How to and Why to Use an Employee Vacation Tracker for Your Startup

There are “sexy” parts of running a startup, and parts that are considerably less sexy. HR tasks, like tracking vacation days, definitely fall into the second category.

You want to focus on things that directly drive growth, like marketing, sales, and product design. But you also shouldn’t ignore your business’s human resources and administrative sides.

The key to being able to direct your energy to high-leverage tasks is to set up robust processes to handle the internal operations of your startup. That’s what we’ll focus on in this post as we show you the best way to set up an employee vacation tracker that saves you time and money.

Three Ways to Track Vacation Days in Your Startup

There are a few different ways to set up a vacation tracker. You can do it manually using a spreadsheet tool, pay for a specialized PTO tracking software, or use a full-stack HR tool that includes a vacation time tracker feature.

Depending on your startup’s stage, you might find one option fits better for you. Let’s go through each one, so you can decide what works best for your business.

Option One: A Manual Google Sheets/Excel Leave Tracker

If you’re running a small team, you can simply track your team’s vacation time using Google Sheets or Excel.

Manually tracking PTO costs basically nothing. All it takes is data entry. You’re using tools that you likely already use in your business. It’s also reasonably straightforward, as everyone knows how to use a spreadsheet.

The best way to do this is to create a new sheet for each month. Fill in the days on one axis, your team members on the other, and shade in the weekends, as well as any other company-wide non-working days (like public holidays).

Finally, set up a color-coded scheme to show different leave types, such as vacation, sick leave, etc.

When people schedule leave, fill in the relevant days with the color corresponding to that leave type. This will give you a birds-eye view vacation calendar, like so:

This is a simple, cheap option that fits for small teams. But you’re going to run into scaling issues when your headcount grows. It also requires a lot of data entry and has the potential for human error. So if you anticipate growth in your startup’s future, it’s best to plan ahead and transition to another kind of PTO tracker.

Best for: small teams with just a few employees.

Option Two: Use a Vacation Tracker App

A better all-around solution, fitting both small teams and those with 2-3 digit headcounts, is a specialized vacation tracker software.

Take something like
Flamingo – a vacation tracker for Slack teams, which automates almost all of the leave management process.

It lets people request leave through Slack. You or your team leaders can review and approve leave through Slack, and the app automatically adds all approved leaves to a vacation calendar.

It also lets you keep everyone in the loop, with notifications on upcoming leaves in Slack and the option to sync it with Google Calendar.

This kind of tool is perfect for mid-sized companies and small businesses alike. Compared to Google Sheets/Excel, it requires much less work, with little to no data entry.

It’s also a big plus that it automates the parts of the vacation tracking process where mistakes happen (such as transferring leave requests to the vacation calendar). That means fewer disruptions due to routine mistakes.

It’s far more scalable, meaning it’s much less likely that your business will outgrow your vacation tracker.

Some purpose-built vacation trackers (like Flamingo) also offer free plans for small teams (those with just a few employees), so there’s minimal downside to using this kind of vacation tracker when your startup is in its early stages.

Best for: small to medium-sized teams and remote startups.

Option Three: Full-Stack HR Tools

The last choice is to use a more comprehensive HR tool, such as a full-stack HR management system that handles many other HR and admin tasks alongside leave management.

This means not just tracking time off but integrating your leave tracker with payroll, performance management, and benefits administration. All the things that large companies need to cover.

These tools also provide higher-level security and compliance features, which is a must for enterprises.

The downside is that full-stack HR systems are expensive and often quite complicated to set up and use. If you don’t have a dedicated HR team, you definitely shouldn’t bother yourself with a tool like this. And even if you do, you might find your time is better spent with a simpler tool.

Best for: enterprise-level teams with high-end needs.

Why Vacation Days are Important

Most startup founders’ biggest objection to tracking vacation days is that they don’t want their employees going on vacation in the first place.

They don’t want to pay their employees not to work. They want everyone in the office (in-person or remote) grinding, day in and day out.

As such, they don’t want to incentivize employees to take time off, which is what might happen when you create clear and easy processes for when someone asks for a day off.

This line of thinking is a mistake. You should treat your employees like assets, not cogs in a machine.

If your employees are happier, healthier, more motivated, and more fulfilled, their output will be better. They’ll produce more and produce at a higher standard. They’ll also be more likely to go the extra mile and hustle when needed.

Vacation time is essential for this. People need regular breaks to reset, recharge and avoid burning out.

You may think you’re getting more out of employees who work for months, or even years, without a vacation, but you’re probably getting less because of the effect of overworking on their performance.

There are more large-scale benefits to being generous with your company’s PTO policy too. It creates a more positive culture in your business, which leads to higher quality work, better collaboration between employees, and higher retention rates.

A generous leave policy is also a powerful carrot to attract the best new talent in your field, especially in more competitive job markets.

Ignoring the importance of vacation time is short-term thinking, which will catch up to you before long.

How a Vacation Tracker Software Adds Value to Your Business

A vacation tracker app may add another recurring expense for you to worry about. But it will also generate value – in almost all cases, far more than the monthly cost of paying for a tool.

Here’s how.

Saving Time on Data Entry

Manually tracking vacation time requires a lot of data entry. The bigger your team is, the more time-consuming this is.

It might not seem like much – just a few minutes here and there – but it adds up. If you add up the time you or your HR team spend on this over a month and add an hourly rate to that time, you’ll be surprised how much you already spend on this.

A vacation tracker automates nearly all this work, directly saving money for your startup.

Less Human Error

The other major issue with manually tracking vacation time is the potential for human error.

It’s easy to forget to record someone’s leave after approving it. Then the time for their leave comes around, the team member doesn’t show up, and everyone’s sent into a tailspin.

Human error like this can cost you clients, or at the very least, cost you money due to the lost productivity.

Vacation tracker software removes human error from the equation. It makes everything smoother and keeps productivity high even when people are away on vacation.

Easier to Track Data and Trends

Your HR team will save a significant amount of time in gathering data and trends on vacation time and other types of PTO.

At the lower end, this could simply mean tracking employees’ vacation time against their yearly quota. It only takes a small amount of time to update team members’ leave quota manually, but as mentioned before, this time adds up.

With a software tool, it’s instant.

It also allows you to track and follow up on trends such as absenteeism or employees who don’t take enough vacation time. A software tool gives you all this data at your fingertips.

Incentivizing Paid Time Off

A vacation tracker software tool also incentives employees to take their paid time off.

We discussed this earlier – you want people in your business to take time off. You want them to take regular vacations, and you also want them to take sick leave if they’re unwell.

Your vacation tracker makes the leave request and approval process frictionless and stress-free. You’ll see employees start to take more vacation days (as was the case when
Dynamite Jobs started using a vacation tracker), which will increase overall employee engagement and company culture in your startup.

Final Thoughts

If you’re running a startup, you should always have an eye on the future.

Along with focusing on how you will make money in the here and now, you should consider how your business will scale and grow long-term once you start increasing your headcount.

Many founders fall into short-term traps of squeezing everything out of their employees and running their businesses on processes that aren’t sustainable.

Setting up the right kind of vacation tracker and actually incentivizing people to take their vacation days are two things that will pay off in the long run. You’re setting up your business to run efficiently even when headcount grows, and investing in your employees, who are crucial for your startup’s growth.

Take some time to think about this, and start implementing these practices in your business today.