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With time, every company works out a system for managing time off requests. It might be messy, it might be time-consuming, but it’s there.
The thing is that your company shouldn’t settle down for just any time off request policy. Ideally, the process should be hassle-free for your employees plus manageable for the administration teams. How to achieve that? Today, we’ll share three of the most popular methods companies use to handle time off requests, together with their benefits and downsides. Hopefully, you will be able to find the one that best matches your team’s needs.
Define your time-off request policy
First things first—before you pick the best tool for handling time off requests from your employees, you should make sure that your company’s time off policy is clear and well communicated.
Try to think about the following details:
- How many days off per year can your employees take? Are there any rules as to the length of each vacation?
- How far in advance should employees send their vacation requests?
- Whom should the requests be sent to? A person in HR? A team leader who will then, in turn, forward their decisions to the administration?
- How will you treat overlapping time off requests? First come, first served, or perhaps based on the number of days already taken off this year?
Once you figure these things out, make sure to document your company’s policies and make them available for all employees. These docs should also be the obligatory reading for new people joining your team.
Now that you have precise time off rules in mind, you can think of the method for handling time off requests. Below, you’ll find three different options together with their upsides and pitfalls.
What are some popular ways of managing time off requests?
It is perhaps the most rudimentary way of managing this process—we’re not even taking verbal requests into account here. Yet, for many teams, email is still the main communication channel for all-things time off.
How does it work? An employee sends their time off request via email or Slack to their manager or a dedicated HR person. The recipient analyses the request and informs the employee about their decision. It sounds good on paper, but in real life, the process is often less than ideal.
First of all, an email or a Slack request can easily get lost amidst other important messages. In order to keep track of employee requests, a person responsible for them should have an impeccable organization system, e.g., a folder each time off request can get assigned to or email tags.
The fact that staff members can write virtually anything in their message can also become a challenge. Say that you make your time off decisions based on the reason one provides for their request. But what if someone forgets to add a particular reason? You’d have to reply asking for more details and wait for them before you can make any decisions. Granted, you can prepare an email/Slack message template for your employees to minimize the chances of them missing crucial information, but it’s still not a guarantee that they will always follow these rules.
One more downside of using emails as the primary channel for communicating vacation requests is that it may be time-consuming to make an informed decision as to whether or not someone should be granted time off. The approver will likely have to check a given employee’s calendar/bookings or reach out to their project manager. Otherwise, an unexpected absence may cause project scheduling conflicts. If the company doesn’t offer an unlimited vacation policy, one also has to make sure that a given person hasn’t exceeded the time off quota. Finally, they have to record the approved time off somewhere. If your team doesn’t use a comprehensive resource management tool, it may mean logging into several different apps and, as a result, spending a lot of precious time on handling a single employee’s time off request.
As you can see, using email or Slack to manage time off requests is not the most efficient way of doing so. Some requests may fall through the cracks, which is frustrating for the employees, and even if you’re very organized, the whole process may be very time-consuming.
Time off request form
Introducing time off request forms is the step some teams take to organize the leave management process. We agree that forms, especially if they’re online, can be more efficient to manage than emails, especially for your employees. Their biggest upside is that, as an employer, you get to shape the request. The employees just fill out their forms. It means that all necessary details will likely be included in the time off request form they hand in. On top of that, creating a time off request form doesn’t require a big investment. You can utilize free software, e.g., Google Forms, to build such a form.
Are there any downsides? You have to keep in mind that managing vacation request forms still requires some manual labor. You have to file them, check whether a given employee is eligible for more time off, and record your decision somewhere. Similarly to working with email requests, you may need to use several tools before you can process a single request.
All in all, time off request forms can simplify the process of handling employee time off requests, but you have to remember that there are still possible optimizations to be made.
Leave management software
Leave management apps help you to keep track of your team’s attendance and time off. You can come across standalone leave management tools, but they can also come as part of a more comprehensive resource management solution. Teamdeck is one of such tools combining leave management with resource scheduling and time tracking features. We’ll use the app as an example in this blog post, including screenshots. However, keep in mind that the general benefits of leave management apps will relate to several tools available on the market. Teamdeck is simply near and dear to our hearts, as we’ve been working on it for the last four years. If you want to try it out for yourself, you can test it for free, no credits card required. Simply sign up here.
Now, let’s talk about the benefits of using an automated time off request system.
- It’s very convenient for employees. They can log in to the app they use every day to track their time and check upcoming assignments. All they need to do in order to request a vacation is pick a date in a calendar and fill out a short time off request form. What’s important, employees see their own bookings in the calendar as well, so they can pick time off dates considering their assignments. When staff members aren’t sure what’s in store for them in the upcoming weeks or months, they may pick unsuitable dates by mistake. With tools like Teamdeck, there’s greater transparency into everyone’s workload and plans.
- It’s convenient for the approvers too. Whenever someone sends a time off request, the appropriate person gets notified about it in the app. All they have to do is verify a given employee’s bookings to avoid scheduling conflicts and click “Approve” or “Reject”. Everything happens in the same app, so the process is quick and efficient.
- You can tailor the app to your company’s policy. Leave management apps usually allow you to customize the different types of time off and tag them as paid or unpaid. Such a distinction may come in handy, especially if you want to calculate employee payroll using the data from your resource management app. In Teamdeck, you can also specify time off periods your employees can request (full days, half days, etc.)
- You can integrate the leave management app with other tools you use. Say that you want to receive notifications about every new employee time off request straight to your Slack account. Robust resource management apps offer built-in integrations or ways for you to create automated workflows (e.g., via Zapier).
Are there any downsides to leave management apps? Probably the biggest consideration for your company is the investment necessary to start using such a tool. Fortunately, modern apps often come in the SaaS model—you pay a monthly fee, so you don’t have to spend a lot of money upfront. Teamdeck, for instance, would cost you $3.99 per employee per month. Considering that this is a price for all features, including timesheets, a resource calendar, and powerful reports, you’re likely to see the return on your investment soon. After all, your employees will be able to work more efficiently and avoid unnecessary back-and-forths.
Do you want to find out how your particular company may benefit from implementing resource management? Book a free consultation with Joanna, our customer success expert. She will be able to give you a product tour and answer all your questions regarding time off requests and HR processes.