Moving away from holiday request forms

I’ve worked in offices where paperwork flows like water, with forms for this, that, and the other constantly coming and going from my desk. It’s stifling, distracting, and all just a bit pointless. Who wants anything on paper these days?

Moving towards being a paperless office is a step in the right direction in more than one way. You save a tonne of money on printing, reduce your environmental impact, and make processes more efficient, all at once.

But where to start? Let’s take an easy switch - replacing holiday request forms with an online staff leave planner.

What is a holiday request form?

Sounds like a basic question, but for clarity’s sake – a holiday request form is a slice of paper you use to submit your annual leave requests. There are hundreds of holiday form templates available for free online, you’ll notice they all include roughly the same information:

·         Your Name

·         Date of request

·         Date of requested holiday period

·         Number of working days in requested holiday period

·         Signature

Typically, these forms are available to print off, fill out, and send to your line or HR manager. From there, they will either approve it or knock you back, before shuffling it away somewhere for safe keeping.

Sounds simple and fairly sensible, right? Well, not quite.

Downsides of holiday request forms

Even though physical holiday request forms have been the standard for decades, they’re done for, things have moved on, they need to be put in, well, the waste bin.

They are slow

Using a physical form makes the holiday request process move at a snail’s pace. There are several steps to go through, and each one causes delay. First there’s the matter of finding a form, whether tucked away in a dusty cupboard somewhere or saved in the depths of a cloud storage system. If you need to print one off and you’re out of paper or ink/toner, you’re out of luck.

When you eventually find a form and fill it out, you’ve then got to get it in the right hands. In a small office, this might be as simple as handing it directly to your manager. Scale the business size up a bit, and it’s now a nightmare to make sure it’s received and not instantly buried beneath a pile of other paperwork.

The form will (hopefully) eventually make it to the relevant manager, who then has to check their centralised holiday rota, approve or deny, record it for future reference, and get the answer back to you. Not ideal if you’re requesting a holiday at short notice.

Error-prone

Physical holiday request forms aren’t exactly foolproof, either. You might feel creating a paper trail is the accurate way to sure things are recorded properly, but there’s a much bigger chance of the request falling through a crack in the process than there is when you go digital.

My example above of the form getting lost in a mess of other paperwork is the main concern, but there’s also the question of what happens if your manager misreads your writing (‘is that a 1 or a 7?’) or, worse, the office dog gets hungry.

Also, without a centralised backup system (which would ideally be digital, anyway), there’s also the challenge of compiling and tracking holiday requests across a company to avoid accidental clashes. This problem gets bigger the larger your business is. Honestly, spreadsheets don’t cut it, but that’s a whole other blog.

Wasteful

In a world where it’s increasingly urgent to embrace eco-friendly tech and reduce your environmental footprint, holiday request forms made of paper are severely outdated. Although it’s ‘just a single sheet of paper’, multiply it by the number of holidays people are entitled to in a year and the number of people in the business and the paper toll starts to add up.

It’s not just the environmental cost to consider, either, there’s also the financial cost of paying for reams of paper, the ink/toner needed to print on it, and the time spent responsibly recycling any waste.

Opaque

Because a leave request system based on physical forms is decentralised and analogue, it’s not exactly a transparent choice. In practicality, what that means is people aren’t able to get an overview of what days have already been taken and what days remain.

Cue headaches caused by double-booked days, and the arguments that soon follow. In a best-case scenario where there is a way for people to check what holidays have already been taken, there’s still a reliance on accurate and speedy updates to that messy spreadsheet to make sure there’s no clashes.

Bureaucratic

By virtue of being made of paper, holiday request forms create bureaucracy where none is needed. The unnecessarily complex process of finding, sending, checking, filing, and recording requests takes time and resources that could be better spent on literally anything else.

Not only does the bureaucracy of a holiday form system create wasted time, it wastes space too. You’ll need to dedicate a filing cabinet or shelf to holiday requests and remember to take them with you whenever you move into a new office.

Alternative to holiday request forms

With those downsides in mind, it makes sense to consider what alternatives are available. And just as we moved on from typewriters to word processors and filing cabinets to file explorers, the obvious choice is some form of software app.

A digital leave planner is the perfect antidote to basically all the downsides of a physical system. The benefits of switching to one include:

·         Simplicity of use

·         Improved response speed

·         No more paper waste

·         Hugely reduced potential for error

·         Transparency for employees

·         Cheap over the long term

A paperless leave management process is also far more adaptable to future changes in the way you work. If you pivot to a work from home model, for example, there’s no need to update your process – you can book holidays from anywhere.

Choosing to embrace an online leave planner like Timetastic might only be your first step in going paperless, but it’s a step in the right direction!