Time And Attendance Management

Tackling Time Off For Employees With And Without Leave Management Systems

Employee Time And Attendance Shortages: Managerial Nightmares

Take a second. Lean back. And relax.

The big fish you’ve been trying to take on as clients have finally relented. All your sacrifices in the past year have been validated – your trust in your team justified.

It’s a pretty big contract, either coming down through the pipelines from your own superiors or a direct result of your own diligence, but you’re confident you can handle it together with the talent you’ve accrued in the people under you.

The preparations are in place, and you have weeks of hard work ahead of you to prove your worth.

But at the end of that tunnel? Larger contracts, promotions, bonuses, and prosperity all around!

Your names whispered across hallowed boardrooms across the land, and your succession up the corporate ladders all but guaranteed as you bring in one of the fattest regular clients for your firm since before the recession hit.

Wait, Tim, what did you just say?

Sarah took a leave starting today? How? I approved it? What! Last week after the team meeting? But doesn’t Sam have time off starting tomorrow?

They’re our top programmers, and she’s the team leader! Get Sam on the line now! I’ll convince him to postpone his leave.

And call Sarah and ask her to reduce her leave as much as she reasonably can. I’ll have to somehow make it up to both of them later.

Damn! How did this happen?!

Well, although this example may be hyperbolic, it can’t be said that such occurrences aren’t the stuff of which managerial nightmares are made.

Moreover, if handled improperly, this is the sort of stuff which leads to screeching halts in promising career paths.

On the other hand, handling such time and attendance events properly doesn’t lead to fame and glory either – primarily because these are considered to be basic managerial logistics, the bread and butter of a good leader’s skill-sets.

So, let’s discuss some ways to reduce the fallout from the absence of key employees during crunch times, and to manage time and attendance events more efficiently with or without leave management systems.

Time And Attendance Events: Reducing The Damage

The first three mantras, which all good managers must internalize within their work ethic, are –

Never get caught with your pants down;

Always build redundancy;

It’s not your place to judge or prioritize. 

Time and Attendance’s Relation To The First Mantra

While larger firms have several bureaucratic measures which need to be satisfied by an employee in order to take leave, maybe one too many at the cost of efficiency such as when trips need to be made to HR simply to calculate remaining leave days – many smaller to medium firms are far less stringent about such measures.

Oftentimes, especially in the case of high-output employees, managers from smaller firms are less keen to make them jump through several hoops in order to take some time off because of the value they intrinsically add to the team the rest of the time when they’re at peak productivity.

An e-mail may have been sent with the request to the boss, instead of their executive assistants, which received prompt confirmation of the acceptance of leave.

However, the bosses being as busy as they usually are – having to juggle several corporate hats simultaneously – may have neglected to add said leave to their calendar, or add a memo to mark said time and attendance issue. A perfect recipe for disaster.

The bosses being as busy as they usually are – having to juggle several corporate hats simultaneously

Now, while good managers always check team availability to gauge whether or not additional leave requests can be entertained from other members, they are after all just humans.

Such errors are infrequent, even downright rare, among any manager worth their salt – but they do happen to the best of people sometimes. And that’s where the first mantra is applied.

To begin with, never accept informal leave requests. Chances are that if your firm is even half-way successful, then it already has stringent policies in place regarding this matter.

Therefore, regardless of the value of the team member or the bureaucratic red-tape built into the policy system – follow it to the letter.

These hoops are in place for a reason, and while you may help an employee navigate them faster in their times of personal crises, you aren’t in a position to do away with them altogether. 

There really aren’t easier ways of ensuring that you’re never caught with your pants down

However, it can’t be denied that time and attendance issues may often require convoluted scheduling patterns if they aren’t always easily visible to you, or if your team members aren’t aware of others among them who applied for time off as well.

This may be one of the largest reasons behind the rising success of employee scheduling softwares, or leave management systems like those provided in CakeHR’s core features.

This particular software, as an example, provides access to a team-wide calendar to every employee, as well as an individual running tally of available leaves and absence management trends for the past year.

All that employees need to do is apply for leave through five short clicks, which sends an automated notification to the manager, and the approval of which is virtually intimated to the employee as well as updated on the calendar – which can also be synchronized with your desktop.

The ease of visibility means that the manager as well as every employee under them can see the approved leave periods for each team member, and thus plan their own needs accordingly.

There really aren’t easier ways of ensuring that you’re never caught with your pants down.

Time and Attendance’s Relation To The Second Mantra

Most larger companies are structured in a way that teams usually have a singular purpose, and work on a single piece of the puzzle which makes up the product – or even handle specific clients if the company itself is severely niched in the market.

Therefore, chances are the teams are organized in a way that all the members collaborate towards the same end result.

If a particular key member is missing, then the work load is either shared by other personnel on the team or a temporary replacement is brought in depending on the situation.

Smaller and medium firms depend on the productive output of smaller teams with highly skilled personnel

However, smaller to medium firms can not operate that way. They depend on the productive output of smaller teams with highly skilled personnel – where it’s more likely that different members on the team specialize in particular aspects of the overall job, if teams are assigned to specific clients.

While it’s a fine model to display the power of autonomy, a team made up of specialists in different fields is always a finely-tuned machine which can be broken down by the absence of a single element.

Therefore, the first order of business is to build redundancy into the system. Or else time and attendance crises end up toppling the team in a wave of unfinished work reminiscent of a domino effect.

This isn’t achieved by hiring temps or additional personnel to back up each specialist – because all you’re doing then is adding more specialists in each branch, while reducing effective marshalling of limited monetary resources.

The answer lies in allowing people to cross-collaborate and pick up additional skills. 

