As I look out on another wet and windy day in London, I’ve started to think about when to take my next week off work. Most employees take their annual leave, have a great time away, occasionally check their blackberry and think no more about work except on their return when they show their colleagues a few holiday snaps and say they had a good time.

Well, as assistants we know that we are not most employees! We are immersed in everyone else’s vacation plans from the moment they decide to book their trip because we look after the department’s annual leave records! At my current company, we use an online system to record holidays, and it is relatively straightforward but at my previous workplace we all had to complete forms by hand and ask our manager to sign their approval, the document was then handed to me to input into a spreadsheet. Most of you should be using an online system now but if not, here are a few things to consider when managing holiday records:

Managing holiday records

  • I always add a calendar entry for those colleagues and managers that need to know which member of staff is on annual leave. Put the note as an ‘all day event’ and colour code it accordingly.
  • I am allowed to use my judgment when it comes to approving holiday on behalf of my Director. If, for example, a colleague asks for anything from one day through to a week I will accept this on my manager’s behalf. If the vacation is longer than a week, I will confirm this is okay with my Director before approving the holiday.
  • I also seek confirmation from my Director if the annual leave request falls during a busy time in the office or another member of staff has also asked for the time off.
  • I always try to be fair with holiday requests and will often help my colleagues get the time off that they want. You never know when you might want time off and need to ask someone to cover for you!
  • I ensure that the person going on annual leave has set up an ‘out of office’ message and that they have added the appropriate person to deal with any urgent messages while they are away. I ask them to let me know who that person is in case I have to deal with anything on their behalf.
  • If the person on vacation is a direct report to my Director, I set up a catch-up meeting on his or her return to the office.
  • If you do have to input holiday records on to a spreadsheet, I would suggest that you have a different tab for each employee in the department and permit them to see their details (but no one else’s). This means they can see how many days they still have left without asking you directly.
  • If you use a manual form, don’t make it too complicated. I Would suggest you capture the following information
    • The name of the person on annual leave
    • The name of their line manager
    • The dates they are away and when they will return
    • The number of days they are taking out of the office
    • The number of days annual leave they have already had this year
    • How many days annual leave they have left

I hope some of my suggestions help. I think this is one of the easiest processes to get right at work however it also needs to be easy for your colleagues to use. It is worth remembering that they just want to take their holiday and don’t want to be completing a load of paperwork to get their much valued time off!