Employee’s Time Off Management: Where to Start

Let's dive into the deeply neglected problem of Employee Time Management (ETM)

You just lost your business 113% in expected profitability and 56% expected labor productivity at the minimum, according to the World Bank.

How, you ask? By refusing to embrace Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) such as Employee Time Off Management softwares for your professional needs.

In fact, your competitors will grow 750% faster because they integrated such IT solutions into their business, and you didn’t.

Do I have your attention now?

So, let’s dive into the deeply neglected problem of Employee Time Management (ETM) in the world of small businesses.

Here’s what we’ll tackle in this article:

  • The typical transitional journey for the average business;
  • Variables determining usefulness of ETM solutions;
  • Pros and cons of various online & offline ETM solutions.

Setting The Stage

Before we delve further into this discussion, let’s set the stage for this conversation. Travel back in time with us as we take you back to the birth of your small business.

Cast your mind to those first days when you set up your entreprise, working out of a small space with two programmer friends and that cloud expert they brought along.

As you worked through days and nights, trying to get that pilot off the ground, followed by the first major update, and then the next, your team slowly grew from four to six and then to eight employees.

You want to be the “cool” boss

Till this point, things were yet to be overly structured, the crazy hours of round-the-clock development taking precedence over formal time-keeping.

If your employees needed a day off, or had an emergency, they called you up. The rest of your team then worked harder to make up for the missing talent.

You wanted to be the “cool” boss, eager to run a successful business while distinguishing yourself from “Big Tech” back in Corporatica.

And this worked wonderfully up till the day when both your Lead & dedicated Front-End developers disappeared on their holidays, of which they had informed you a week beforehand, right before those core features were set to be updated on the eve of a big product demo to potential clients and investors.

This rapidly knocked the necessity for ETM into your business practices, and you escaped disaster only by cancelling all leaves and pushing your B-team to cover for their superiors till your A-team could get their rears back to work.

You needed a better way to handle your employees’ TOM

As you sat and analyzed this situation some time later, after narrowly having blown one of the largest business opportunities you were to get within the next six months, you realized two things.

This hadn’t happened because your staff didn’t inform you, or because you were incompetent.

Rather, it happened because you weren’t able to see all the relevant information you needed to make an informed decision when planning for your employees’ leaves, or even while scheduling the feature roll-out.

You needed a better way to handle your employees’ time-off management.

It becomes difficult for a single person to keep up with the expansion

Now, while that example may have been hyperbolic, most new entrepreneurs go through a similar “oopsie” at some point of time or the other when their business starts expanding.

Again, this isn’t because they aren’t familiar with the needs of their job, but rather because with each additional employee the burden of management increases exponentially – and so it becomes difficult for a single person to keep up with the expansion without some crucial information slipping through the cracks.

So, we at CakeHR will dive into this issue with alongside you, and attempt to guide you through the various possible solutions which can be used to address this problem.

Variables Determining Usefulness of ETM Systems

Having a constructive discussion about a business tool requires that we understand the functions that it must fulfill.

When looking at time-off management methods, the various needs to be fulfilled by the system are as follows:


This means that the user should be able to see the relevant information when required, in the space where such decisions are made.

So, if you make time-off decisions in the office, you must be able to deploy and use the tool in that space.


The tool must be easy to use, without the need for complicated knowledge transfer, so that you and your staff can easily adjust to its use without excessive tutoring or delays.


Where possible, the tool must be able to show the same information across various physical or virtual spaces without the need to re-enter the same information again and again.

Integration preserves the visibility of information without redundantly having to spend time logging the same data multiple times.

Ease of Access

The tool must be easily accessible to employers and employees from any physical or virtual space, without limitations.

If time-off decisions are made at the employer’s home, they must see the same relevant information that is available at their office.


In today’s business environment, records are the single-most important by-product to maintain if one is to avoid legal liability, pay their employees accurately, or even just comply with legislative requirements such as those listed under California’s new Paid Sick Leave Unless your Employee Time-off Management tool helps you keep records, nothing will protect you from those lazy part-time sales personnel who insist you pay them even for days when you knew they weren’t working, or prove to the government tax auditors that you aren’t cheating your staff out of hard-earned wages.


The easy and open exchange of information in a business promotes the development of agile business practices – literally making your business more productive by reducing the time it takes to complete different tasks.

If your team can see the necessary time-off management information just as easily as you, they can make smarter decisions as well regarding their leave planning, thus reducing unnecessary burdens from your shoulders.

Pros & Cons of ETM Solutions

Physical Solutions

Among the various physical ETM solutions, we’ve already discussed the fallability of memory as a reliable tool.

Entrepreneurs are required to juggle several hats at a time, often switching rapidly between salesperson, staff manager, accountant, and product developer within a single conversation.

It’s not only impossible, but downright irresponsible to believe that such a multi-tasker would never face a momentary lapse of recollection arising from stress or haste, and make a crucial mistake.

Entrepreneurs are required to juggle several hats at a time

The next tools which such entrepreneurs often experiment with among physical ETM solutions include post-it notes, paper desk calendars, blackboards, bulletin boards, etc.

Let’s take a quick gander at their various pros and cons.

Advantages of Physical Solutions

The biggest advantage of physical solutions is their sheer simplicity, which is why they serve as the first go-to measures most entrepreneurs use for employee time-off management.

Post-it notes and desk calendars are convenient, and enhance visibility in the office for employers.

Blackboards and bulletin boards not only make the pertinent information readily accessible to CEOs, but improve transparency within the staff as well.

Disadvantages of Physical Solutions

Neither employers nor employees can access the recorded information unless they’re at the office.

In the case of desk calendars or post-it notes, an employee would have to literally check through their boss’ scribbled notes to check if someone else is planning to take a leave within their preferred time period.

