If there’s one thing that’s guaranteed to create a storm in the workplace, it’s vacation schedules. From everyone wanting the same two weeks off in August to families needing specific days off during school vacation periods, these issues can cause tensions and lead to problems if scheduling isn’t done fairly and well.
Here are some actionable tips you can use to optimize your vacation scheduling, along with five top vacation tracking software to automate this process and help you get organized like a pro.
What is employee vacation tracking and why do you need software for it?
Employee vacation tracking is the process of monitoring an employee’s time off, whether paid or unpaid. This process is crucial to running any business because, in order for operations to run smoothly, team members and managers need to have complete visibility over who’s working and who’s taking some time away.
Another reason to track employee vacation days is to make sure they’re taking enough. Encouraging employees to avoid leaving vacation days on the table not only makes them happier and more engaged, but will make your business more profitable in the long run.
Many small businesses track vacation days with Excel spreadsheets or even good old-fashioned notebooks or paper calendars. They often make that choice to save money or avoid learning how to use new software. But these kinds of scheduling practices can be inefficient and easily lead to mistakes like missed shifts and angry customers due to understaffing.
Here’s where vacation tracking software comes in: these tools reduce the costs and manual administrative tasks associated with vacation scheduling by automating the whole process, from putting in leave requests and approvals to preparing PTO reports and processing payroll.
And since employees can use vacation tracking tools to schedule time off in advance instead of relying on last-minute shift swapping, you’ll have more time to cover their work. You also won’t have to worry as much about things like unscheduled absences, which can pose a customer service and satisfaction problem when you don’t have enough staff on hand.
How to manage vacation schedules at your SMB
Creating a schedule management workflow that’s efficient and sets you and your employees up for success takes time, but we’ve put together a list of five practical tips you can use to help get you there.
1. Create vacation scheduling limits
One of the easiest ways to get people to take vacations at different times of year is to limit how many employees can be away at the same time.
That way, you create some ground rules for staff and promote teamwork by encouraging employees to figure out schedules that work for everyone. You also ensure you’re covering your department’s staffing needs while still making it relatively easy for employees to take some time off.
You can even use software to create these limits by preventing more than a certain number of people from booking vacations at the same time.
2. Put a time off policy in place
One of the best things you can do for your team is to create a time off policy and communicate it clearly and effectively. Make sure you also include information about your time off policy in your onboarding packet and employee handbook so new hires understand how your business organizes days off from the get-go.
Your time off policy should cover unpaid leave procedures as well as personal time off (PTO) and paid sick leave (PSL) guidelines. Provide detailed information about what kind of leave qualifies as paid or unpaid and if there’s a limit to how many days employees can be away.
Every time off policy is unique because every business is unique. But make sure yours requires that team members submit their requests with some advanced notice, which can range between one week to a few months. Of course, you can make exceptions in emergency situations, but it’s a good idea to establish specific time off request deadlines as a general rule.
And if you set up your time off policy with Homebase, you can also track accruals and balances for sick and vacation leave.
3. Use employee scheduling software
Employee scheduling software automates leave management and makes it more efficient by helping you share schedules and make sure vital employees are present at all times.
These kinds of software can create limits, set rotas, and even send out the newest schedules directly to an employee’s phone. And you can use the time you get back to focus on developing your business.
Homebase is an example of an employee scheduling software system that can help you stay in control of your labor costs and define your workforce expectations in an efficient way.
So, let’s say an employee submits a time off request ten days in advance. Once you approve their request, the rest of their team members will receive notifications by text and email, as well as within the Homebase app. You’ll instantly share the up-to-date schedule with everybody, providing a complete view of everyone’s time off within your business.
These increased levels of transparency mean that your only two baristas or stylists won’t accidentally take the same days off as each other.
4. Create a prioritization workflow for leave requests
There are some employees who expect to have the same vacation dates each year. But in a busy organization, you have to be fair to everyone and ensure your business stays productive at the same time.
When scheduling, keep last year’s roster in mind and give preference to other employees who might want certain coveted dates off. Employee scheduling software makes that simple because you can block dates off for some folks and enable them for others.
Don’t forget to work with families and those who care for older or dependent relatives. You’ll have to make it possible for them to organize their schedules around schools and care services as well.
5. Give employees access to vacation schedules
It’s important to give your team members access to vacation schedules that are consistently up to date. This brings some extra visibility to the whole team and makes your job easier by encouraging employees to check which vacation dates are fully booked off or available by themselves.
And if you’re using scheduling software, your employees can always check their schedules with a convenient app and request their desired days off with just a few clicks. Staff members can also easily trade shifts among themselves — with quick manager approval and minimal back-and-forth.
5 top employee vacation tracking software
Let’s take a look at five employee vacation tracking software tools that’ll help you schedule smarter — not harder.
Caption: Homebase is an HR solution designed for small businesses that automates vacation scheduling for hourly workers.
Homebase is an all-in-one HR solution that’s specifically designed for small businesses and hourly workers. From time tracking and scheduling to payroll and vacation management, our platform can help you optimize your daily operations and make sure your team runs like clockwork.
PTO and vacation time are crucial elements of a satisfied and productive team. But scheduling and making sure everyone’s on the same page can sometimes be a nightmare.
Homebase makes the vacation scheduling process quick and painless by creating an automatic time off flow that works like this:
- First, employees request time off.
- Then, you get a notification and can approve or deny the request.
- Once that’s in, the calendar gets updated to accurately reflect employee availability and time off.
You can also:
- Set up PTO policies.
- Track accruals and balances for sick and vacation leave.
- Have more control over time off requests by setting blackout dates, request limits, and advanced notice policies.
- Automatically add PTO to timesheets so that it’s easily incorporated into payroll.
