Five Ways to Coordinate Your Staff's Time Off Using MS Office

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Coordinating your staff's busy schedules can be a challenge, especially when the people you manage have different meeting schedules, vacation plans, and requirements for time away. Depending on your working environment and the way your team uses Microsoft Office XP and/or Microsoft Project, you can keep track of vacation and leave time in a variety of ways.

Solution #1 - Use Outlook calendars to view group schedules

Use this when: Your staff keeps track of time commitments using Microsoft Outlook, and you and your staff have always-on network connections through Microsoft Exchange Server or the Internet.

You need information about the rapidly changing details of your staff's schedules.

If your staff already uses Outlook with Exchange Server or Internet Free/Busy tracking, you can view scheduled appointments and leave-time by setting up and using a group schedule.

  • To create a group schedule - Click Calendar.
  • On the Actions menu, click View Group Schedules.
  • Click New.
  • Type a name for the new group schedule, and then click OK.
  • In the new schedule, click Add Others, and then click Add from Address Book or Add Public Folder.
  • Select the names or the public folder you want to add, and then click OK.
  • To view a group schedule
  • Click Calendar.
  • Click Actions, and then click View Group Schedules.
  • Select the group schedule you want to view, and then click Open.

To learn more about using group schedules in Outlook with Exchange Server, see Help in Microsoft Outlook. If your team does not use Exchange Server but does use Outlook, you can use Microsoft Office Internet Free/Busy service to Publish your Outlook 2002 schedule to the Internet Free/Busy Service.

Solution #2 - Use a team calendar and Send for Review features

Use this when: Your staff uses Office XP and communicates through e-mail. You need to pull together scheduling information from team members into one document.

Starting with a template from the Microsoft Office Template Gallery, you can use the Send for Review features to send a calendar for review and ask your team to add their vacations and requests for time away. When your team returns the calendar to you, the changes they make will be automatically added to the document you sent for review.

There are several useful calendar templates in the Microsoft Office Template Gallery, in the Calendars category. Some you could use for this task include:

Employee vacation requests calendar: This calendar allows your team to request vacations by entering dates at the top. When you approve leave for an employee, you can add the employee's name to the cell for the dates they'll be away.

2002 calendar (Excel): This basic calendar template in Excel provides an almost-blank slate for your team to mark dates on for absences or any other needs.

Shift schedule: This weekly view allows you to schedule employee time by task, time allocation, or assignment. Vacations or leave can be indicated by formatting cells with grey shading.

Employee Absence Tracking workbook: This multi-page Excel workbook allows you or your employees to enter the number of hours of leave used for each month of the year, and summarizes the results on a page that automatically totals the time away used by each person for each month.

Once you have selected a calendar template and added your organization's names and information, you can use the Send for Review features to ask your team to make changes.

To send a document for review

  • In Excel, on the File menu, point to Send To, and then click Mail Recipient (For Review). An e-mail message will automatically be generated with your document attached.
    Note: You may be prompted to save your workbook as a shared workbook. Saving your workbook as a shared workbook will allow several people to edit the workbook simultaneously.
  • Add your staff's e-mail addresses and personalize the message with any additional text you need to include.
  • Click Send to send the e-mail message.
  • When your staff receive the e-mail message and open the calendar document, reviewing tools will automatically be turned on. Any changes or edits they make to the document will be automatically added to the calendar you sent when they return it to you. Your staff members' changes will appear in different colors of text, and a comment in the document will indicate each change that was made.

Solution #3 - Use a SharePoint Team Services calendar and events list

Use this when: Your staff uses SharePoint Team Services from Microsoft in conjunction with Office XP. You need to view events along with important dates or landmarks.

If your team uses SharePoint Team Services, the calendar solution allows members of your team to add events and dates to the team schedule. The calendar uses the iCalendar Internet standard for creating and sharing electronic calendaring and scheduling information. You or members of your staff can use the Events list to post information about important dates, and the dates will automatically be marked on your team's calendar. You can even copy events from your SharePoint team Web site calendar to your personal Outlook 2002 calendar.

To create a SharePoint Team Services calendar and events list -

  • In your SharePoint team Web site, click Create.
  • Click Events.
  • Enter a name and description for your calendar, and then click Create.
  • To add events to your SharePoint Team Services calendar
    In the Events list view, click New Item.
  • Enter the information for the event, and then click Save and Close. You will return to the Events list.
  • To view the events on the calendar, click Calendar.

To learn more about the SharePoint Team Services calendar and events list, see Help in your SharePoint team Web site. To learn more about SharePoint Team Services, check out the SharePoint Product and Technology Catalog page.

Solution #4 Print and post a calendar in a central area

Use this when: Your staff members share a central area or workspace.
You need a simple visual display of dates to keep everyone in-the-know.

Sometimes the best solution to a complicated problem is a simple approach. For calendars and scheduling, you can print a hard copy of a calendar and post it in a central location that your team shares. Consider pinning a calendar to the wall in the mail room, kitchen, or break-room.

You can choose a calendar template from the Calendars category of Template Gallery, or use one of your own.

Solution #5 - Transfer Outlook calendar entries to Microsoft Project Central

Microsoft Project, a project planning and scheduling tool, and Microsoft Project Central, a Web-based companion program to Microsoft Project, can also work with Outlook to help you manage staff time off. To assist with project scheduling, team members can transfer nonworking time directly from their Outlook calendars to their task lists in Microsoft Project Central.

Nonworking time can include time out of the office, such as holidays, vacations, and weekends, or non-project time, such as time spent on daily staff activities. Team members can also choose to automatically notify their managers of an update in their schedules.

To transfer Outlook calendar entries to Microsoft Project Central -

  • Log on to Microsoft Project Central and click the Task tab on the Home page.
  • Under Send an update to, choose to update your manager or the Microsoft Project Central Timesheet.
  • Click Next at the top of the page and continue to follow the wizard instructions.

Compliments of Microsoft Template Gallery

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