Holidays bring business to the retail bakery, but they can also bring the stress of trying to fill more orders while employees want more time off. This presents what can be a stressful situation for owners and managers. Scheduling staff during the holiday seasons is difficult, but there are ways to relieve some of that stress and keep your store staffed with enough people to keep up with the increased business.

• Plan in advance - Many industrial businesses have their holiday schedule planned well in advance, and there’s no reason a retail bakery can’t do that either. Some businesses typically require employees to plan out their vacation for the coming year so they know in January who is working what holiday and who is off for the entire year. If that is too drastic, try for three to five months in advance.

• First come, first served - If you are running a business that is busy during the holidays, one way to prevent employees from taking off in large numbers is to limit the amount and give workers off on a first come, first served basis. Starting as early as September, supervisors can notify the staff that requests for time off have to be made as soon as possible. Hand in hand with a first come, first served policy is capping the number of people that can take off during the holidays.

• Stagger the schedule - You may not be able to keep a full staff during the holidays, but that doesn’t mean you have to close early or provide a reduced level of service. To combat that, adopt a staggered schedule. For instance, you can have someone work in the morning during the holidays and another worker takes the afternoon shift. Another option: have one employee work Monday and Tuesday and another Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. The idea behind a staggered schedule is to always have coverage, and at the same time, give employees time off during the holidays.

• Keep a pool of part-timers - If you are operating a business that picks up during the holiday season, or you know a lot of your staff will be gone during that time, it’s a good idea to keep a pool of part-timers that you can tap when you need extra help. It’s a good idea to keep in contact with these part-timers year-round so you’ll know their availability ahead of time.

• Institute a blackout period – For a lot of retail bakeries the holidays are the busiest time of the year, which means they need a full staff if not more. In extreme cases you may have to institute a blackout period where no one can take off. If an employee wants off during a blackout period he or she would need to ask well in advance, and it would be at the manager’s discretion. It’s a good idea to inform employees from the beginning of the blackout policy so they aren’t blindsided come holiday time.