Winterizing Your Time Off Policies: Answers to 5 Common Questions

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Winterizing Your Time Off Policies

With our unseasonably warm temperatures this fall you’ve probably been putting off putting away the patio furniture and covering up the grill. But in HR, it is never too early to start thinking ahead to what the winter months will mean for your organization, and of course, for your employees. Often of particular concern at many employers are the reasons that employees will want to (or need to) take time off in the coming months. From holidays to sick days to severe winter weather, here are some key questions that you might want to brush up on before that first snow hits.
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12 Tested Ways to Manage Time-Off Requests around the Holidays

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12 Tested Ways to Manage Time-Off Requests around the Holidays time off request policy request time off policy

For most HR practitioners, trying to coordinate a pile of time-off requests for the upcoming holiday season is hardly your favorite part of the job. No one really wants to be the one to tell employees that their request to spend time with their families during the holidays is being rejected, but depending on a whole slew of factors—industry, company size, production schedules, client demands, staffing levels, or even job specific duties—sometimes the reality is, the work has to get done.
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Will Employees be Grateful for Time Off this Thanksgiving?

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Will Employees be Grateful for Time Off this Thanksgiving?

According to the results of ERC’s 2015 annual Paid Holiday Survey, in addition to the Thanksgiving Day Holiday, most Northeast Ohio employers are providing a paid-full-day-off the day after Thanksgiving (Friday, November 27). A handful are also providing a full or half-day the day before.

Thanksgiving Infographic

View ERC's Holiday Practices and Paid Holiday Survey Results

These surveys report on which holidays Northeast Ohio organizations plan to observe as well as holiday parties, gift giving, and more ideas for the holiday season.

View the Results

29 Ways to Celebrate the Holidays at the Office

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holiday celebration ideas 29 Ways to Celebrate the Holidays at the Office

Winter brings a lot of things we find hard to embrace: snow, cold weather, taking 10 minutes to bundle up for the cold, and more snow. But with all of the hassles of winter, it also brings along something we can embrace: the holidays!

The holidays are a great way to bring your office together and celebrate through gifts, contests, food and decorations.

Here is a list of 29 ideas for your holiday office celebrations.

  1. Have employees decorate their office door and have a contest among everyone
  2. Host an office potluck
  3. Holiday office bingo
  4. Get an Elf on the Shelf and have the elf leave small gifts for different employees each day
  5. Decorate your cubicle and have a cube contest
  6. Host a hot chocolate bar with different toppings
  7. Have fun pizzas in the shape of Christmas trees and have employees decorate the trees
  8. Make it a family affair and bring in a Santa for the employee’s children
  9. Host a bake-off among all the employees
  10. Rent a photo booth for your holiday party
  11. Incorporate a charitable cause and donate gifts from your organization, such as Toys for Tots or Trees for Troops
  12. Organize a white elephant gift exchange with your employees
  13. Shoot a holiday video with employees to share with your customers - Don’t have a camera lying around? Use your smartphone!
  14. Have employees bring in their favorite cookie and have a cookie tasting
  15. Host an ugly holiday sweater day at the office
  16. Set up a holiday card exchange for employees
  17. Get your employees together to watch a holiday movie, like A Christmas Story, and make popcorn and hot chocolate in the office
  18. Get employees together and do some caroling around the other offices in your area
  19. Surprise unsuspecting people that you see at your office on a weekly basis with a little gift, such as the UPS driver that is always bringing packages to your office
  20. Do a craft with your employees like you did in grade school, such as snow globes made out of baby food jars
  21. Get the office to decorate a centralized Christmas tree in the office
  22. Play a game of minute to win it: holiday edition
  23. For smaller offices: get everyone a stocking to fill with gifts
  24. Organize a snowman building contest
  25. Put marshmallows into a large jar and have all of the employees guess how many are in the jar- the employee closest to the exact number will win a prize
  26. Buy some wrapping paper and bows and cover your artwork in it to make your office look more festive
  27. Decorate your office windows with spray snow and have your employees write holiday messages to each other
  28. For the New Year, have your employees write down a prediction for the upcoming year and create a time-capsule. Open it up with your employees 1 year later and see who was right
  29. Give employees company logo items, ranging from clothing to mugs, as a thank you for their work this year

View ERC's Holiday Practices and Paid Holiday Survey Results

These surveys report on which holidays Northeast Ohio organizations plan to observe as well as holiday parties, gift giving, and more ideas for the holiday season.

