more than a couple of weeks ahead of time.

2. Use sales and weather forecasts to staff at the right levels.

Using your point of sale system or other recorded sales data from last year, or even other holidays if you haven’t been in business that long, you should be able to get a sense of how heavily to staff. Use weather forecasts, too—if you’re running an ice cream shop in Portland, you might not sell as many cones when it’s raining.

Likewise, certain holidays may end up being big sales days. For example, lots of restaurants offer fixed price menus on New Year’s Eve, and as a result fast casual restaurants tend to do big business on those days as well, as more price-conscious people look for an alternative option for eating out.

3. Start hiring any additional employees now, and confirm their availabilities.

If you need help around the holidays, start posting jobs now, and be very specific about the days and times of shifts you need covered. If there’s the possibility of longer-term employment after the holiday rush is over, mention that too—you might end up getting more dedicated applicants.

Track all your employees’ stated availabilities. If you’re using employee scheduling software like Homebase, you can always track availabilities in the app, and set it so a manager has to approve any availability changes. This way, you won’t be surprised by any last-minute changes when you’re building the schedule.

4. Offer as much flexibility as you can, especially to your best workers.

The holidays also represent a great opportunity to show your best-performing employees that they’re appreciated. To the extent you can, this is a great opportunity to reward them—maybe they want to pick up extra shifts to pay for holiday gifts, or maybe they’d like to spend extra time with their family. By planning your holiday staffing as much as you can in advance, you’ll be able to offer a few perks without compromising your business.


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