Manage leave requests online using SharePoint

Posted: November 3, 2015

Susan CarlowWhenever  the holiday season is just around the corner many employees start clamouring to put in their leave requests and plan time away to recharge and celebrate the festivities.

Here’s a really smart way to deal with leave forms. Manage them online using SharePoint.

Paper fail

If I had to estimate, I’d say about 90% of companies I’ve worked with or for were still using a paper based leave request form.

I recently spent time with a client whose current leave process is to hand out slips of paper the size of an iPhone to staff who ask for leave.  The employee fills in the form, and the wee slip of holiday dreams sets off on a danger-filled trip around the office; sitting in overflowing in-trays, sharing desk space with coffee cups and takeaway sushi, and fighting for attention amongst large reports and giant (relatively speaking!) A3 spreadsheets.  A supervisor needed to sign the form, then a manager, and finally payroll signed off.  The original form ended up looking like a tired old scrap, covered in coffee rings, soy sauce and in need of a long ‘vacay’.  Quite ironic really.

Full in tray

If the employee gets lucky, the form travels quickly around the office and doesn’t get lost or delayed by the manual approval process.  The final approver is supposed to let the employee know that leave is approved or declined, but usually staff end up chasing their supervisor, and the search is on to find where the form is currently at.  It was also a nightmare process for payroll and admin – filing is an underrated task, made even more laborious when you’re having to work with scrappy bits of paper in a world designed for A4.

The scenario above really isn’t that extreme, I see this a lot with all sorts of forms and documents sent around the office or even around the country, and it doesn’t matter if you use an A4 form instead of ‘leave slips’ – a paper-based leave request system is an inefficient way to manage a complex workflow process.

SharePoint alternative

SharePoint provides an efficient alternative to paper-based systems.  Using the right apps and workflows you can speed it up, avoid lost paperwork and automate the entire approval process.  You can also set a calendar view and enable the team to proactively check when staff are out or due back from leave.

SharePoint Leave Calendar


Your SharePoint Administrator or Developer can create a custom list, a calendar view and set workflow approvals.  The process is then automated and online:

  1. Employee logs a leave request from your SharePoint intranet, completing fields that enforce required data such as start and end dates
  2. A notification about the pending leave request is automatically emailed to the first approver, and on to the next approver in order, or simultaneously, as required
  3. Once leave is approved, an email notification is automatically sent to the employee and payroll or admin are cc’d
  4. If leave is declined, a well-worded email is automatically sent to the employee
  5. Approved leave requests display in a leave calendar that all staff can view for planning and managing resources or projects based on staff availability


Adapting to modern office workflows

Clients for whom I’ve built custom lists in SharePoint very quickly notice a shift in behaviour, where staff proactively check the leave calendar before shouting out across the office “Is Jim in today?” or “Does anyone know when Rewa gets back from Aussie?”

TIP: Pop a promoted link to your SharePoint annual leave form on the Home page.  Staff like to see things that personally affect them, and promoted links make it easy for employees to access what they need quickly.


Wishing you happy and efficient holiday planning! Give that slip of paper a well-deserved break.


For more information on how we can help you develop a custom list and calendar to manage leave request process and help with SharePoint intranet development please contact me.

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