Coordinating vacations can be as intimidating as a security checkpoint. Avoid time-off turbulence by picking-and sticking to-one of these flight plans.
Give priority to seniority and upgrade longtime team members to first class. Ask the team member who's worked the longest at your practice to call dibs on days off. Block out those days, then move to the second most senior employee.
If the pressure of making the final call on holiday shifts has you reaching for an oxygen mask, turn to your crew for help. Create a sign-up sheet for the days you suspect will be the least popular to work and ask for volunteers. You may be pleasantly surprised by the number of recruits, especially if you offer holiday pay.
Tis the season of high emotions, and no matter how hard you try to be fair, someone may take the scheduling process personally. If your practice has a history of hurt feelings, opt for a lottery system. Let team members draw numbers to see who submits vacation requests first, second, third, and so on.
Determine how many shifts need to be covered and require each employee to sign up for a certain number per year. Take Thanksgiving. You'd need two people for the Wednesday-afternoon shift, two for the Thursday-morning shift, etc. If one team member wants lots of time off in December, he or she should sign on to work these November shifts.
When all else fails, there's always the first-come first-served system. Break the holidays into seasons —winter and summer—and set an exact date and time to start accepting vacation requests. To steer clear of pushing and shoving in lines outside your office door, only accept e-mailed requests. That way, the exact submission time is documented.