How to Create & Manage a Vacation Calendar for Remote Teams

Andrew Buck February 24, 2021

Vacation days are a vital part of employee wellness. There’s nothing like a few days off from work to recharge and rejuvenate morale.

These happy employees tend to exceed expectations, enjoy their work, and create a positive work atmosphere.

With remote work on the rise, the question becomes; how do you manage vacation days for team members across multiple locations? Especially if you have international employees.

In this article, we’ll discuss some of the things to consider when creating a vacation calendar to manage time off for your remote team.

We’ll also talk about the best ways to create a vacation calendar that doesn’t disrupt your workflow.

Things to consider when running a remote team

Remote teams present some unique challenges when it comes to creating a vacation calendar and and managing time off for your team. Here are a couple of factors you should consider.

An easy system for requesting vacation days

In a remote team, you should make it clear and easy for employees to request time off, HR to approve or deny requests, and employees to know if their request has been approved.

If you try to do it informally through email or private messages, the process can become inefficient, especially for teams larger than just a few people. It also invites confusion, when it’s not clear whether a request was approved or denied.

Your system should also allow you to easily view the entire vacation calendar for the year so you don’t end up short-staffed at any point.

International holidays

If you have an international team, you also need to factor in local holidays in the various countries where your team is living.

For example, if you have employees in Vietnam or India, then holidays like the Lunar New Year and Diwali need to be a part of your vacation calendar for the people living in those countries. 

Do some research on the official holidays for each country of residence represented in your team. That way, you can plan and manage the vacation calendar accordingly.

How to create a vacation calendar for a remote team

Now that we’ve covered what you need to consider with a remote team’s vacation calendar, let’s talk about how to actually create one.

One of the most common methods of managing a vacation calendar is to use Microsoft Excel. It is relatively simple to create and manage, and an Excel calendar could be all you need.

But depending on the size of your team and how many locations, Excel might not always be the best solution, as we’ll discuss below.

But first, let’s take a look at how to manage a vacation schedule with Excel.

How do I create a vacation schedule in Excel?

Follow these steps to create a vacation schedule in Excel.

Step 1 – Open Microsoft Excel and click on “New”

Step 2 – Type in “schedule” in the search box. Depending on what version of Excel you’re using, you’ll find something similar to an “Employee absence schedule”. Click on it and select “Create”.

You should see something similar to this.

Step 3 – Replace Employees 1-5 with your team member’s names. Edit the year to make sure it is current. The rest of the calendar will adjust automatically.

Step 4 – If you need to add employees, click on the cell with “Employee 5” and then click-and-drag the bottom right corner.

Step 5 – Create a vacation channel in Slack, or Microsoft Teams (whatever platform your team uses) where employees can request leave days. When someone asks for time off, the HR manager would review it, and then notify the team member if the request is approved or denied.

Step 6 – If the leave request is approved, the HR manager records the absence dates in the Excel calendar.

Drawbacks of an Excel calendar for a remote team

An Excel calendar is simple to create and manage if you have a small team. You can communicate with each team member when they request days off, and record their leave days.

But if you have a larger team and employees in many locations, then Excel might not be the most effective solution for you.

Excel doesn’t have a feature that allows employees and managers to request and approve/deny leave days. That part of the process would have to be manual, which can get complicated with a larger team.

If you want to manage different locations separately, you’d have to create multiple sheets, adding to the complexity of the process.

Depending on the size of your team, an Excel vacation calendar could lead to inaccurate leave tracking. You may end up having to pay for unused vacation days. Not to mention all the extra time going back through team communication to try and correct any errors. 

It could also cause stress and uncertainty among your employees, which may impact their productivity.

A leave management software tool is a better solution for larger remote teams to track vacation days. In the next section, we’ll take a detailed look at how leave management systems work.

Remote vacation calendar with a leave management tool

A leave management tool is a software that lets you effortlessly manage employee absence for your remote team. 

A leave tracking tool streamlines the process of requesting leave, approving/denying requests, and tracking vacation days for the entire team.

The best part is that a leave tracking tool will integrate with apps like Slack, which you’re most likely using already to communicate with your remote team. 

How does it work?

To request a leave, your team member would start a chat with the leave tracker bot within Slack.

A form would appear for them to fill out with the details of their leave request. 

Depending on your company’s time-off policy, your employees are also able to pick the type of leave they’re requesting. For example, if it’s sick days, paid time-off (PTO), vacation days, or another type of leave.

Once they create the leave request, the HR manager would receive a notification. 

The tracker would let the manager know if anyone else in that location or department is on leave on those same days. It also displays how many leave days an employee has left in the current year.

The tracker provides all the relevant information the manager would need to make a decision. After reviewing, they can approve or deny the request. 

The team member then gets notified of the decision. 

Team members can also check the status of their leave request by starting a chat with the leave tracker bot in Slack, along with other relevant information like remaining leave days, who else is on leave on a specific day, and more.

What are the benefits of a leave management system?

Here are some of the benefits of using a leave tracker tool to manage a remote vacation calendar.

1. User-friendly

A leave tracking Slack-bot may sound intimidating, but it is actually super intuitive and easy to use. 

All your team members need to do is start a chat with the leave tracker bot, and they’ll be presented with a simple form they can fill out right within Slack. 

And it’s a similarly simple process for you or your HR manager. They can review all the information they need in one place and make the decision accordingly. 

The ease of use takes the friction out of the leave request and approval process, making it a better experience for everyone in your team.

2. Customizable for each remote location

The admin dashboard gives you a full overview of scheduled leaves for your team. You can use the year-view that allows you to see how many people are on leave on any specific day.

The admin dashboard also allows you to set time-off policy for your organization, which is then reflected in the Slack request and approval process.

Another benefit of the admin dashboard is that you can use it to customize your leave policy based on each separate remote location. 

You can set separate official holidays, time-off policies, team members, admins, and more, for each location within your company.

The customizable leave management dashboard provides you with complete control over the vacation tracking process for your remote team. 

Ultimately, it allows you to easily manage an employee benefit that is vital for their wellness and morale.

And you can do so while also making sure that you’re never short-staffed, and the work always gets done.

3. Clarity for entire organization

When it comes to a remote vacation calendar, one of the biggest benefits of a leave tracking tool is that it provides clarity for your entire team across multiple locations.

Once you set the time-off policy for your organization, it is visible to everyone within your Slack workspace. 

So there is never any ambiguity about leave days. Everyone knows how many days they have remaining, how to request days off, and what to expect. 

By making the process easy and transparent, you’ll provide your team members with peace of mind that they have control over their vacation days for the year.

Final thoughts

Remote work is on the rise, and it is here to stay. That means new ways of communication, project management, as well as managing various employee benefits like vacation days.

You might be able to manage the entire process through email and an Excel schedule if there are only 5-7 people in your organization. 

But if you’re running a larger remote team and you have employees in multiple locations, then it might make sense for you to check out a leave tracking tool to streamline and simplify the entire process.

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