There’s no shortage of “free” annual leave trackers online. You can easily find one through Google, download a .csv file, and then start customising it for your business.

But we put “free” in quotes here for a reason.

These free annual leave trackers come with severe limitations.

  1. You need to do all the work. Free annual leave trackers are free because they don't do much. They’re just Excel templates or Google Docs that someone put together, which does save you the hassle of building your own. But you still need to customise the tracker for your business, which can lead to formatting issues and just a lot of wasted time. And an even bigger hassle: You’re responsible for updating your tracker throughout the year.
  2. Annual leaver trackers don’t help with time off requests. Free leave trackers just give you a pre-arranged set of columns and rows to type in data. They don’t help you manage how you get that data. Simply put, they don't help your team submit time off requests, nor do they help you respond to them. This is a major part of tracking leave. If this information is put in wrong, your entire employee leave tracker will be off.

So while the trackers you can find online are “free,” they also take up a lot of time. And they can lead to pretty big issues, such as giving too many people the same day off or messing up payroll.

That’s why we made Timetastic — an annual leave tracker that handles your team’s leave for you. And while it isn’t free (just £1 per user per month for our basic plan, £2 per user per month for our pro plan), it does make your life a heck of a lot easier.

You can start a free trial today or keep reading, and I’ll explain how Timetastic works.

Why paid software is the better way to track annual leave

Unlike free solutions, such as Excel trackers, paid software will:

  • Give your team an easy way to submit their time off requests.
  • Keep your annual leave tracker updated for you.
  • Allow you to set necessary staffing levels.
  • Allow you to get alerts on who may be in need of a holiday.

The right software has all of these benefits without having to worry about conditional formatting, columns/rows, and formulas.

To detail these benefits, we look at how Timetastic can handle your leave tracking for you.

Your team makes their leave requests in Timetastic

When it’s time for someone on your team to put in a new time off request, they simply log into their Timetastic account and pick the dates they want to take off. Timetastic is available as both a web app and a mobile app (with both Android and iOS devices).

How to easily submit an annual leave request with Timetastic.

When someone logs into Timetastic, they’ll see their Wallchart. They can then easily put in a new request by:

  • Picking the dates off that they want.
  • Picking the type of leave from the drop-down menu.
  • Adding any notes (if necessary).
  • Adding any medical documentation (if necessary).

Once sent, their request gets routed to whoever is in charge of approving/declining time off.

How to approve or decline your team’s leave request.

You can get your team’s request sent to you via:

  • Email
  • Slack
  • Microsoft Teams

And you can approve it or decline it with just a click.

Timetastic automatically keeps your leave tracker updated

Once you've responded to the request, all of your records are automatically updated. You don’t need to update anything at all — not someone’s leave balance and not your company’s time off calendar. It’s all done for you.

With Timetastic, you can see all approved leave requests on one calendar.

The Wallchart shows you one month at a time, and you can easily click to see other months in the calendar.

FYI: At Timetastic, you can pick which different types of leave are available to your team and give each leave type a unique icon and a different colour.)

Team members can see when someone has scheduled leave and admins can see why they’re on leave (whether it's sick leave or holiday).

Team members can also see their up-to-date number of leave days remaining for the year next to their name, whereas admins can see an up-to-date total of how much leave every employee has left to take for the remainder of the year:

How to approve or decline your team’s leave request.

When admins click on an individual employee’s name, they get a breakdown of how much leave each employee has taken so far, including which type of leave and when they’ve taken it:

Our annual leave tracker gives you a detailed breakdown of someone’s leave history.

(For privacy, employees can only see a breakdown of their information.)

You don’t get all of this important information in any free leave tracker you might’ve downloaded online.

Here’s a screenshot of an Excel spreadsheet we downloaded and tried to use:

How a free Excel annual leave tracker looks.

(Read the full review here.)

For example, you can see that the free tracker adds up how much leave someone has taken and totals it at the end. But there’s a huge problem — the total at the end doesn’t differentiate between holiday leave and sick leave. And those are two very different things.

Plus, if you were using the spreadsheet above, you’d have to open it and put in someone’s time off after they requested it. Sure, that’s not the hardest task in the world, but all these things add up and the more manual tasks in a process the more room for key-stroke errors.

Other key benefits of using Timetastic

Timetastic is a good replacement for “free” annual leave trackers that don’t do a whole lot besides give you a pre-made set of columns and rows to fill. Timetastic will handle it all for you, so you don’t have to closely manage your team’s leave.

Timetastic also comes with other key benefits that will help you improve and simplify your company’s leave management process.

This includes:

  • Showing you who on your team may be overdue for a holiday.
  • Letting you set staffing levels to prevent office shortages.
  • Letting you lock specific dates where you need people at work.

See who might need to take a holiday soon

When you use Timetastic, you get a Burnout Board:

 A Burnout Board that tells you when someone isn’t taking enough time off.

The Burnout Board tells you who on your team:

  • Hasn’t taken time off recently.
  • Doesn’t have time off booked in the coming months.

With the Burnout Board, you can help your team avoid burnout. You can also make sure your team is taking their holiday throughout the year, so at the end of the calendar year, everyone isn’t rushing to take all of their time off before it expires or rolls over.

And because we like to make things as easy as possible, we email this information to you at the end of each quarter:

A quarterly report letting you know who on your team needs a holiday.

Set up staffing levels and lock key dates

Because free annual leave trackers are just spreadsheets, they can’t easily help you implement any policies, like how many people can take a day off or what days are off-limits.

But with Timetastic, you can set staffing levels and lock key dates.

When you set staffing levels, you’re telling Timetastic how many people can take a holiday at the same time. (You can set this by department or across the entire company.)

Set rules to make your annual leave tracker more helpful.

Note: You can also select whether or not a request requires your approval. This is because once you have staffing levels, you can — like we do at Timetastic HQ — let Timetastic handle approvals for you. If the date is available, then Timetastic will approve it. If the date isn’t, then Timetastic will let the requester know.

An example of Timetastic telling your employee that a time off request isn’t eligible.

You can also lock key dates where you don’t want someone (or an entire team) taking time off.

Locked dates help prevent your team requesting time off that won’t get approved.

When you lock a date, it shows up on your team’s Wallchart as a grey lock icon so they can’t try to request that day off (as shown above).

Export your leave tracker, if needed

Finally, all of the information you have in Timetastic can be exported and shared as a .csv file whenever you need it. This is a great feature if you want to share time off dates and records with your HR department, whether for payroll or some other issue.

A quick recap on why free annual leaver trackers aren’t the best

The kind of free annual leave trackers you find online, which often come as a Google Sheet or Excel file, are just pre-made templates that you can customise for your team. But they don’t really do all that much.

When you use a free annual leave tracker, you still need to:

  • Manually input everyone’s leave requests.
  • Manually add up someone’s sick leave and holiday leave to get their balance.
  • Handle your team’s leave requests (whether they text it to you, send an email, or write it down on a piece of paper).

In that way, a free annual leave tracker is just organised chaos.

But when you use Timetastic (which is affordable, starting at £1 per user per month), you get:

  • Automatically updated annual leave balances for everyone on your team.
  • A fast and easy way for your team to put in a request and for you to respond to it.
  • Other key benefits like learning who on your team needs a holiday and the ability to set staffing levels for your company.

To see how Timetastic will work for your company, start your free one-month trial today.

For more information on leave tracking, check out these posts: