If you’re looking for a Google Sheets annual leave template, you’ll find loads of free ones online. But when your aim is to organise your company’s annual leave better, there are big drawbacks to using any sort of spreadsheet — whether you’re starting from scratch, using a calendar template with formulas, or downloading a proper annual leave template.
Even the best free templates cause problems for you:
- You (or someone on your team) has to manually update the Google Sheets spreadsheet. The bigger your team, the more time and effort you’ll have to invest in updating leave allowances and approving days off. When you’re doing this stuff manually, there’s a risk of human error that can affect things like payroll.
- People can’t book their leave through Google Sheets. A spreadsheet just stores information that you’ve put into it. Templates will help you see when people have certain days off, but they don’t help people actually book their leave. This means you need to add emails, texts, calls, or annual leave request forms into the mix.
- Spreadsheet templates don’t tell you who isn’t taking their annual leave. One important part of managing your team’s leave is to make sure people take their holidays. Preferably they do this gradually through the year, so you don’t have a last minute rush. A spreadsheet won’t alert you to who isn’t taking their leave. Instead, you need to figure it out manually and stay on top of your reminders all year.
Advance warning: We do come down pretty hard on spreadsheet templates in this article. This is because we’ve been there, done it, and got the T-shirt. It didn't work, so we created a simpler, faster, and better way to manage annual leave: Timetastic. Plus, you lose out on several benefits by sticking with Google Sheets.
Let’s break down the benefits of using Timetastic instead of Google Sheets, and shine a light on a few things that free spreadsheet templates can’t do:
Benefit 1: It doesn’t break the bank to switch from spreadsheets
Before we get into the practical benefits of using Timetastic instead of a clunky spreadsheet, it’s important to mention the costs of using software vs spreadsheets.
Right off the bat, using Google Sheets is free (minus whatever licensing fee you’re paying — but you’ve probably already factored that into the cost of running your business). And every Google Sheet annual leave template we’ve found online is also free.
Sounds great, right?
Hang on a sec. While using a spreadsheet template is “free,” you need to account for the time you spend and the headaches you endure to manage your team’s annual leave between various spreadsheets, emails, and calendars.
Every time you open that spreadsheet, edit a formula, copy and paste, and try to figure out why it doesn’t balance... That all adds up.
Thankfully, switching from a Google Sheet to annual leave software isn’t as expensive as you might fear. For example, Timetastic can handle everything from processing holiday requests to recording leave allowances, and it’s just £1 per user per month. No hidden costs.
Put simply: Before you think about using an online template as a free option, don’t forget to calculate the cost of the time you’re spending on setting up your Google Sheet, ongoing admin, extra communication, fixing mistakes, editing the spreadsheet, and other tasks.
Remember, Timetastic is free for the first 30 days, and you don’t even need to add a credit card to start your trial.
Benefit 2: Nobody has to personally update all the leave records
One of the biggest hassles of using a Google Sheets spreadsheet is that someone has to update all the records on a daily or weekly basis. Otherwise, you’ll just have a load of rows and columns that contain outdated info. Useless.
When you use Timetastic for booking and recording your team’s annual leave, nobody needs to do this. Instead, the moment someone submits their leave request in Timetastic (more on this later), their booking gets put into the system. If that request gets approved, the person’s leave allowance is automatically updated and your company’s leave calendar is up-to-date.
Benefit 3: You can submit and respond to leave requests easily
If you’re using a spreadsheet template, you’re actually only doing tracking and recording. But annual leave involves a lot more work: managing the leave request process is also vital.
This often involves filling out a leave request form, sending emails or texts, speaking to a manager, or writing down days you want off on a wall calendar. But with Timetastic, the whole team gets an easy-to-use app where they can submit holiday requests.
Here’s how it works:
- First, your team books their request in Timetastic. They can do this via the mobile app on their phone or by logging into Timetastic on their browser. They simply choose the dates they want, pick the leave type (holiday, sick leave, etc.) and submit their request instantly. No need to write a formal leave request.
- Next, the request gets sent to whoever needs to review it. This can be via email, Slack, or MS Teams, where you can immediately approve or decline the request.
One of the most important things to know when approving or declining a holiday request is whether it’ll leave you short-staffed. So, we took this into consideration:
- You can set “maximum absent” levels for specific departments or for the whole company. Once this threshold is reached, Timetastic won’t allow any more time off requests for that time period while too many people are away.
- You can lock key dates, meaning that those dates can’t be selected for time off. Again, you can do this per department, across the company, or even down to the individual.
A spreadsheet template can’t do any of this.
Benefit 4: You’re always up-to-date on who’s off and when
When you use a spreadsheet, you have to remember to keep checking that spreadsheet. This isn’t fun for anyone, and actually it’s not intuitive for people who are in the habit of checking their email or company chat app rather than loading up Google Drive.
