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Does your company do PTO tracking with spreadsheets? How’s it working for you?

When spreadsheets became available, they offered many advantages over hand calculation. They provided a nifty way to store the data. They automated some of the calculations. You didn’t need quite the same level of business math acumen.

For many reasons, spreadsheets became a staple for business management. It’s no wonder Microsoft Excel has dominated the business world for over 30 years.

In contrast, employee time tracking software didn’t become mainstream until decades after Excel was introduced. On-premise, custom-built legacy solutions were expensive. They didn’t always play well with other software. For these reasons and others, the adoption rate has lagged behind other types of business software.

But now employee timekeeping software with PTO (Paid Time Off) tracking is accessible, web-based, and cost effective. It’s as easy to use as any phone app. Most systems are easier to use than Excel or Google Docs.

I don’t want to denigrate spreadsheets. They have proved their value. But today, they aren’t the best choice for tracking PTO.

Let me explain.

First, let’s break down what PTO involves.

How Do You Manage PTO?

  1. Create a PTO policy
  2. Train managers on your approval system
  3. Track employee time
  4. Calculate employee balances
  5. Allow for year-end rollover if applicable
  6. Adjust for tenure if applicable
  7. Answer employee questions about their PTO
  8. Notify employees of soon-to-expire earned leave

If you are using spreadsheets, everything is manual. You have to enter employee hours. You have to set up the formula. You have to make sure it works like it should.

Spreadsheets Can’t Easily Handle PTO Programs

Perhaps it’s more accurate to say, ‘Spreadsheet users can’t easily make the spreadsheet calculate PTO.’  As mentioned previously, Excel is great for many tasks. But it was not designed for managing PTO policies.

That doesn’t mean people don’t use it for PTO. Many HR directors do it. A lot of small business owners do it. But it’s time-consuming and doesn’t have a mechanism to alert you to errors. Even basic PTO policies require a moderate level of Excel know-how.

Here is an example of a question about PTO formulas on an Excel forum:

The employee was hired 11/14/11, and accrues 1 day monthly from 1/1/12 to 11/14/12, so DATEDIF(1.1.12,11.14.12,”m”)*accrual rate of 1 day per month. On 11/14/12, she begins to accrue 1.25 days a month until 1/1/13. I just can’t figure out how to take this number, and then add it to what accrues at the different rate from 1/1/12-11/14/12, or how to construct a formula that encompasses both date ranges and accrual rates. Perhaps I should also be using units in days vs. months? I don’t see where to attach a file.

Huh? How many people want to learn formulas like that? (Full disclosure: I’m not a math whiz.) Kudos to you if you know how to do it. But even if you do, is that a good use of your time? Or your HR director’s time?

Are you prepared to audit frequently to make sure it’s working right? What if you change your PTO policy? Do you want to dive back into those formulas?

A Better Way to Track PTO

Spreadsheets don’t make sense when there is PTO tracking software. Cloud-based solutions are basically plug-and-play. Or, more accurately, sign up and play.

This is how a Software as a Service (SaaS) PTO tracking system works:

  1. Choose a workforce management provider
  2. Start an account
  3. Enter  your employees
  4. Choose your PTO structure from pre-programmed defaults
  5. Enter your settings—for example, your company might allow PTO to rollover
  6. Employees clock in with the time tracking module
  7. Let the PTO magic begin
  8. Start sleeping well at night

It only takes a few minutes to set up. Then your software takes over.

PTO is synced with employee timekeeping. As employees clock in and out, the PTO tracker is calculating in real time. No Excel expertise required. PTO tracking software makes any business owner or HR director a PTO pro.

Employee PTO Monitoring

Your team members will love the employee-facing PTO interface. They can monitor their balance any time. Cloud-based systems can be accessed from any connected device day or night. This feature alone saves the HR team a lot of time checking balances for employees.

Time Off Requests

Employees also request time off in the system. This keeps everything organized and prevents requests from slipping through the cracks. It helps managers plan ahead for scheduling. It also helps them treat everyone fairly when it comes to vacations.

For example, let’s suppose you have a first-come-first-served vacation policy. You can rely on the system to record the dates of all vacation time requests and approvals.

Busy managers don’t need to worry about forgetting a verbal vacation request. The system is objective and transparent. It lets managers outsource their memory to an infallible system. For a benefit that’s very important to employees.

PTO Synced to Scheduling

When a vacation request is approved, the PTO tracker sends the dates to the schedule builder. If you try to schedule the employee during approved time off, it will alert you.

This is just one example of how cross-module syncing works. Consider all the connections between timekeeping, scheduling, and accruals. The level of efficiency and accuracy as compared to spreadsheets is profound.

Bottom line? You can automate 90% of PTO tracking.

Turnkey PTO Tracking

Some companies offer self-provisioning or turnkey solutions. As with the vendor-supported systems, PTO syncs with employee timekeeping and scheduling. But the sign up process is a lot quicker. You can sign up online any time. There’s no need to work with an account representative.

When you’re researching turnkey PTO tracking systems, make sure they accommodate the number of employees on your staff. You might want an ’employee aware’ feature that prevents punch mistakes. See if the templates work for you.

Look for free trials and take a test drive. Compare features and ease-of-use.

SwipeClock PTO Tracking Software

SwipeClock has been a pioneer in workforce management software for over twenty years. Our systems handle PTO tracking and much more. TimeWorksPlus, our flagship time and attendance solution, has an impressive track record in the industry. Over one million employees clock in with TimeWorksPlus every day.

TimeWorksExpress

SwipeClock now offers a turnkey PTO tracking system. TimeWorksExpress does time, scheduling, and PTO tracking. We are currently offering a free 30-day trial. Check out the demo to see how easy it is to use. For more information about employee timekeeping solutions, visit SwipeClock.

By Liz Strikwerda

Liz Strikwerda