Preparing for the January Holiday Booking Season

January is the busiest month of the year for employee holiday requests. But is your business ready for the admin of this Holiday Booking Season?

David Quinn: BrightHR Social Media Manager

Many businesses look forward to the holiday season. The Christmas parties, the Christmas break, maybe a surge in seasonal sales and, of course, the anticipation and excitement of a brand new year ahead. But there is another holiday season just around the corner and you’ll need to be ready as it’s going to be a busy one: Holiday Booking Season.

January = Holiday Booking Season

We know that booking and processing annual leave can be time-consuming for both employers and employees: all the forms, the spreadsheets, updating the holiday calendar, etc. It’s a hassle at the best of times. Even more so when there are multiple requests all at the same time! Admin nightmare.

The nightmare could actually be a reality. After analysing all the holiday requests processed by our absence management software, we found that the biggest spike in terms of holiday requests comes in the first week back after the Christmas break and as many businesses will also be resetting their holiday year in January you may find you’ll be getting a host of holiday requests as soon as you get back to your desk. But are you ready to deal with these? Obviously, there’s the issue of time-consuming admin, but there are other things to consider as well.

The problems of the holiday rush

  • The approval process - who do you approve?

We all know the most popular time people want to take a holiday, and you can be sure that some of your staff will want time off around the same period. As a small business owner you know you can't always accommodate this. So how do you decide who gets the time off?

Most businesses use the tried and trusted ‘first come, first served’ method of holiday booking. But what do you do if the same keen people always seem to get their requests in and the other staff aren’t happy about it? In that case, you may need to consider other options. Rota systems, having teams decide amongst themselves, informal holiday conversations before actual approval, using visual calendars so people know when people want to take time off, giving preference to longer servers or other factors. There are plenty of options but whatever one you choose you need to stick to it.

  • Potential conflicts

With so many requests coming in at the same time how are you ensuring that there are no conflicts? If you are using a paper-based system, or spreadsheet, it can be all too easy to approve a holiday only to realise later that you’ve also approved someone else’s holiday at the same time. By then all their holidays may be booked and it will mean you’ll have to spend time, effort and potentially money ensuring that you have the cover to keep your business running.

  • The issues with paperwork or spreadsheets

We’ve all forgotten things from time to time; we’re human after all. But when it comes to paper-based or spreadsheet systems, the opportunity for mistakes to happen is much higher. Forms going missing, not using the right version of the spreadsheet, incorrect formulae, not updating the holiday calendar, deleting the spreadsheet. These are just some of the problems that can occur, and when it comes to the January rush, errors could lead to big problems.

Getting ready

If your holiday year is restarting in January, what can you be doing now to ensure you and your systems are ready for the January Holiday Booking Season?

  • Anticipate it

The first thing you need to do is understand if the issue is coming or not. Did everyone book their holidays in the new year last year? Did you spend far too much time working through absence admin tasks in January when you really wanted to be focusing on growing your business? Did anything go wrong when it came to your holiday process last year? By recognising what’s happened in the past, or what happens in other businesses you can start to tackle the issues and get yourself ready.

  • Sort your holiday approval procedures

As mentioned, you need to ensure that you have a procedure in place when it comes to holiday approval. Whatever method you choose you need to fully communicate these procedures with your staff before the new year. This way your staff are fully aware of the absence approval procedures and there can be no complaints when it comes to potentially refusing requests.

  • Switch to an automated system

Why not take the hassle out of the holiday approval process altogether by using HR software such as BrightHR? With a system such as BrightHR your staff can book holidays in just a few clicks, you are instantly notified of all requests, can check any conflicts and can approve or decline holidays in a couple of minutes. No more annoying paperwork, no more errors.


Why not request a free demo of BrightHR today and see how we can take the hassle out of the January Holiday Booking Season.