Your Guide to Efficient Absence Tracking in Your Business

Andrew Buck July 7, 2021

Tracking and managing employee absences is a vital part of the process to make sure the workload is well-balanced and manageable for your team.

It helps you maintain a transparent team schedule that promotes a sense of fairness in the company. 

But to achieve transparency and maximize productivity from your team, you need to efficiently manage both planned and unplanned absences.

In this article, we’ll discuss why absence tracking is important, the different ways to manage employee leave, which one might be best suited for your company, and more.

Learn more: 9 Features Your Company’s Leave Management System Must Have

Planned vs Unplanned Absences

As a business owner or manager, you’ll need to have different plans to track and manage your employee’s planned and unplanned absences.

Let’s take a quick look at the differences between the two and how they might affect your workflow, deadlines, etc.

Planned absences

Planned absences are when your employees take time off according to a prearranged agreement. Examples include parental leave, paid time off (PTO), annual vacation days, etc.

Planned absences are easier to manage because you typically have enough notice that a team member will be away for some time, and you can make arrangements for their absence.

That might be finding someone else in the team to cover for the absent employee, having them complete critical tasks before they go on leave, or temporarily putting some things on hold if it’s a relatively short break. 

You can plan ahead and make sure that your staff’s absence won’t significantly impact workflow and productivity.

Unplanned absences

Unplanned employee absences are trickier to deal with, but unfortunately, they are inevitable. 

Unforeseen circumstances can come up in your employee’s lives, whether it’s an illness, a family emergency, or something else that forces them to miss work.

But the work still needs to get done, even when you’re unexpectedly short-staffed. It’s best to have some backup plans for your most critical tasks, like maintaining contractor or freelance relationships who can temporarily fill in if necessary.

Why is Absence Tracking Important?

When you manage a team, part of your responsibility is to make sure everyone works together, communicates well, and finishes their respective tasks in a timely manner so that everything progresses according to plan. 

Especially in small to medium-sized companies where each employee often wears multiple hats and has various responsibilities.

This is why it is important to track and manage absences. 

You want to plan your employee absence calendar in a way that you don’t ever end up severely short-staffed to the point where it derails productivity or your revenue goals.

Another important reason to manage absences is to make sure your staff’s attendance record is up to standard, and that it is aligned with your company’s time-off policy. 

You’ll be able to easily monitor each employee’s leave record (both planned and unplanned), prevent absenteeism, and make sure they are adequately contributing to the team.

The Best Way to Track Employee Absences

Let’s discuss the different options that are available to you for tracking absence, and which one might work best for you depending on how many employees, and how you manage your team.

Email/Slack or other communication tools 

This is the most basic way to track absence, and it’s done by email or messaging apps. 

When your staff needs time off, they simply message/email you, and you reply to them and let them know if the leave is approved or denied.

Then either you or the employee informs everyone else that they’ll be gone for a few days.

Advantages

Doesn’t cost you anything extra since you’re utilizing tools that you already use, like email or Slack. For very small companies, it keeps things simple by removing the need to implement and maintain additional systems.

Disadvantages

Unless it’s a very small team (less than 5 people), the leave request/approval process can quickly start using up a lot of HR hours. 

Imagine multiple people emailing you to request days off during the same period. You’ll have to go back and forth with all of them explaining your decision. 

Not to mention, you’ll have to manually keep track of whose leave you’re approving/denying to maintain adequate staff. The process can be prone to errors, and it lacks transparency, which could create tensions in the workplace.

Email/Slack is ideal for:

This can work for bootstrapping startups looking to maximize savings, or for very small teams, where there’s already a strong sense of trust within team members.

For these companies, each person usually wears multiple hats and they have several responsibilities. It could be counterproductive if someone has to manage a leave tracking system on top of everything else they’re already doing.

Spreadsheet leave tracking templates

Another option is to use a spreadsheet template for absence tracking. 

For example, within Microsoft Excel, you’ll find preloaded leave tracking templates. You can download the template, fill in the details for your business and team members, and you’re good to go.

You’d still approve/deny requests either verbally or through messaging, but once a leave is approved you’d record that person’s absence in the spreadsheet. 

