By now, remote working has become a standard practice for many companies worldwide, as employers and their workforce adapt to the new norms of working without the need for a physical office.

For many team managers, the transition to remote work meant they had to adopt new practices and utilize different tools to help them communicate with remote employees. With newer, more advanced tools, some found tracking and managing employee performance easier, even as some of their team members are located in different parts of the world.

Teach your employees to respect others’ time and to always make an appointment to speak privately with the boss, teammates, and clients when needed.

As with anything these days – even with technology – every process comes with challenges and hurdles. But unfortunately, the quick transition from in-office to home office meant that many managers and employers forgot about a critical aspect of the workplace – managing employee leave calendars.

Leave Management for Remote Teams — and All Your Teams

Leave management adds a layer of complexity to navigating the new world of work, and for small or large teams that are not using adequate software and infrastructure, keeping track and managing remote teams’ leave calendars can quickly become a cumbersome challenge.

It’s understandable that without the proper knowledge or tools to manage leave calendars, remote teams will quickly encounter various problems that could result in missing project deadlines or having to deal with unsatisfied customers.

To make matters even more interesting, by the end of 2022, 25% of all professional jobs in North America will become fully remote. Moreover, a further study revealed that remote work now accounts for 15% of all high-paying jobs, and this trend shows no signs of slowing down.

When we see more fully remote jobs — and many more high-paying jobs become remote work — it creates more problems for entrepreneurs or managers in large-scale corporate companies that manage virtual teams in several different time zones. But we can surely iron out the wrinkles in policies, even in large corporations.

Many leadership managers believe they have to keep track of every employee and when they are on the clock at any particular time. This can become a messy scenario that can quickly impact the company’s overall performance. But with planning and strategy, time off at differing and various intervals doesn’t have to disrupt work.

There are common areas that team leaders and their HR personnel run into with remote teams. Here are a few ideas to help schedule your employee’s time off and manage leave calendars.

Set Up a Leave Management Policy

Though the virtual office allows us more flexibility and freedom in our schedules, it also poses some challenges when working with teams from different corners of the world.

As the workplace has changed over the last few years, and we’ve adapted to new protocols, employers should consider some outdated policies that may be no longer relevant in the modern office.

Even today, some companies still operate on traditional and antiquated leave policies that no longer suit the modern and virtual workplace.

Leave Management for Remote Teams:  Things Managers Should Know

From the start, it’s essential to plan and implement an updated leave policy that works for both the company and its employees.

A good leave policy means that projects can be divvied up and allocated accordingly to time off schedules. Of course, those taking some time off to enjoy the Golden Circle in Iceland, travel, recuperate or spend some time with family can be done at appropriate intervals.

Whoever might be in charge of drafting the new leave policy for the company, whether it’s an HR professional, a team manager, or even the boss, there are a couple of things to consider when putting it all together.

1. Medical Leave

Medical leave can mean something different for employers and employees, so it’s crucial to get a basic understanding covering the essential parts. You can make use of technical descriptions to help define company-specific medical leave. In general medical leave includes sick days or any other time required to recover from a medical condition or emergency.

2. Parental Leave

In some parts of the word, parental leave has a different meaning depending on your company’s industry and your employee’s gender. Parental leave can be anything from 10 days to four months, depending on the essential requirements set out by the local authorities. Parental leave generally prioritizes parental duties with family members or significant others. Make your parental leave guidelines clear.

3. Paid Time Off

Paid Time Off, or PTO, is currently a major topic of conversation in offices worldwide, especially in the virtual workplace. PTO is when employees still receive compensation or a salary even if they are not attending work.

The PTO system can become complex to control and manage, as not all countries have the same labor laws for employee paid time off. That means, in some places in the world, the authorities may mandate that employees receive two weeks’ minimum PTO, but in other parts, it could be four or more weeks. Therefore, it’s best to set up a PTO system based on where your company is operating from.

4. Unpaid Leave

Unpaid leave is any days employees may take — for whatever reason they choose — but the employee does not receive any compensation for their time off. Depending on where the company operates, you can select how many unpaid leave days employees are entitled to.

In some cases, more so than others, employees are not required to give specific reasons for taking time off, as this could be for personal reasons or that related to their job.

Take a look at the unpaid leave options and benefits

Time off or away from your computer and work has significant health benefits, more so than we may think. A study revealed that there had been a severe increase in workers citing work-related stress taking a toll on their physical and mental health.

For the most part, those drafting the new leave management policy for their team must consider that not all employees work according to local jurisdictions and labor laws, which can complicate matters even further. In this situation, employers should work on a basic structure allowing adequate staff leave and rest days.

5. Decide Which Holidays to Observe

Those few employers might celebrate the same public holiday or seasonal time, but for the most part, not all remote staff might be observing the same holidays as other countries.

In this case, team leaders can list the holidays observed in the country from which the company operates. This list could be used as the official and only public holiday that is observed by all team members. Other needed days off can be submitted to the manager to be added to the team calendar.

Just make your guidelines clear — it doesn’t have to be complicated.

