You might be using Excel to track your team’s annual leave, and there are some acceptable Excel templates out there that will help you do that. But if you’ve ever tried using one, you’ve likely noticed that even the best ones aren’t really ideal.

In fact, using Excel templates for annual leave tracking comes with a few drawbacks:

  • Spreadsheet templates don’t handle the actual time off requests. You need to do this separately and then input the holidays into your spreadsheet.
  • You have to continuously update the template as the year progresses, otherwise it gets messy and out-of-date.
  • Templates are a pain to update when things change (for example, new team members, their holiday dates, when they change their plans, or when your time off policy changes).

Put simply: Spreadsheets don’t really cut it when it comes to annual leave tracking.

To show you what we mean, let’s look at what it’s like to set up an Excel template and use it daily. We do this with a real Microsoft Excel leave tracker we found online.

Then, we’ll show you a much easier way to track annual leave — Timetastic. Timetastic is time off management software that automatically tracks your team’s leave, keeps your company time off calendar updated, and handles all new leave requests.

If you want a simpler (and faster) way to track annual leave, then you can start your month-long free trial with Timetastic (no credit card needed). Timetastic automatically tracks your team’s leave, manages time off requests, and updates your company time off calendar.

How to set up an annual leave tracker in Excel (using a real template as an example)

We use the Microsoft Excel “Employee Absence Schedule” template for this example.

It’s a straightforward spreadsheet that doesn’t take long to set up. And it’s made by Microsoft themselves, so it should be good, right? In fact, it gives us a good example of the pros and the cons of using an Excel template to track annual leave.  

Here’s how it looks after downloading the template and opening it in Excel:

Employee Absence Schedule Excel Example

Pretty simple and easy to navigate. You get one tab for each month, your days of the month across the top, and employee names on the left-hand side.

You don’t put names in the first tab. If you try to do that, you’ll get an error alert.

An example of an Employee Absence Schedule Alert if you try to put employee names in the first tab.

Instead, you click on the specific tab for “Employee Names.”

Inputting Employee Names in the Employee Absence Schedule

Once you’ve input your employee names, you can go back to the main spreadsheet tab and use a drop-down feature to select employee names. You actually need to do this every month, which is annoying and repetitive.

Employee1 Name: Employee Names have to be input every single month which can be a lot of tedious work.

After you have your employee names in there, you put in the year you want to track. That gives you all the right dates based on the calendar year.

You also get three different types of leave to choose from (Holiday, Personal, Sick). And you get two spots where you can type in custom reasons for absence.

For example, you can add sabbaticals, training time, work-from-home days, or any other leave type that you need.

How to manage employee leave with Microsoft’s Excel tracker template

When it’s time to track someone’s leave, you need to take their requested time off and update the row with their name.

For example, below, we marked Sarah Jackson on holiday from January 3rd to January 7th. Then we marked her as out sick from January 10th to January 14th:

Employee Absence Schedule Excel Example

Then, on the right, the spreadsheet adds up how many total days she’s taken off for the entire year.

But there’s a big problem here most people don’t count sick days and holiday days from the same leave balance. Normally, sick leave is deducted from a separate pool.

But with this spreadsheet, they’re grouped together.

That means you’ll have to go through and fix the data after inputting it in the first place — which  kind of defeats the whole point of the template.

You’re tracking leave, but the info is wrong. So you’re creating double work for yourself.

There are other drawbacks to using an Excel template, whether we’re talking about this template or any template you’ll find online.

  • With a template, you’re personally responsible for updating that spreadsheet: If you forget to update it or accidentally put the wrong dates in, your tracker is useless. An Excel tracker can help organise information into rows and columns, but it doesn’t do anything to help you spend less time worrying about tracking your team’s info.

  • With a template, your team doesn’t have an easy way to request time off: You can record when someone is taking time off in an Excel tracker, but it doesn’t manage their leave requests. So your team is going to reach out to you over Slack, text, email, or even put their request to you in person.

    You’ll be scrabbling around with both parts of the process. The leave request process and the leave tracking process. If you could get those two parts to work together, you’d save a lot of time — but templates can’t help you with that.

  • With a template, the more your team grows, the messier it gets: Your Excel template will quickly get overwhelmed as your company grows. You’ll need to add or remove rows as your staff changes, and if you change your team’s allotted annual leave balance, you’ll need to re-do a lot of the template.

If these drawbacks aren’t a big deal for you, then you can probably get by with an Excel leave tracker. (And if you’re in that boat, check out our review of two Excel staff leave planners to help you make a decision.)

But if you’d rather avoid these issues, let me show you  Timetastic, our time off management system that gets you away from the world of clunky spreadsheets and manual data entry.

