Here come the holidays! Which means extra food, extra parties, extra gifts, and…best of all, extra requests for some time off from your staff! The flood of requests can induce a few moments of panic, especially if your business tends to pick up at this time of year. But if you plan ahead and stay organized during this process, you’ll be able to manage the requests and make sure your company is never short-staffed during this busy time of year.

Here are three ways to stay organized for paid time off during the holiday season.

1. Plan in advance

First, remind your employees that this is a very busy time of year when you’re inundated with requests for time off, meaning that it can get competitive. Make sure your rules are clearly defined. Outline how requests should be submitted and when they can be submitted. How far in advance do requests need to be made? Do you have a deadline when requests can no longer be made? It helps if you have a form that everyone requesting PTO can access and use. Include spots for name, date, dates requested, reason, signatures, space to approve/deny/date. And plan for emergencies—keep a pool of part-time employees who can fill in if you find yourself short staffed.

2. Establish rules for overlap

Inevitably, you’ll have employees requesting the same shifts off, especially during really popular holidays. Unfortunately, you can’t grant every request, so you’ll have to have a plan to negotiate those overlapping requests. There are several options here. Approving requests on a first come, first served basis is a popular one, rewarding your employees who are on their game and plan ahead. You could also work on a seniority basis, favoring employees who have been with the company longer or who rank higher in the pecking order. You could also just allow for some wiggle room, leaving it up to the your discretion depending on the reason for the request or the employee’s flexibility. And stagger the schedule as best you can so that everyone gets some time off during these favored holidays.

3. Offer options

Depending on your industry and your company’s policies, someone will have to work on holidays or the days immediately before and after, perhaps grudgingly so. But if you can offer some options, you can ensure that your employees are at least somewhat happy and you won’t crush morale. Offer a holiday pay differential, awarding higher wages to your employees who work those shifts that nobody wants. If you have the means, let employees work from home around the holidays. Or allow employees to find their replacements, giving them the power to have off if they manage to find someone who’s willing to work for them.

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