Time Off Tracking for Your Small Business

Andrew Buck February 15, 2022

If your business has employees, it’s inevitable that they’ll need time off from work at some point.

Perhaps they need a sick day, perhaps they need to move house. Or they might just want to take a vacation.

Whatever the reason, you should be prepared for the fact that not everyone in your business will have a 100% attendance rate. And that’s fine.

Whether your employees’ time off hurts the business or not is down to your time off tracking system. Your business needs a way to easily record who’s not going to be around on any given day, to help everyone else prepare accordingly.

Read on and we’ll share all you need to know about time off tracking in your business. We’ll give you some tips on effective management of paid time off, from the request process to managing your leave calendar, and we’ll also show you the best employee time off tracker software to automate all the boring and messy work.

Why Give Your Employees Time Off from Work?

You pay people to work, not to go and spend time away from work, right? So why give people time off at all?

It’s in your best interest to help your employees be as productive as possible when they are at work, and offering paid time off when they need it contributes to this.

Time off helps peoples’ mood, focus and drive, which all contribute to them getting more done on work days.

Employee benefits – which includes paid time off – are also vital when it comes to retaining key workers and hiring new staff.

US employees have an average of 10-20 days per year of paid time off. If your company’s offering is not in line with this average, you’re falling behind.

Think of Paid Time Off as an Investment, Not an Expense

A lot of business owners and founders see paid time off as an unwanted expense. These founders think that cutting down the amount they spend on employee leave can be a worthwhile strategy to increase profit margins.

Instead of choosing to view time off as an expense, look at it as if it is an investment. The money spent on leave days (as well as the lost days of productivity) is an investment in happier, healthier, more productive and more valuable employees.

Let’s break down each of those areas, and how an investment in paid time off has a positive effect.

Happiness

It’s obvious to point out that people are going to be happier if they are allowed regular time off.

The ability to take a vacation, or to take time off to deal with illness or personal matters without missing pay or facing discipline will mean employees are a lot more content in their job. 

If someone’s happy, it doesn’t necessarily mean they will produce high-quality work, but it helps. There’s certainly an inverse correlation; you can expect unhappy employees to work at a lower standard, on average.

Health

Overwork is a big factor in illnesses. It leads to stress, which in turn has negative health effects, and means we aren’t getting the rest we need to stay in top shape.

When you allow employees to take time off, you’re generally going to notice that they end up getting sick less often as well.

In addition to this, making sick leave available (and encouraged), will help people get better faster when they do fall unwell, as opposed to making them work through their illness. 

Learn More: How to recognize Employee Burnout, and what to do about it.

Productivity

The benefits above invariably lead to team members being more productive. People who are happier, more driven, more energetic and healthier almost always produce a higher standard of work, and more of it.

The increase in productivity from ensuring the health and happiness of your team members is almost certain to outweigh, in time, any loss in productivity from them being away on leave.

More valuable employees

When you invest in the health and happiness of your employees, they’re going to work out to be more valuable members of the team in the long run.

And as well as leveling up existing team members, generous time off benefits allow your business to retain more of these high-performers, as well as attracting new talent.

In time you’ll find it easier to build and keep a strong and talented team, as your best people (who are likely to have multiple job offers) will be more likely to stick with you.

Further Reading: How Important is Taking Time Off From Work?

Time Off Management Tips

We’ve covered why you need to allow employees to take time off. Now we’ll share some tips on creating a time off tracking system to manage your employees’ leave process that results in minimal disruption to productivity.

Make time off requests easy

First, make sure it’s easy for team members to ask for time off.

When you add unnecessary friction to the process, it disincentivizes people from taking leave, and results in overwork, and a problem called “presenteeism”.

This term is used when employees come to work too much – such as working when they’re sick, or working for a long time without taking a vacation.

The end result of presenteeism is a decline in productivity, work rate and happiness, often leading to the employee quitting or being let go.

Contrary to what many business owners or managers think, you want your employees to take their allotted leave days. So make it easy for them to do so.

To make this process easy, don’t put difficult conditions on who you need to talk to to request time off, or when it needs to be requested. In fact, it’s better if an actual conversation is not needed to request time off, as this is going to turn off many of your more introverted employees.

A time off request app (like we’ll talk about further down) is a perfect way to make it simple for your team to ask for a day off.

Related: learn all you need to know about Leave Management for remote teams.

Respond to time off requests quickly

It’s no fun waiting in limbo, waiting for your leave request to be approved or denied.

Remember that your team members need their time off from work approved before they can go ahead and plan what they’re going to do with it.

For example, someone’s not going to want to put money down on flights and hotel rooms when there’s a chance their leave request will be denied, and they can’t go.

Waiting too long to respond to time off requests will create discontent in your team, and go against some of the benefits of offering generous time off.

It’s particularly poor form if you need to decline a time off request when you wait too long to do it.

Responding quickly to leave requests also means you have more time to plan and account for that team member’s absence, making it easier for both you and your employee.

Make it part of your routine to check and review any leave requests once a day (or use an app like Flamingo to notify you as soon as a new request comes in).

Have a clear and accessible leave policy

Your team members need to know exactly what they’re allowed when it comes to time off.

Information in your leave policy, such as how many days off they are allowed, how many are paid/unpaid, and what they need to do to request a day off, should be easily available to your staff.

This makes it easy on them, letting them plan ahead and knowing where they stand.

It also makes it easy on those in charge, as there will be fewer cases where you need to decline a leave request because it goes against the company’s policy.

Keep an up-to-date leave calendar

Knowing who has time off coming up, and when, is crucial to efficient time off tracking.

It can end up being a rude surprise when you go to call on someone, just to realize they asked for the day off some weeks earlier.

It’s even worse when you approve time off for a number of different team members, and find out there’s no one left to keep the business running.

You should keep everything organized and together with a clean leave calendar.

Your vacation calendar should have all your upcoming, approved leaves plotted out, so you can see at a glance who’s not going to be available, and if you’re running into a situation with too many people off on the same day.

It’s easiest if it’s a visual calendar, as opposed to just a list of dates, as it’s much easier and quicker to consume this way.

Use a time off tracking software

A PTO tracker like Flamingo is the easiest way to manage your team’s time off.

Much of what goes into time off tracking is data entry and “busywork”, tasks that need to be done but are time consuming and give a low return on time spent.

The perfect way to handle busywork is to automate it with a software tool. Many small businesses use a spreadsheet PTO tracker – but a software tool frees up your time to focus on tasks that produce more upside to the business, and means the administrative side of time off tracking is handled with much more accuracy and efficiency.

Flamingo’s time off tracking software gives your business a quick and easy way to manage time off requests and approvals, both of which can be done with a few clicks.

It also adds all approved leaves to a clean and easy-to-view calendar, and gives employees a running summary of their upcoming leaves and remaining allowance for different leave types.

An app like this is simply the easiest and most effective way to make sure that your employees’ time off doesn’t have a negative effect on productivity.

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Final Thoughts

Time off from work is important. People need rest, they need a break from the same old grind and routine, and they need the flexibility to be able to deal with one-off things that life throws at them like sickness or personal issues.

As a business owner or manager, it’s important that you recognize this need, and don’t see days off as a negative, but an investment in keeping employees fresh and productive.

To help avoid issues with time off tracking, do the following:

Do this and your business is sure to be a smooth and efficient machine, filled with high performers.

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