The best part? Homebase lets you get started with tools for time tracking, scheduling, and employee happiness for free. And if you decide you need more advanced features, you can upgrade starting at only $20 per month per location!
Caption: BambooHR is an advanced, comprehensive HR software that’s best for businesses that don’t need a free plan.
Founded in 2008, BambooHR is an HR software that offers various features like onboarding, hiring, compensation, and time and PTO tracking.
With BambooHR, you can set up PTO policies, view scheduled time off, and generate time off reports.
BambooHR notifies managers and team members about vacation requests and users can check their PTO balance, view upcoming leave, and see how much vacation they’ll have accrued by a future date on the mobile app.
BambooHR doesn’t offer a free plan, but you can try out the software for seven days with a free trial. And although their pricing isn’t readily available on their website, the tool has two different pricing tiers: Essentials and Advantage.
Both plans offer features like time-off management, benefit tracking, and access to a mobile app. However, Advantage offers more functions like telephone support, employee onboarding and offboarding, and employee well-being.
Caption: Calamari is an affordable HR solution that’s great for businesses with more than ten employees who are looking for basic leave management and time tracking functions.
Calamari is a human resources solution that has two core offerings: leave management and clock in/out tools. This platform is available in multiple languages including English, Spanish, and Polish.
And if you have a remote team with employees based in different countries, Calamari can configure them all in one account. That means you can apply different PTO schedules, holiday calendars, and attendance policies all in one place.
Calamari’s leave management system lets you set up approval flows by automating all notifications and the entire leave request approval process. You can also customize your approval process based on your company structure. For example, you can set up your system so a regular employee, supervisor, or substitute can approve a time off request.
Some other useful features include integrations, leave entitlement and accrual rules, absence calendars, and request and leave history.
Calamari offers a 14-day free trial but doesn’t have a free plan. Its leave management module costs $2 per employee per month, but it does have a minimum limit of $20 per month. This makes Calamari a good fit if you have more than ten team members. However, for businesses with fewer employees, you’ll basically be paying for employees you don’t have.
4. Sage HR
Caption: Sage HR, previously Cake HR, is an affordable HR solution that’s best for small to medium-sized businesses.
Sage HR is another HR solution that helps small to medium-sized businesses with HR functions like employee vacation and database management and shift scheduling.
Founded in 2015 as Cake HR, this tool automates the vacation scheduling process by handling requests and approvals digitally, and then tracking them in shared calendars and reports. With this tool, you can customize your time off policies. For example, if you’re a hybrid team, you can include work-from-home requests alongside regular PTO requests.
Sage HR also has an employee self-service function that allows every team member to access their accounts to see their balances, how many vacation days they have left, and which of their colleagues are away.
With Sage HR, management also has access to detailed time off reports (for example, showing the most popular days to take off) and can approve or deny vacation requests directly from Slack.
Sage HR offers a free 30-day trial but not a free plan. Like Calamari, the pricing varies based on the modules you pick.
The leave management module includes the core HR functions and costs around $5.50 per employee per month. So if you have five employees, you’ll have to pay $27.50 per month.
5. Zoho People
Caption: Zoho People is a great, affordable option for teams looking for core HR functions like database management and leave tracking.
Zoho is probably best known for its customer relationship management (CRM) solution, but they also offer an all-in-one HR solution: Zoho People. This tool has everything from database and document management to time off management and automations. However, many features like time tracking and scheduling aren’t available on the free plan.
With their leave management module, you can create multiple custom leave types, add location-based holidays (which is helpful for international teams), generate custom leave reports for individual employees, and specify leave types for each role, location, employee, and experience level.
For example, you can use Zoho People to customize your vacation policy and allow more senior employees to take more days off.
Zoho People has a free plan that’s best for teams with under five employees. From there, the plans start from $1.50 per user per month, which businesses with smaller budgets may want to consider.
Track your employee vacations with Homebase
Offering PTO and vacations is an absolutely essential part of running a successful business — it shows your employees you care about their well-being. But it can quickly get nerve-wracking and messy if it isn’t done right.
Vacation tracking software reduces the costs and errors associated with manual vacation management by automating the whole process. Requesting time off? You can do it with an app. Approvals or denials? They only take a click. Updating schedules? It’s automatic.
Homebase is made for small businesses like yours, and we can help you manage your work schedules, time clocks, payroll, and HR processes. Our leave management functions can help you customize your leave policy, manage time off requests, and view upcoming time off.
So if you’ve ever had two employees accidentally book the same day off and ended up with a last-minute scramble for a substitute, you know how important it is to not only manage vacation schedules well, but what a difference the right software can make.
Employee vacation tracking FAQs
What is vacation tracking?
Vacation tracking is a time off management process that involves monitoring an employee’s days off, longer vacations, and other kinds of leave. HR departments are usually responsible for vacation tracking, but in the case of small businesses, owners and managers often do it by themselves.
Why is tracking employee vacation important?
Tracking employee vacation is important because it:
- Prevents pay errors
- Helps keep operations running smoothly
- Increases transparency in the workplace
- Allows HR managers and business owners to stay compliant with PTO policies
- Improves employee morale
- Promotes employee attendance
What is the best way to track vacation and sick days?
One of the best ways for businesses to track vacation and sick days is by using employee vacation tracking software. That’s because it automates the tracking process, saves lots of time, and reduces the potential for manual errors. However, you can also use regular online documents or spreadsheets, which is a much more challenging option.
Can Homebase help track employee vacation time?
Homebase can help with a variety of time off and vacation tracking needs, including paid time off (PTO), unpaid time off, and paid sick leave (PSL). Sign up for a free trial to see for yourself how easily Homebase lets you track hours and determine how much PTO your employees have accrued.