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How to smoothly manage the time off process — and say goodbye to manual spreadsheets

Use Charlie’s time off tracking software to say goodbye to spreadsheets and give yourself more of the one thing you need most: time.

When you work in a small business, time is your most precious resource.

Forget about having a bigger team, or more investment, or a shinier office. With more time comes clearer thinking. With more time, you have the headspace to hire the right person, to choose the correct option and to make not just a good decision but the best possible decision.

It’s for this reason that – when we started building Charlie – an automated time off feature was at the top of our list. We knew that the ‘traditional’ method of using spreadsheets and emails to track time off was stopping people from doing work that makes a real impact.

Let’s take a look at why.

With time-off tracking spreadsheets, everything runs through one person — you

Every company needs to deal with time off. And every form of time off – annual leave, sick days, working from home, compassionate leave, etc – requires information to move from one place to another.

Here's what I mean.

When a team member asks for time off, that request needs to find its way to their manager. When that request is approved or denied, that decision needs to be communicated back.

And every time that time off is cancelled or amended – that change needs to be communicated too.Here's what this looks like when you have to manage this process manually through spreadsheets, calendars and email:

What it's like without Charlie - crowded and hard to manage - graph

In the vast majority of small businesses across the UK, every single one of those queries runs through a single person. Sure, in theory, there are line managers in place to help, but all those requests must be documented somewhere – and maintaining that documentation will always end up being one person's job.

For long stretches of my career, that person was me – but it could be anyone from an Operations Manager, Office Manager, COO or even a small business owner.

That process usually happens on an ad hoc, DIY-basis via a combination of time-off tracking spreadsheets, company calendars, paper forms and endless email threads – each and every one of them living in a different place.

The result? Messy, chaotic and a constant drain on both your time and mind.When I was still working at my first company, there wasn’t much of an alternative. There was already time off software on the market – but nothing that combined tracking time off with other HR features such as performance reviews, data storage and onboarding. With Charlie’s time off feature, we built the alternative.

Remove yourself from the process with automated time off by CharlieHR

With Charlie, no bottleneck as the process runs smoothly by itself

With Charlie, you can tame the chaos of processing time off.

By automating your time off processes and ensuring every request is routed to exactly where it needs to be, you can totally remove yourself from the process – and protect your time from needless distractions.

Let’s take a look at how it works.

  1. Visualise every team member’s time off simply and clearly

When people get into the office on a Monday morning, they like to know where everyone is – who’s on holiday? When are they back? Is anybody off sick?

Before Charlie, those questions often found their way into my inbox. We used to have a shared spreadsheet, which I had to update regularly. But people preferred to ask me rather than wasting time looking for it in Drive.

Now, our whole company’s time off is visualised in Charlie simply and clearly, all in one place, without me having to do anything.

Screenshot of the roll call making sure everyone knows whose off

What’s more, our Slack and Calendar integrations mean that the whole team has complete visibility of who’s working and who’s off every day.

Screenshot of the slack integration with time off

2. Put team members in control of their own time off

One of the biggest challenges I faced when I managed time off manually was that every request had to run through me. This was highly inefficient — it often took me a long time (and many emails) before being able to approve a team member’s time off.

Now, every team member can make time off requests and amend or cancel their own bookings themselves within Charlie – without ever needing to go through me.

Screenshot of how to book time off in the CharlieHR software

Not only that, but Charlie automatically summarises every team member’s time off for them, so they can clearly see their upcoming annual leave, as well as how many days they have left.

Screenshot of how to visualise time off CharlieHR software

This means, no more time off-related questions in my inbox.

3. Delegate time-off approval to the right people

When I was the one person in the company with the responsibility to track time off, I’d spend a good amount of time chasing managers to approve their team’s holiday.

With Charlie’s time off tracking software, we wanted to get rid of that middleman figure and empower managers to approve time off directly.

By assigning every team member to their own line manager in Charlie, you can ensure that every time off request goes directly to the right person, without it ever touching your inbox.

By removing yourself from the time off process in this way, you can shield yourself from needless distraction – so you can concentrate on work that makes a real impact.

“One of the most helpful parts of the time off function is being able to set specific approvers for each team, and not having to centralise the approval process. That way, I can see the requests coming through but I only step in when I need to.” Matt Hurst-Smith – Head of People, Founder’s Pledge

4. Intelligent overlap warnings mean no more double-booked holidays

When you use spreadsheets to manage time off, it’s hard to keep track of everything — inevitably, you’ll end up approving a team member’s holiday without realising it clashes with someone else’s time off.  

With Charlie, if any clashes happen, the system gives team members an automatic overlap warning before their request is processed. This way, your team members are given ample warning that their requests could be denied.


What’s more, line managers are shown clear overlap warnings when approving time off requests – both in their approval email and in the Charlie interface.


Taken together, Charlie works to empower both team members and line managers to make good decisions about their time off… without you ever needing to be involved.

5. Set company-wide time-off in a single click...

Have a company away day coming up? Book it into your whole company’s calendar in a single click – and leave the days of bulk email threads behind.

6. ...and block out holiday for those days you need everyone in the office

Every business will have a few crucial weeks every year. Before we built this feature, I’d find myself having to manually deny holiday requests for those periods – and then need to explain all over again, every time.

With automated time off, I can block out those crucial points of year and stop the holiday requests at source.

Reclaim your working day with automated time off

Operational roles often revolve around helping others to do their best work. But a lot of the time, the most effective way to achieve that is by taking a step back. By removing yourself from the frontline, you can focus your efforts on the work that really makes a difference.

Automated time off is not a revolutionary product feature – but it can have a revolutionary impact on your working day. It is much more efficient than spreadsheets in the way it allows you to oversee, without being overwhelmed.

Try CharlieHR for free by clicking here.

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