If you’re using Google Calendar, you can take the info from Google Sheets and move it over to your work calendar to stay up-to-date, but then you’d just be doing double work.
Note: It is possible to integrate your Google Sheets to feed into your Google Calendar, but this involves setting up some formulas, using AppScript, and/or adding an extra tool in the middle (something like Zapier). Basically, it’s a pain. And there’s no guarantee it’ll work when you install a free Google Sheets annual leave template.
On the flip side, when you use Timetastic, you’re always in the loop:
- You get absence summaries. These get sent directly to you, telling you who’s off and who has a holiday coming up soon.
- You get calendar integrations. No need to figure out clunky workarounds or learn code — Timetastic already syncs with Google Calendar, Outlook Calendar, and iCal.
And of course, you can always check in with your company Wallchart — the calendar that gives you a full view of upcoming leave, employee leave allowances, and more. This gives you all the information you need at a glance:
Note: Your Wallchart gives you a monthly calendar view of your staff leave, breaking down leaves types with a different colour and icon.
Benefit 5: You can easily see who needs a holiday right now
A Google Sheets template for annual leave won’t tell you who hasn’t taken any holiday in the past few months. This is a problem for two reasons:
- Burnout is a real issue. And it’s not always obvious when it’s about to happen. So it’s vital that people are taking some time away from their job to rest, recuperate, and come back refreshed. This creates a healthier culture and a happier team.
- You need to spread people’s holiday throughout the year to make sure you’re not ending up with everyone taking time off at the same time. If you have loads of people who are finishing the year with a full annual leave allowance, depending on your policy, you’ll need to give them that holiday, carry it over to the following year, or pay them for the unused time off. None of which are ideal.
But with Timetastic, you get a Burnout Board, which tells you who may be in need a holiday:
This feature was a big win for Format, an online portfolio platform. They want to make sure team members get the time off they need.
“We know how important it is to take time off to rest and recharge. Timetastic gives managers an overview of their team members’ vacation plans and can use it to encourage those who may not have taken time off in a while to get away and reset.”
- Jojo, Format’s Chief of Staff
Note: The Burnout Board is part of Absence Insights, which is a Timetastic feature that gives you lots of great info about your staff leave. This includes holiday and sickness trends, pending requests, and more. This kind of information would take a whole day to gather and analyse if you had to do it by poring over various spreadsheets.
Benefit 6: You can scale your business without growing pains
Spreadsheets limit your growth. The bigger your company gets, the tougher it’ll be to manage your annual leave with a Google Sheets template. And your company doesn’t need to balloon and become a massive enterprise for the headaches to start.
For example, let’s say your business has three departments: customer service, sales, and operations.
Each department will have different staff requirements, annual leave balances, and holiday calendars. You’ll need to either have someone in charge of all those departments, or have a separate person for each one. It’s a logistical nightmare to manage this with spreadsheets.
Who’s in charge of making sure leave balances and time off calendars are correct across all the spreadsheets?
How often will they be updated?
Who do they report to and when?
With Timetastic, you have a central point of truth. It’s simple to organise (and stays simple forever), because everything happens within Timetastic:
- On your Wallchart, you can see the whole company or filter by departments.
- You can create approval workflows so requests are routed to the right person.
- You can easily add or remove team members, whenever you need to.
- You can edit leave balances if you want to give someone more time off.
- Everything gets updated automatically when someone takes a holiday.
Whether you have hundreds of users or just a few, Timetastic does leave management far better than any spreadsheet can.
Next steps: Ditch Google Sheets and try Timetastic for free
We started this article talking about the big drawbacks of using a Google spreadsheet to manage your annual leave — even when you have a template. Specifically:
- You, or someone on your team, is personally responsible for updating the sheet.
- There’s no easy way to book leave when you’re relying on spreadsheets.
- Spreadsheet templates don’t alert you to people who aren’t taking their leave.
Put simply, even when you have the best free Google Sheets template, it’s only one step up from managing staff leave using paper and pen or developing your own spreadsheet system using formulas that are vulnerable to error.
Spreadsheets are fine for recording stuff, but managing staff leave is a dynamic thing involving leave approval workflows, clashes, constantly-changing plans, and more. This is where Timetastic makes your life much easier.
For more information on managing your team’s annual leave, check out these posts:
- A step by step guide on how to use 2 Excel annual leave tracker templates
- The benefits of using a leave tracker (and avoiding an Excel template)
- Examples of small businesses using Timetastic
- What are the different types of leave your team can take?
- A worldwide comparison of how many days of leave people receive each year
- How to keep track of holidays with a staff leave planner
- An employee attendance policy (free download)
- A free holiday calculator (to configure your statutory holiday entitlement)
- Comparing 3 popular employee leave trackers
- The benefits of giving paid time off for volunteering hours