You shouldn't be using a spreadsheet to manage time off and holiday. Do this instead.

Many businesses use a collection of spreadsheets to manage their team's time off and holiday. If you're expecting to grow and scale your business, spreadsheets like this are a problem.

Let’s think back to when your business first started. I’m guessing that it was just you and a few other people in the office. Everyone was kind and courteous and whenever they took time off, it just required a friendly reminder. Then a few more people joined… and a holiday got missed. Or someone forgot to tell people about some upcoming time off, and you ended up scrambling to cover for them.

So, to remedy the problem, someone had the bright idea to make a spreadsheet to track everything. Sound familiar? If it does, that probably means you’re the one who got stuck with that spreadsheet. Manually updating it, making corrections, fielding endless back-and-forth emails trying to piece together who wants what holiday and when.

“What’s so bad about spreadsheets,” you say? “They get the job done”.

And yes - while your company was small, it probably wasn't that bad. A bit tedious, sure, but manageable. But as your business scales, so does that tedium.

Let’s have a look at the problems with time off spreadsheets, and what we can do to make sure you’re running a tight ship.

Problem 1: They are endlessly time-consuming

Using spreadsheets to input time off information is by far the most long-winded option available to you. From the moment that an email request gets sent to a line manager, to that employee finding out the decision on their request, the process is ridiculously drawn out. Not only is the back and forth between emails and spreadsheets slow, but if you make a mistake then the whole thing repeats itself.

“It is just difficult to keep up to date information in spreadsheets. There are too many steps that you need to take and days can get missed off.”

Yvette Smith-Bell, Office and HR Manager - Brooks Quayle

As the person managing requests, your speed in processing them determines how ‘on top’ of the matter and in control you look to your team. To make matters worse, if you have to focus a large amount of time on laborious HR tasks such as booking time off, you may end up neglecting other important areas of the business.

Problem 2: Mistakes spiral out of control

When you manually input hundreds of spreadsheet cells, you are going to make mistakes (especially when it’s such a manual task). To make matters worse, there’s generally only one person dedicated to maintaining a time off spreadsheet - so there’s no safety net.

Not only is it easy to make simple errors within a spreadsheet, but the formulas that can go into that spreadsheet can cause confusion and multiply your mistakes even further:

“With spreadsheets, you have to put in a lot of formulas. Yeah, you can copy over formulas but if you make a mistake you don’t really know where you have gone wrong.”

Yvette Smith-Bell - Office and HR Manager - Brooks Quayle

It goes without saying that people aren't particularly forgiving whenever a mistake is made involving their holiday - it's something well worth making sure that you get right.

Problem 3: It’s harder to plan ahead

Planning for employee holidays and time off is already a complicated process. If you're running it all off a spreadsheet, it's even harder.

With no clear pre-warnings or obvious calendar bookings in a spreadsheet, there is always the chance you come into work one day to find a half-empty office (or at least enough people missing to throw a spanner in the works).

Spreadsheets are designed to store information, and they do that task well - but what they aren't good at is making that information visible or accessible.

Right, so how do you get rid of your spreadsheet?

An unhappy truth of Operations work is that you are only ever noticed after you've made a mistake. With that in mind, you need to eliminate anything that could possibly cause an issue. Using an online HR software like Charlie prevents these errors from happening, and keeps note of everything in an easy to find place - helping to keep you both organised and in control of all time off bookings.

Not only will switching away from your spreadsheet help you stay on top of your role, but it also makes sure that your company looks good from the inside. The best companies don’t lose track of people’s time off or come into work to find that everyone in the office has gone away for the summer. And with all that free time you are going to save not focused on managing your spreadsheet, imagine all the things you can do. Like finally set up those drawers. Or book a 1:1 with your new hire. Or bake a cake.

You get the idea.

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