Physical tools do not provide access to information

Unless the employer plans to re-record each new development separately at home and at office, physical tools do not provide access to information if the boss steps out of the office space.

Such ETM tools, blackboards and bulletin boards in particular, fail to provide any measure of permanent record-keeping as well, and so are useless as a long-term business tool.

A big disadvantage of physical solutions is that it fails to compile the pertinent information in one spot, unless manually recorded with meticulous care, and so this human element opens the system to an inconsistent source of error.

Also, having the information written down is quite meaningless unless it’s consulted each time a decision regarding employee leaves is made.

After all, even in the first example in this article, you were duly informed when each employee took a leave, as well as when the investor meet was scheduled.

Yet, you failed to recall this data when granting the first leave, and did not remember granting one time-off while agreeing to the leave request from the second core staff member.

Physical tools like blackboards excludes you from being able to eke analytics from your data

Another massive con is that it excludes you from being able to eke analytics or trends from your data, since it’s never permanently recorded in any space which makes data analysis convenient, or even doable without a great investment of time.

You will never be able to identify patterns among your employees, and so will never be able to address absenteeism and lost productivity.

Virtual Solutions

Once the deficiencies of physical ETM solutions are experiences and realized, entrepreneurs usually switch over to virtual solutions, ranging between emails, digital calendars, online memos, excel spreadsheets etc.

This section will not include online systems such as HR softwares, which will be discussed in the next portion of this article.

Advantages of Virtual Solutions

The biggest advantage of emails is that they’re great for record-keeping, and provide access to the same information from any physical space or platform.

They integrate well across devices, and are convenient to send and store.

Digital calendars and online memos provide easy visibility to employers, and aid recollection by pushing out memorandums containing the pertinent information at pre-set times.

Excel spreadsheets aren’t just great for record-keeping, but also provide a single compiled source for information.

They can also be easily shared among staff members at regular intervals to maximize transparency.

Disadvantages of Virtual Solutions

While virtual solutions are great for storage and record-keeping, they don’t provide easy visibility into the data either.

While emails can be accessed if remembered, they provide no platform upon which the employee time-off information can be automatically compiled and accessed.

Although some entrepreneurs constantly sync such time-off events with their digital calendars, and then integrate these calendars across their devices, these still don’t provide a one-stop solution. Instead, they have to be manually set up and maintained.

Furthermore, they don’t push out the pertinent information until the day of the event, by which time the knowledge is no longer as relevant to decision-making regarding employee scheduling.

If an automated system only tells you of a time-off event on the very day it’s happening, any “oopsies” which could have happened have already occurred.

Like physical solutions, virtual solutions also fail to provide you with analytical support, unless the entrepreneur processes the data manually.

Excel spreadsheets alone constitute an overly complicated method of data processing, which requires specialized knowledge to operate and navigate, and is quickly outdates unless efforts are actively exerted to keep it up-to-date across all necessary platforms.

Lastly, they aren’t conducive to office-wide sharing, unless the employer sets protocols through which employee time-off information would be broadcast to the entire staff.

Thus, they inhibit transparency and reduce efficiency. Although these may be technological solutions, they nevertheless fail to avail you the 56% expected rise in labor productivity and 113% profitability caused by the uptake of ICTs that was measured by the World Bank, simply because they provide little to no visibility and automation, and require just as much maintenance as physical solutions in many cases.

HR Time-Off Management Systems

These time-off management systems, such as CakeHR, are often cloud-deployed human resource tools which provide real-time communication and updates to employers and employees.

As opposed to physical or other virtual solutions, these systems provide broad integration across a breadth of devices, and enhance visibility by compiling and displaying the same pertinent time-off information to employers as well as employees.

They also provide team management features in which the hierarchy of an organization can be administered by the supervisor of each tier, while providing perfect visibility across teams to CEOs.

They require little to no manual interaction beyond two-click leave requests and single-click acceptances, and do not necessitate any expertise with technology in order to successful integrate into a small business’ practices.

Lastly, they provide permanent records for the operating purposes of an enterprise, and are equipped with a broad range of analytical tools to study time-off trends within staff members.

Where To Start With Time Off Management: The Verdict

While initial success in business is determined by viability of product, most core metrics affecting survivability relate to efficiency & labor productivity.

In US alone, where disengaged employees cost businesses a total of $350bn per year, and 71% of employees aren’t engaged with work, a small business wading in a shark tank of competition can not afford to lose out on 113% profitability.

And keep in mind that disengagement is just one out of many other ways in which efficiency plummets in businesses, hangovers alone costing US enterprises another $179bn in lost productivity.

Disengaged employees cost businesses a total of $350bn per year

The simple fact that rival businesses are growing 750% faster because of the automation, agility, and analytical support provided by advanced ICTs such as HR management systems should be enough to jolt any entrepreneur worth their salt – unless they wish to join the 33% of small businesses which never survive past their second year.

Rival businesses are growing 750% faster because of the automation

Nevertheless, we hope that this article provided some measure of relief and clarity into the pains which you face as a growing entrepreneur, as well as some solutions to address the same.

Before closing, it needs to be mentioned that we at CakeHR are intimately familiar with the time-off disasters encountered by CEOs of rising companies.

In fact, our award-winning, globally top-ranked HR management system was a direct result of similar employee management issues which our founders were facing, and which led to intensive research into time & attendance dilemmas and development of integral solutions.

In the end, however, we are but a single voice – despite our core expertise in this field.

To better understand your experiences as a CEO, we would love to hear back from you in the comments section below.

Please tell us – which innovative time-off management solutions do you use, and how have they served you so far?


Written By

Aniket Saksena

I'm a business/academic/creative/HR writer, interested in pursuing and researching as many fields as possible in an effort to become a cross-domain business expert and opinion leader.