View the Results

The Ultimate Summer Workplace Checklist

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Sweet summertime is right around the corner. Bring on the company picnics, vacation schedules, and little league games!

The HR department is presented with plenty of opportunities and challenges when it comes to the summertime workplace. It can be hard at times to keep employees attention and focus when the sunshine is calling their name.

Here’s the ultimate summer workplace list for organizations working to make their workplace great:

1. Solidify Holiday Schedule

There are 3 national holidays U.S. employers recognize during the summer, Memorial Day, 4th of July, and Labor Day. Make sure your employees know what days they will have off due to the holidays, especially the 4th of July. If the 4th of July falls on a weekend, be sure to clarify and communicate to employees what day the office will be closed. Also be sure to communicate that to customers as well.

2. Manage Vacation Schedules

Summer is the ideal time for many people to take a vacation. Unfortunately for the HR department and management team, that means many employees wanting to schedule time off at the same time. This can lead to a shortage of workers or disappointed employees if not handled properly. Require employees to schedule time off in advance, receive approval for time off, coordinate with the their coworkers and implement a fair system specifying criteria of the process and spell out whatever limits your organization may have around taking vacation.

3. Implement a Summer Dress Code

With the weather being warmer, it may be beneficial to implement and communicate a summer dress code throughout the organization.

Be sure to effectively communicate the new summer dress code, preferably in writing. Clarify what summer attire is and what it isn’t. Determine what is allowed in terms of apparel and shoes while providing examples (i.e. sleeveless tops, open-toed shoes, flip flops, shorts, capris, etc.) It may also be beneficial to let employees know to be mindful of their daily agendas and not dress inappropriately when meeting with customers or pitching an idea to corporate, depending on policy.

Also apply your dress code uniformly to all employees, and not to a specific gender or demographic.

4. Plan a Company Outing

Summer is an ideal time to organize a company outing or picnic to show appreciation. Hosting a company outing not only shows appreciation for employees but recognizes their efforts and gives them a time to interact and bond with one another outside of the office.

Many organizations host outings at a local attraction, golf course or park.

If the budget is right, it may be nice to include spouses, significant others, or children too.

5. Wellness Program

The summertime weather also allows for more creative outdoor activities and programs to support and promote wellness throughout the organization. Try setting up a bike-to-work program, walking program, fitness activity, or pick-up game.

In addition, the summer is a great time to emphasize nutrition and healthy eating habits with the increased availability of fruits and vegetables. Several organizations have begun to provide fresh produce whenever possible to their workforce.

6. Flexible Scheduling

Many families tend to need more flexibility in the summer. Kids are out of school with little league games and sick babysitters.

Great workplaces tend to provide a bit more flexibility, such as opportunities to leave early on Fridays, revised or shorter work schedules, compressed work weeks, and longer holiday weekends.

Flexibility options allow employees extra time with their families and help them achieve better work/life balance over the summer.

7. Address Attendance Issues

Having a more flexible schedule may lead to a few bad apples spoiling the bunch. Attendance can become more of an issue in the summertime when employees may call off, take unapproved time off, or be tardy/leave work early more often.

Make sure to have an attendance policy that is clearly communicated to employees and enforce the policy consistently.

Being flexible to employees’ needs to keep attendance issues to a minimum and keep in mind that results are what counts the most at work.