Team can be broken down by the absence of a single element

Consider crack military recon or fast-infilitration units as an example. These are finely honed, high-output teams which make do with the smallest numbers possible. But each member of the unit has a particular specialization, and one or two other intermediate skill sets.

Therefore, the team has a separate medic, sniper, weapons specialist, tactician/commander, etc.

But the sniper is also trained as a back-up medic, the medic is also adept at demolitions, the weapons specialist is also an expert tactician and second-in-command of the team, the primary tactician/commander is also a master sniper – and so on and so forth.

Therefore, the damage wrought by the absence of one key player may be partially negated by another. And while the absence of two may strain things, the team as a whole may still stand a fighting chance.

Encourage team members to work on additional skills under other experts on the team


Therefore, instead of honing individual members in their particular area of expertise alone, which would only lead to stagnation of growth beyond a point, encourage them to work on additional skills under other experts on the team.

Not only would such occurrences provide a welcome change of pace for many of your members, who would be grateful that you provided them with additional skill-sets while on the job which would make them far more valuable as individual employees, but it would greatly reduce the fallout from time and attendance shortages as well.

Time and Attendance’s Relation To The Third Mantra

One of the hardest duties of a manager is to try and maintain an objective balance between the needs of all team members.

But this is where social and cultural conditioning subconsciously plays a role.

After all, if one member’s got a family with whom they want to spend some time and the other wants to attend a concert during the same crunch time, when only one leave request can be entertained – most managers would grant leave to the first member and not the second.

This isn’t circumspection, but proven fact.

Extensive studies on workspace leave management trends has proven that members who are single or unmarried often get shortchanged in favor of married team members with families.

Team members who are single often get shortchanged in favor of married team members with families

But who are managers to judge whether one situation can be prioritized over another?

After all, vacations are simply ways to rejuvenate oneself after a stressful patch. What may be achieved through time spent with family for one employee may necessitate a single trip to a concert for another.

And managerial staff are in no position to prioritize one form of recreation over another, if they wish to maintain productivity and avoid burnouts among their employees, while effectively dealing with time and attendance scheduling. 

Managerial staff are in no position to prioritize one form of recreation over another

Therefore, the best way to enact this mantra is to turn over the decisions to the team as a whole.

Since everyone is already aware of the state of the corporate calendar in a given year, the team can decide how to schedule their own vacations among themselves, thus reducing the chances of one person being prioritized over another by the head honcho.

Furthermore, some benefits may be provided by the manager to members who choose to abdicate their immediate needs for time off in favor of those with greater personal responsibilities – such as the option to switch shifts in a given day with another team member if that lets an unmarried member attend a concert or show without having to take time off.

Or, the chance for junior members who defer to the vacationing needs of senior members to take up some of the latter’s responsibilities during their absence, so that their own personal sacrifice in time and attendance matters can result in direct profit through professional growth.

The visibility of all scheduled leaves makes it easier for people to collaborate before hand

Moreover, with leave management systems like those in CakeHR for example, the visibility of all scheduled leaves makes it easier for people to collaborate before hand, plan their leaves as a team, and submit their requests accordingly.

Of course, there may still be family emergencies and/or sick days which may pop up without prior knowledge.

In such cases, the specific knowledge of whom to barter said leave time with which is made available through such systems, and the flexibility to switch said times through your consent as a manager will increase efficiency overall and provide certain measures of autonomy – which means that you wouldn’t have to devote unnecessary efforts away from your own work schedule untangling such time and attendance issues. 

Time And Attendance Issues: The Verdict – Look Outside The Box

Although a manager’s ability to effectively handle employee time and attendance matters is often highly undervalued, there is no doubt that this has the most significant bearing on a team’s productivity and engagement with their workplace.

Employees who feel like unimportant cogs in the system, where their needs are constantly overlooked in favor of others, aren’t going to contribute efficiently for too long before burning out or abandoning ship.

Employees who feel like unimportant cogs in the system, aren’t going to contribute efficiently

While many firms in Europe, and some in US, often toy with the idea of shutting down all services for two weeks in a year or so, this isn’t always possible for smaller to medium sized enterprises – who need that edge of year-round operations to compete with larger names in their chosen industry.

In such cases, managers should look to creative solutions in order to provide their employees with the desperately needed R&R.

In addition to team decisions on leaves, flexibility in work hours and added chances for professional growth for those sacrificing their vacation times, and cross-collaboration to develop secondary skill-sets to build redundancy in the work place, you could also get to know your team better in order to further understand their vacationing needs and what they hope to get out of them.

While some would answer with a holiday in Jamaica or Barbados, others may simply want the opportunity to spend the day in some other professional’s shoes within the firm so as to better understand the business as a whole.

Time and attendance issues are best handled collectively

In the end, time and attendance issues are best handled collectively as a group rather than by an individual sitting at the top.

They require an ethos of equity of needs to be established by a strong leader, who can also make his/her employees stronger as a group – by building back-up skill sets in others so that no member of the team is truly indispensable.

But, in this era of technological omnipresence, it’s rather counterproductive to ignore the ease provided by leave management systems as well.

Therefore, while the workspace ethos concerning time and attendance issues is firmly in your hands, you have softwares like CakeHR for all the rest – ensuring that you have every scrap of relevant information at hand with which you need to make your decisions when accepting leave requests, or even when disciplining particular employees for workplace absenteeism with easily available documented evidence.

In this era of technological omnipresence, it’s rather counterproductive to ignore the ease provided by HRMS

However, this is the comprehensive opinion of a single individual, and I’m certain that there are other managers out there who have further refined creative solutions to time and attendance problems.

Therefore, in the interests of advancing the industry’s knowledge of this matter, leave your feedback and let us know – what do you think would be an unorthodox yet effective way of handling employee leave requests and assorted time and attendance issues?


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.