How Timetastic is a step up from tracking leave in Excel templates

Timetastic is time off management software that’s used by a wide variety of small to midsize businesses — from agencies to salons to non-profits. Most of our users are business owners and managers who wanted a way out of inefficient spreadsheets and Excel templates.

Timetastic works by putting everything you need from a leave tracker in one single app. You don’t need to juggle a template, employee emails, and a separate time off calendar. It’s all there in one place, and everything is updated in real-time.

With Timetastic, you can:

  • Automatically track leave and always keep people’s leave balances up-to-date.
  • Receive and respond to new time off requests from your team.
  • Give your team access to a time off calendar that’s updated automatically when a request is approved.
  • Plus more!

If you’re ready to try Timetastic right now, start your free one-month trial.

With Timetastic, all time off requests and leave balances are tracked in one place

Unlike using an Excel template, Timetastic automatically tracks your team’s leave. This is possible because your team books their time off requests directly in Timetastic.

When someone on your team wants to make a new leave request, they just mark the dates they want, select the reason they’re taking off, and submit their request.

When leave requests are approved, your company’s Wallchart is automatically updated.

You can see how simple it is in the video below:


After the leave request is submitted, you get a message asking you to approve or decline the request. You can get this message via email, Slack, or MS Teams.

Sophie Jones has requested time off: Mon 16th August through Fri 20th August

You can hit approve or decline right from that message.

Plus, you’ll avoid calendar clashes and staff shortages

One of the big drawbacks of your team texting you their time off requests is that it can quickly get messy. For example, you may have forgotten that another team member already asked for time off, or that you already approved time off for someone else. This could cause you to accidentally approve too many people for the same day off.

But with Timetastic, you’re always alerted to any scheduling conflicts.

In the example above, both Lian Jie and Lily-May Conrad are asking for days off that overlap. This might be no big deal, or it could be a major issue you want to avoid by having one of them reschedule their time off.

Timetastic also tells you when someone requested their day off — as we think the fairest way of approving holidays is by honouring the “first come, first serve” principle.

Another plus: You can set maximum absent levels in Timetastic.

Department set staffing levels allowance for days off.

Maximum absent levels are how many people can take leave on any given day.

You can customise this across the entire company or by a specific department. Once the maximum absent threshold has been reached for a specific time period, Timetastic won’t let any other team members try to book a holiday for those dates.

Book time off: Sorry, staff clash. No more than 1 allowed off at the same time.

With Timetastic, everyone is up-to-date about who’s away on leave

Excel templates are passive tools. That means you need to pull up a template and check it manually. So if you’re trying to figure out if someone is off for the day, you need to open your Excel leave tracker and dig through the info.

Timetastic is more active than a template — it updates you.

With Timetastic, you can get absence summaries sent directly to you:

Who's Off This Week: With Timetastic, you can easily get an overview of everyone who is going to be off for the week sent via email, Slack, or MS teams.

These absences summaries can get sent to your email, Slack, or MS teams account. They tell you who has the day off and who has time off coming up in the week. That way you’re always informed.

You can easily sync your Timetastic account with your work calendar:

An example of how you can sync your Timetastic account with your work calendar.

You and your team can sync your Timetastic time off calendar to your everyday work calendar (Google Calendar, iCal, Outlook, etc.).

It’s as easy as adding a link to your work calendar.

From there, you can easily see who’s off in your company or department by simply checking that.

With Timetastic, it’s easy to add new team members and change time off policies

Finally, Timetastic makes it really easy to add or remove team members from your account and edit their leave balances.

Unlike a leave tracker template, where you need to mess around deleting and adding rows and avoiding the conditional formatting (which gets messy as you make changes), with Timetastic, everyone on your team has their own profile.
When you add a new employee, you can upload a photo of them, add their work schedule, change their leave balances, and add lieu days.

Holiday allowance: Taken and remaining

Some of our users — like Curiousa & Curiousa — make sure that when their staff works overtime, they’ll get that time back in lieu. So if someone on their team puts in a 12-hour workday, they’ll get 4 hours off in lieu. That’s great, and easy to do, with Timetastic.

And because each employee has their own profile, you can drill down and look at their personal leave history — something you can’t easily do with an Excel template.

Time off remaining in Timetastic

The next step? Say goodbye to messy annual leave Excel templates

Any business, no matter how big or small, will see the benefits of using a time off management software, like Timetastic, to track their staff’s annual leave. It’s real-time, always synced, and helps you actually manage staff leave rather than simply record it.

There’s no need to download an Excel template when you have a better option that’s affordable, easy to use, and comes with a whole load of helpful features.

Start your free trial today.

For more info on tracking leave, check out these articles: