What does a typical vacation process look like?
If you’re like many other businesses, your HR department is overloaded with paperwork. Honestly, that’s a shame – wouldn’t you rather have them focus on attracting and recruiting talent instead of sifting through endless paperwork?
An automated time off request form saves valuable time for any HR department, as well as for the employees filling them in.
What are Time Off Request Forms?
A time off request form or vacation request form is a common business form that practically every organization uses to document, approve and keep track of employees’ PTO. Everyone needs to take time off so they can come back refreshed and rejuvenated but it’s also important for the business to make sure that work gets done on time, critical areas like customer support always have sufficient coverage, and the business does not suffer.
Taking time off doesn’t have to be stressful and having a well-defined internal process makes it easier. Here’s what a typical Vacation Request Process might look like:
What does a Time Off Request Form look like?
Also known as a vacation request form, these forms are pre-formatted with the necessary fields your employee must fill out to request time off. These requests usually include the following information:
- Employee ID and name, department, etc
- Number of days being requested (and dates)
- Date the request has been made, and approved/denied
- Signatures of all relevant parties (employee, manager, HR department)
A simple form could look like this:
Why Are They Important?
Time off request forms enable both your employees and your HR department to stay on top of things by:
- Keeping clear records of requests,
- Avoids miscommunication, and
- Establishes a clear documentation process.
They are a cornerstone of any smooth-running business.
Paper or Excel has many problems
Some companies use a time off request form that has all of these features, but that requires printing out and filling out the information by hand. Even worse – some companies don’t have formal vacation request forms at all relying instead on informal communication like email.
No Clear Process
Maybe your business prints out their forms. Or maybe you don’t have an existing vacation request form at all. Whatever the case may be, this old school process brings in its fair share of headaches.
First off, without a proper form, it’s difficult to establish a clear pipeline that employees are supposed to follow. Some employees might send a written request by email, while others might ask by phone. When information is exchanged via different channels every time, it becomes difficult to keep track of what was said to who, and when.
Maybe Nathalie promised Steve he could take his vacations in July on a phone call, without realizing that Susan had already asked for time off during that time first.
The point is, without a proper structure in place, how do you ensure a consistent time-off and vacation policy? No doubt your business has rules about the time-off process – it’s rare to have no vacation time off policy.
Without a solid structure in place, stuff will inevitably start falling through the cracks.
Where do you keep all your time-off request forms? If your employees still need to print out their forms to make a request, that paper needs to be filed somewhere.
And once you need to refer back to those papers, it’s a hassle to search through your cabinet to find the right document.
Organizing paperwork – and sifting through it to refer back to old files – is tedious work that is no longer necessary in today’s day and age.
Maybe you have a process in which you scan the paperwork to create a digital copy. While this is already a much safer way to store your time off request forms, it adds unnecessary steps that take up valuable time.
Data Entry Errors
If your employee makes a mistake on their vacation request form – or fill out an outdated version of the form – they’ll need to either:
- Physically get the form back from HR and make messy changes
- Print out a new form and start again
Neither of these choices are efficient. Data entry errors can cost your company more than you think.
And the employee making the request isn’t the only one prone to mistakes. HR reps are human, too. The more human elements are added to a process, the likelier it becomes that one of them will make a mistake.
This isn’t the fault of your employees or your HR department. It’s the reality of relying on human-driven processes.
In an efficient time off request process, there should be information transparency, and not just for the people involved in a single employee’s request. If a request was approved, who is in charge of updating the company calendar so that everyone knows this employee will be off at a given date?
And what happens if this person forgets to update the calendar?
There are so many holes where information can leak or lag and cause communication errors within a company. This can, in turn, cause more issues:
- Overlap in employee requests
- Core departments relying on an employee on a given date when this employee has scheduled time off
- Data entry errors
In a manual process, it’s difficult to know who is on the same level as you in terms of information. This needlessly overcomplicates everything.
Ultimately, when you continue to rely on traditional paper- or Excel-based vacation request forms – your employees spend their time chasing signatures and correcting mistakes instead of focusing on what’s important – the work you hired them to do.
Why Use Electronic Vacation Request Forms
With so many issues caused by traditional time-off request forms, turning to electronic forms is an obvious choice – and here’s why.
Ensure Consistent Time Off Policies
In an electronic system, no one needs to waste their time filling in a request – or checking the request – that goes against your company’s policies. For instance, if an employee tries to make a request at the last minute, which could be against your policy, the form can automatically refuse the request.
The same goes if, for example, there is overlap with an existing request. If two employees of the same department cannot take time off simultaneously, online forms take care of figuring out if there is any overlap when an employee inputs a date in their request.
Encourage Employees to Take Time Off
You absolutely want your employees to use up all of their paid time off and vacation time. Not only is taking time off one of the best ways to improve an employee’s health, but it can benefit the rest of the team as well. When an employee leaves for an extended period of time for their vacation, the rest of their team needs to figure out how to stay productive without this person. This encourages cross-functionality within a team.
Last year, there were a total of 708 million unclaimed vacation days in the U.S. alone. But taking vacation days is crucial to avoid burnout and promote fresh, productive brains in your workplace.
One of the ways you can encourage your employees to use up their time is to create a simple process for requests. This will make everything much less stressful for your employees and will ensure they don’t procrastinate more than they should on filling out their requests.
Reduce Workload For HR
Whenever an employee makes an online request, your HR department can have easy access to the filled form without needing to sift through piles of paperwork on their desk. The request forms can be accessed from within a single online platform, from anywhere. This is quite handy if, for example, your organization has multiple locations.
The signature process is simple since online forms support electronic signatures. This means you can have a digital signature without needing to print and scan the document.
Plus, the data relating to the time off requests can be tracked in your HR system automatically, so your system is always up to date on your employee’s bank of vacation days available.
All your HR department needs to do is approve or refuse the request. The rest of the work – data entry, updating the calendar, removing time from the employee’s vacation bank – is busywork that doesn’t need to be handled by a human. This way, they can focus on more productive tasks.
Minimize Data Entry and Errors
An electronic time off request form comes with automated field validation that only allow certain types of data entry. For instance, if your employee makes a mistake in their name – silly, but it happens – the form can detect that this name does not exist in your company’s database. In fact, the form can pre-fill fields like employee name, thus reducing data entry and completely eliminating potential errors.
Additionally, your employee won’t be able to omit certain fields by mistake. The form won’t allow them to click ‘complete’ until they have successfully entered all correct data.
How to Streamline Your Vacation Request Process
All right – so what are the ways you can create a more efficient process for your employees and your HR department to handle vacation requests? Here are some things to keep in mind:
Have an Online Form That’s Available on All Platforms
You shouldn’t assume your employees will always do everything from a desktop computer. Sometimes, they’ll need to be on the go or access important forms via their mobile phone or tablet.
View Infographic: The path to successful mobile apps.
This is why you should implement vacation request forms that are accessible – and look good – on all platforms, including mobile.
Make Your Fields Easy to Fill and Error-Proof
An efficient online form is user-friendly. What’s the use of implementing an electronic system if your employees waste time struggling to fill them in? Take a look at this sample form and how easy it is to input a date:
The calendar icon clearly shows where the employee should click, and an easy-to-use calendar pops up. Note that the calendar integrates seamlessly in the form without taking the employee to a separate window.
By including this process, the employee doesn’t need to manually input the date themselves.
Use Pre-Filled Fields for Core Business Data
Some data shouldn’t have to be manually typed in every time a new request is made. For instance, if your process requires an employee to log in to create a new request, they shouldn’t need to enter their employee information a second time. They’ve already done so by logging in.
Here’s an example – try it out now by clicking the image.
The fields are automatically filled in for the employee’s name, last name, and manager ID.
This might seem like overkill to some, but these saved seconds of time add up and removes a ton of frustration.
Add User-Friendly Electronic Signatures
The signature process shouldn’t be headache-inducing for any person involved in the vacation request.
Your online forms should come complete with simple electronic signature options that don’t overcomplicate the process, like so:
Additionally, you should offer the option of adding presets for signatures. This way, your employees can input their signature once – either using a tablet or carefully using their mouse – and never have to do it again.
By adding the option for electronic signatures, you’ll speed up the request process for the employee, your HR department, and the manager who needs to sign for approval.
Connect Time-Off Request Forms to Your HR System
When a request has been approved, the information from the form – the employee name, the dates of the time taken off, the type of time off requested, etc – should be automatically synchronized to your HR system.
This ensures that your system is always up to date with the latest requests, even if your HR reps forget to update the database.
Automatically Generate Key Documents
What type of documents need to be created once a request has been approved or denied?
This depends on your company’s policies and process. However, no matter your needs, you should offload this task from your HR department to your electronic time off request system. This ensures all relevant data is consistent across the various documents, while also saving everyone’s time.
Send Notifications to All Involved Parties
At every step of the vacation request process, appropriate notifications should be set up to alert the right people. In a traditional process, your employee may send an email to their manager to warn them they have filled in a request.
The manager will then need to email the employee again upon approval or denial of the request, then poke the HR department about a new incoming request.
By sending automated notifications at every step of the process to the right people, it’s no longer necessary to waste time by manually reaching out to inform people of the process.
This also ensures leakproof communication across all parties.
3 Time Off Request Form Templates You Can Use Right Now
If all of the above sounds like something your company needs, you can try these sample forms today:
- Simple Vacation/Time Off Request Form: A straightforward form that fits all of your basic needs
- Time Off Request Approval Process: This sample includes a 3-step process that involves the employee, their manager, and the HR department.
- Dynamic Absence Record: Integrates with Google Sheets
The Bottom Line
Implementing an automated process with electronic time off request forms is a straightforward and simple way to make your employee’s lives easier while also making your HR department happy.