Advantages

Like messaging apps, you probably already use Excel. So, using an Excel template for leave tracking wouldn’t cost anything extra.

It’s also very simple to download and start using right away, so there’s no training or implementation involved. 

The added benefit of a spreadsheet is that you can use it to keep track of total leave days across the organization. 

You also get to easily view the absence calendar, which makes it easier and quicker when it comes to approving or denying subsequent leave requests.

Disadvantages

It still requires verbal or email/Slack communication. There might be delays in the leave approval process or miscommunication that leads to errors. 

Spreadsheets are ideal for:

Spreadsheets can work for small teams (5-15 people), as long as everyone works in the same physical location, and there is someone that functions as an HR manager. 

Working in the same location facilitates faster communication, and prevents separate, lengthy email chains.

Absence tracking software

An absence tracking software is like a navigation system for managing employee leave. You get a control dashboard that allows you to set time-off policies for your organization across multiple locations.

Team members can directly request leave within the systems, which are usually very user-friendly. 

The HR manager gets notified, and they can also very easily approve or deny the request through the system.

Advantages

There are several key advantages of using an absence tracking software. 

When you combine all of these benefits, what you really get is a leave management system that runs smoothly and efficiently, one that reduces errors and maximizes productivity all year long.

An absence tracking software can also help you align your leave policy with local labor laws and make sure that you remain compliant with all regulations in your jurisdiction.

Disadvantages

Could become an unnecessary tool for very small teams (less than 5 people). 

Sometimes, trying to over-optimize can backfire. If you only have 3-4 team members, it might just be easier to manage leave verbally or by email. 

Although leave tracking systems are relatively inexpensive per employee, if you’re dealing with less than 10-15 leave requests per year total, then the time you save with a tracking system might not end up justifying the price of the software.

Absence tracking software is ideal for:

Any teams that are larger than 5-7 people. A leave management software system can become invaluable especially if you run a medium-sized remote team or a large team with employees in several different locations.

Looking for absence tracking software to integrate into your company’s workflow?

Whether you have 10, 100 or 1000 employees, Flamingo can help. Click here to learn more about how Flamingo will make your leave management process more efficient.

Things to Consider for Your Absence Tracking System 

When setting up your absence tracking system, here are a few things to consider to help you and your team maximize value and its benefits.

Optimize for simplicity

You want a leave tracking system that is the simplest and easiest to use, without sacrificing key features like calendar-view, a dashboard that allows you to set time-off policy, integration with Slack, etc.

But you don’t want a system that is so overloaded with unnecessary features that it distracts from the core process of requesting, approving, and tracking leave.

Public/private absence records

When setting your leave policy, consider which types of leaves would be public to the entire company, and which requests would be private.

It is unnecessary (and maybe even unethical) to let all employees have access to each other’s absence records. But there might be specific people (managers or collaborators) who might need to be aware of a team member’s absence so they can plan accordingly

The leave approval process

Consider if your business could benefit from having a standard operating procedure (SOP) when it comes to approving leave requests. 

Here are just a few examples, but these would vary depending on your specific organization.

Balancing your team’s workload

Depending on the type of business, you might set your leave policy in a way that maintains a minimum level of staff at all times to make sure that clients are serviced adequately. 

Or if most of your work is project-based, then a team member’s absence may slow down production. 

Think about how that might affect your clients, your revenue goals, etc., and then try to come up with the best ways to handle such situations. Whether it’s hiring freelancers to provide cover, or putting a few tasks on hold, or whatever else best suits your business.

Key Takeaways

You need to manage employee absence to maintain a well-balanced workload for your team that maximizes productivity. One that creates a sense of transparency and fairness when it comes to your company’s time-off policy.

For any teams that are larger than 5-7 people, it makes the most sense to use a leave tracking software. It will streamline the leave request/approval process, and make it easy for everyone in the company to track the team absence schedule.

Set aside some time in your calendar over the next few days to evaluate how your company currently handles time-off requests, the resources that are currently spent on leave management, and if an absence tracking software could save HR hours and increase productivity at the same time.

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