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INVISION’s Latest Real Deal Scenario

The Case of the Holiday PTO Problem

When too many employees are requesting time off during the busy season how can this practice operate during the crunch-time without the owners becoming hated?

All employees of Sunset Eye Care gathered in the break room for the monthly staff meeting. Owners, Dr. Hart and Dr. Allen took turns going over items on the agenda, and eventually arrived at the closing point; “We realize it’s only October, but the holiday season and end-of-year rush is right around the corner.” Dr. Allen continued, “As you all know, this is the busiest time of year for us and we open up our schedule a bit to accommodate the rise in demand before the benefit calendar year ends.”

Dr. Hart added, “While we understand that the increased workload can be stressful and that you may also want to enjoy more time with your families, we encourage you all to try your best to power-through while limiting your PTO requests during this period.”

Later that week, Dr. Hart approached Dr. Allen, “I thought our last staff meeting went well since no one had questions about taking time off during our busy season — likely because nearly all of our employees have worked here for years and know how busy we get at the end of the year.” Dr. Hart countered wryly, “Then you’ll be shocked to hear seven of our 10 employees AND the associate doctor have all requested time off between mid-November through the end of the year.”

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“Wow. I don’t even know what to say,” Dr. Allen replied, “I know we both care about our employees and their wellbeing, but I am genuinely surprised at this — is this really too much to ask of them?”

“We were trying to do the right thing and plan ahead, yet I feel like it bit us in the butt — but if we didn’t bring it up in advance, people may have just called in sick,” Dr. Hart added.

“So they did exactly what we kindly asked them to avoid?” Dr. Allen replied.

“Lindsey wants five days off to drive to see family. Travis would like four various days off to go to holiday events. Sandy requested seven days off to fly out of town to see family. Dr. Spring would like 10 days off to fly to some tropical island because it’s so depressing here during the winter.” Dr. Hart asked, “Shall I continue?”

“No, no need. We’re basically left with three guaranteed employees during the busiest time of year,” Dr. Allen deduced.

Dr. Hart responded, “I don’t know how to address this with each or all of them… If we allow all of the requests then we can’t operate on the level needed to see all of the patients who need to be seen. Yet, if we deny one, or some, or all of the requests, they may call-in anyways… and if they don’t call in they will definitely be angry at us and be less productive during this time where high-function is needed.”

“We surely cannot have it happen every year.” Dr. Allen continued, “We have to figure out a solution that will establish a precedence.”


1. What is your established policy on staff’s holiday or busy season PTO requests? How is that communicated to employees?

2. How do you prioritize time off requests when multiple staff members ask for the same days off?

3. What advice would you give to a manager or owner who finds themselves in this position?

INVISION’s Latest Real Deal Scenario

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