8. Take Advantage of Slow-Time Opportunities

Depending on the industry, summer time can be less busy and employees have a more relaxed workload. This is the perfect time to implement development initiatives that may have been pushed to the side the rest of the year in preference of other obligations.

Training, development, programs, and other HR projects are perfect opportunities to take advantage of in the summer months.

9. Have More Fun

The summer is a great time to have more fun at work, relax, build relationships between team members, and focus on collaboration and team-building.

Team-building activities, contests, socials, and philanthropic events help employees build camaraderie and foster open communication.

Consider setting up a volunteering day in which employees spend the morning or afternoon, as a team, helping out at a local nonprofit organization.

Planting and tending to a garden throughout the summer is another fun (and delicious) activity for the workplace.

10. Mid-Year Meeting

Encourage management to have a mid-year meeting with each of their employees to talk about their progress towards their goals and their performance thus far into the year.

Employees should not be surprised by the feedback they receive or the results of their end of year performance review.

Take steps to change performance now with employees who are not performing up to standard. Conversely, with great performers, let them know they are doing a great job and encourage them to keep up the good work.

It may also be beneficial to hold a company-wide mid-year staff meeting to bring everyone up-to-date on the year’s progress, where things are thriving, where things are falling short, and to boost morale.

Paid Summer Holidays in Northeast Ohio Consistent with National Numbers

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With Memorial Day unofficially kicking off “summertime” in Northeast Ohio for 2013, vacations, time-off and holidays for the upcoming summer months are top of mind for employees and employers alike. While official paid-time-off and vacation policies have a different look and feel based on each employer’s organizational culture, paid holidays are more consistent across the board.

In 2012 the ERC Paid Holiday Survey found that on average, most employers were planning to offer between 9 and 10 paid holidays to their workforce in 2013, an average that has remained steady for a number of years. The range of total holidays offered also remains fairly consistent from past years with one employer reporting as few as 3 and one reporting as many as 16 days.

As the chart below demonstrates, the region is very much in line with the national standards in terms of which holidays employers choose to offer to their employees as paid holidays. All three major “summer” holidays are nearly universally part of this holiday time-off plan.


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100+ Workplace Ideas: Celebrations, Parties, & Gatherings

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100+ Workplace Ideas: Celebrations, Parties, & Gatherings

There are many ways to celebrate and gather in the workplace, not limited to just the holidays. Many workplaces come together to celebrate retirements, birthdays, anniversaries or tenure, office changes, employee or organizational accomplishments, among others.

Workplace celebrations and gatherings are important for many reasons. For one, they bring your staff together, allow them to socialize with one another more informally, and often help build and strengthen relationships. Second, they enhance the culture of a workplace, making it fun and enjoyable. Third, celebrations and gatherings provide a means of recognizing personal and workplace achievements and milestones and showing appreciation for them in a public manner.

We’ve compiled a robust collection of 100+ ideas for reasons to celebrate, ways to celebrate, and local places to celebrate with your employees throughout the year.

Ideas for reasons to celebrate or gather with employees

  • Holidays
  • Retirements
  • Birthdays
  • Graduations
  • Promotions
  • Anniversaries or tenure
  • New babies or adoptions
  • New year or end-of-year
  • Major project kick-offs, milestones, or completions
  • Office changes (new office, renovations, major improvements, etc.)
  • Beginning of or end of a busy season
  • Employee appreciation/recognition
  • Employee, team, and/or organizational achievements
  • Company anniversary
  • Team-building
  • Charitable causes
  • Break from work