In our company — the guidelines list which days are company-days-off — and then you can fill in what holidays you want off by choosing which days and dates. The guide says to let the boss, manager, and teammates know beforehand. Also, all work has to be done before you take off or arrangements made for the who, what, when, where, and how — and given in writing to the same list: boss, manager, and teammates.

It does make things a bit more complex for those teams that have members who celebrate public holidays for religious or cultural purposes, but this should be discussed upfront and noted for future reference.

Having everyone observe the same list of public holidays allows them to collaborate more efficiently and be on the same holiday schedule during regular working days and workcations. But communication is the key to making all variations in vacation and holiday preferences work.

6. Set a Minimum Leave Availability

When setting up your leave calendar, it’s good to consider the minimum and maximum days employees are allowed to take time off. When setting a minimum, follow proper workplace guidelines set out by local authorities and labor laws.

Setting a minimum of available days employees can take off ensures that all team members will receive the same amount of days off, paid time off, and vacation days during the year.

The available minimum leave days can be stipulated in employee contracts or when negotiating employee benefits packages.

7. Use Leave Management Software

The best possible way to keep track of all employees’ leave days or vacation calendars is to make use of leave management software that can be directly installed within current operating systems.

It’s best advised to use a tool or program that can be implemented within existing platforms to ensure that all employees know how to use these tools effectively and can track when one or more of their colleagues are out of the office.

Using leave management software also ensures that both team members and management can establish an open line of communication and that both parties are well aware of any schedule changes that might occur due to someone requesting a leave day. Not only does it help the team to communicate better, but it’s also more cost-effective, less time-consuming, and ensures consistency throughout.

8. Communicate a Leave Request and Approval Process

For any team manager or HR member, it’s essential to consider how long in advance employees can request time off. The request and approval process might require some managers to work out a schedule and shuffle some tasks around to other team members to ensure that projects are completed well before their initial deadline.

The leave request and approval process can be in any form that suits the company and management. However, if you notice that it takes a few days to process a leave request submission while also changing schedules, clearly communicate with team members that they are required to submit any leave request well in advance.

Other than medical or personal emergencies, a leave request process should be a procedure that helps to approve or deny employee leave well in advance.

9. Set Up a Team Holiday Schedule

There might be some parts of the year when you want to give employees some time off besides their regular leave or vacation days. A team holiday schedule can run during any time of the year, and in most cases, this is more common during holiday seasons which fall in the later part of the year. We have many articles on this type of issue on Calendar — please search and enjoy.

If your business allows you to set up a team holiday schedule, ensure that all staffers know when the final project submission is due and how long the company holidays will be. If your business does not allow you to set up a team holiday schedule, maybe it’s time to change things up before we get into the holidays that are just around the corner.

Communicating with team members about a possible holiday schedule will also help them to plan their schedules more adequately. As a general rule of thumb, some companies give their employees a holiday break over Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Boxing Day, and New Year.

Our India team like to be off for Diwali, which starts October 23rd this year. It is exciting to hear all about what they do on those days each year — and those very important devs send us pics of turkey on Thanksgiving.

We connect, we love it, we become more globally aware — and we work harder. 

10. Create an Out of-Office Guideline

While internal structures and procedures must be followed to ensure a consistent and efficient leave management protocol, it’s just as important that an overall team leave guideline is in place.

In your guideline, inform employees what they need to do before they go on holiday. This can include setting up an automatic out-of-office email response, informing customers or clients, and communicating with their colleagues when they plan to take some time off. This can also help them understand how to allocate any remaining work to those still available during their absence.

Ultimately your guideline should exist in a capacity that it can help inform employees on the procedure they need to follow beforehand, allowing for a smoother out-of-office transition period.

11. Set Up Leave Management Notifications

Finally, as an added layer of assurance, team managers can set up leave management notifications on employee leave calendars or remote working platforms such as Slack, Nifty, Gmail, or Google Calendars.

By utilizing these notifications, team members will be continuously informed of when an employee is out of the office or relatively unavailable to respond to work-related messages.

Many team managers and HR personnel tend to forget this, which can cost both time and resources if they’re not sure how to utilize their remote working software properly.

Make sure to set up notifications or ongoing reminders that an employee is not available and will only return at a later stage. This will help give all members more peace of mind when a colleague is unavailable to assist with projects or tasks.

The Bottom Line

Regardless of what system, procedures, or software you want to use, as a team manager, you must ensure that employee leave calendars are continuously updated; this accounts for both when a member takes a holiday or returns to work.

Make sure the leave calendar is constantly updated — that’s the responsibility of everyone.

To ensure that team leaves calendars are appropriately managed, I suggest you implement some leave management policy and software to help make the process a lot smoother in the long run. Of course, if the information is incorrect or not updated — that is the team member’s problem.

While it is a bit more challenging to juggle a global team, it’s essential that the suitable systems and protocols are in place well before a new employee is hired and that these are effectively communicated with new hires right from the start.

If you take the time and put a little more effort into managing employee leave calendars, it will make your and your team members’ jobs a lot easier.

Featured Image Credit: Photo by Pavel Danilyuk; Pexels; Thank you!