Ideas for ways to celebrate and gather with employees

  • “75” days of celebration to celebrate “75” years in business
  • Annual employee appreciation day
  • Apple picking
  • Baby showers
  • Beach parties
  • Black-tie galas
  • Boating or cruise events
  • Bonfires
  • Bowling nights
  • Breakfast with Santa
  • Breakfasts or luncheons with the President
  • Bus trips or excursions
  • Busy-season kick-off and/or wrap-up parties
  • Cake parties
  • Carnivals
  • Casino, card, or poker nights
  • Charitable walks or runs
  • Chili cook-offs
  • Christmas in July
  • Cinco-de-Mayo parties
  • Clam bakes
  • College logo days
  • Comedy clubs
  • Company picnics
  • Company-paid staff vacations
  • Cook-offs
  • Cookouts
  • Corn-hole tournaments
  • Coworker trivia
  • Crazy hat or shirt days
  • Cultural/ethnic celebrations
  • Day at the spa
  • Day at the zoo, park, or amusement park
  • Desert decorating contests
  • Desk decorating parties (holidays, birthdays, etc.)
  • Dessert parties
  • Dinner at the President’s house
  • Dinner with live band or DJ and dancing
  • Dinner-dances
  • Easter egg hunts
  • Employee talent shows
  • Fall fests
  • Family fests with activities, contests, and entertainment
  • Field days
  • Fundraisers
  • Gift exchanges or white elephant parties
  • Gifts or celebrations for Mothers Day and Fathers Day
  • Golf outings and scrambles
  • Halloween costume contests
  • Halloween decorating contests
  • Hayrides
  • Ice cream socials and ice cream truck visits
  • Indians, Browns, and Cavaliers opening day celebrations
  • Internal happy hours
  • Karaoke events
  • Laser tag
  • Limo service to luncheons/dinners
  • Local sporting events
  • Local theatre or plays
  • Luaus
  • March Madness events
  • Mid-winter slump events
  • Monthly potluck birthday parties
  • Movie nights
  • National food days
  • Night at the races
  • Nintendo Wii contests or tournaments
  • Office putt-putt
  • Office Thanksgiving luncheons or potlucks
  • Office trick-or-treating for employees’ children
  • Open-houses
  • Paintball
  • Paper airplane contests
  • Pinewood derby
  • Pizza parties
  • Potlucks
  • Raffles
  • Retirement parties
  • Salad bar lunches
  • Scavenger hunts
  • Scrapbooking parties
  • Service award parties
  • Shopping days for the holidays
  • Silent auctions
  • Skits
  • Snow days (tobogganing, sledding, skiing, and/or ice skating)
  • Soup sampler days
  • Special employee weeks or days (administrative professionals, nurse’s week, maintenance day, etc.)
  • Sports tournaments (flag football, softball, basketball, soccer, volleyball, etc.)
  • St. Patrick’s Day festivities (catered corned beef lunch, parade watching, etc.)
  • Staff off-site retreats
  • Surprise fun days (go to the movies, etc.)
  • Tailgates
  • Take your children to work days
  • Take your parents to work days
  • Theme parties
  • Ugly sweater holiday parties
  • Visits from Santa Clause and the Easter Bunny
  • Wear your sweats to work day
  • Wedding showers
  • Weekend trips to Kalihari or Put-in-Bay
  • Whirleyball
  • Wine and cheese tasting

Ideas for local venues for your celebrations

  • Akron Aeros Canal Park
  • Akron Zoo
  • Blossom Music Center
  • Cadillac Ranch
  • Cedar Point
  • Cleveland Botanical Gardens
  • Cleveland Browns Stadium
  • Cleveland Metroparks Zoo
  • Country Clubs
  • Dave and Busters
  • Edgewater Park
  • Goodtime III
  • Hale Farm
  • Hilarities Comedy Club
  • Hotels
  • House of Blues
  • Kalahari
  • Kennywood
  • Lake County Captains Classic Park
  • Nautica Queen
  • Playhouse Square
  • President of the Company’s Home
  • Progressive Field                                                   
  • Put-in-Bay
  • Quail Hallow
  • Renaissance Hotel
  • Restaurants
  • Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
  • Seven Springs
  • Shorby Club
  • Swings N Things
  • The Q
  • Waldameer Water World
  • Whisky Island
  • Windows on the River

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