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Oct 10

Leave and absence planning: handling resource unavailability in Jira

An empty bright and sunny office. The note on the desk says "on vacation."

Absences happen. Some are ad-hoc and take a day or two. While others are planned ahead and could take weeks. But no matter the reason or duration, resource unavailability can significantly impact the project’s progress. In such a situation, you want to know who and when is available so that you can juggle the tasks to keep the project going. Today, we will talk about leave and absence planning in Jira with the help of BigPicture. You will learn how to manage your resources’ absences and holidays and monitor their availability.

Today we will cover:

Not a BigPicture user yet? Start your 30-day trial today. Or visit our demo page to follow the absence planning steps in your browser (no installation or account required.)

Managing absences and holidays with BigPicture for Jira

In general, both Project Managers (PM) and individual team members can register absences. The PM can add absence for their project resources anytime. On the other hand, the team members can register absence only for themselves (unless they were not granted such permission by the Jira Administrator). Here’s how you and your project team members can do it.

Absence planning by a team member

The individual team members add absences in the BigPicture’s Personal Settings and manage them on their profile pages (My Profile). To go there, navigate to your Personal Settings and select Manage Absences.

In, BigPicture, you will find two profile buttons: one for Jira (top blue menu bar) and the other one for BigPicture. Since Jira does not support absence planning, you submit all your days off through BigPicture’s personal Profile as a team member.

You are now on your Profile page. To get started, click on the +Add new button. And then, fill in the absence details such as the reason (e.g., maternity leave, holidays) and the start and end dates. Please note that BigPicture supports half-day absences, so you can also use this option on a selected day (or days).

Fill in the details in the window to register an absence for your Jira resources in BigPicture.

When you register at least one absence in your Profile, you will notice that you can edit or delete it (or continue adding more). This way, in case your plans change, you can update your unavailabilities immediately.

Absence planning by a Project Manager

As a Project Manager, you can plan absence for your resources in two ways. First by using the Resource Manager and second—with the Resources module. We will start with the first method.

Adding absence using the Resource Manager

The Resource Manager is part of the Administration section in the BigPicture app. It lets you manage workload, holiday plans, and skills (roles) for your resources. It shows all the fine details for each of your resource’s workload and time off in one place.

If you want to add an absence to a particular person yourself, go to the Administration page. (You will find it under the BigPicture link.)

 

When on the Administration page, switch to the Resources and then to the Individuals sub-sections to get the complete list of your resources. Next, locate the person you want to add an absence to and click on them to access the Resource Manager for this particular individual.

Further down a bit, you will notice the Absences section. Here, you add time off for your project team member the same as they would do it for themselves. This means clicking on the +Add new button and filling in the absence details.

Click on the “Add new” button to register an absence for your resource.

Registering absences through the Resources module

The second method involves the Resources module. What is this module about? In essence, it is the heart of absence and workload management in BigPicture. The Resources module is the place where you track your resources’ availability, capacity, and tasks. But for now, we only want to add absence, so let’s do it.

Go to your project and switch to the Resources module. From the resource list on the left hand-site, right-click on the person you want to add an absence to. You will notice a familiar Add Absence window pop up—fill it in, and you are done.

Automating the process of absence approval

Adding time off by individual resources and their managers is convenient and allows for absence planning flexibility. However, it can also lead to some issues.

First of all, you have no mechanism allowing you to authorize your resources’ absences. Which means they can register time off whenever they want. Secondly, it is the project leaders (and other administrators) who manage absences for all their resources. So depending on the organization’s size and the resource pool you deal with, absence management can become difficult.

BigPicture has teamed up with the Power Scripts automation app for Jira to solve these problems. Power Scripts enables team members to submit their absence requests as issues in their projects. Then, their manager reviews their request. If they approve it, the app will automatically synchronize the absence with BigPicture’s absences and update the respective person’s and team’s capacities for a given period.

You can find full information about this process in our documentation.

Holidays plan vs individual absences

So far, we have been talking about absences resulting from personal reasons. But that is not everything. You will also need to consider days in a year when everyone is going to be off, including yourself. These are, for example, public holidays or company-wide events.

The good news is that public holidays normally do not change throughout the year. And if there are other days with a fixed date, you can also include them in the general Holiday plan. Once you create such a plan, you can assign it to your team members.

Advantages of creating a holiday plan

The advantage of creating a general holiday plan (or plans) is keeping everyone on the same page. It means that if there is a holiday on a certain day, everyone who is subject to this plan will have their capacity equal to zero. (That is because absence means no work.) So instead of adding fixed holidays to your resources one by one, you can create a plan and assign it to respective teams or individuals. For example, you could create a holiday plan for the US teams and another for the EU teams.

Furthermore, creating a holiday plan in advance will make it easier for you to plan and assign tasks. How? The app will indicate each non-working day on a timeline. This way, you will know how long a given task will take in total; or when a task should not start and end.

Please take a look at the example below.

BigPicture’s Gantt chart featuring a WBS/task list (left) and a timeline with task bars (right).

You can see there are four consecutive days in gray color (September 8-11). It means these days are off because we marked the 8th and 9th as holidays in our general holiday plan. We also indicated that Saturdays and Sundays are generally off. That is why the 10th and 11th are non-working days as well.

In conclusion, you will also need to consider these two extra days preceding the weekend and extend the task duration accordingly.

Related: Task period mode (documentation)

Create a custom Holiday plan

Go to the Administration > Resources > Holiday plans page. You will notice a default plan already on the list. Feel free to review and edit it. Alternatively, you can delete it and start a new one from scratch.

Give your new holiday plan a name, code, and (optionally) a different color for visual identification.

Click on the +Add new plan button and name your new holiday plan. The Code field is obligatory but not important as of yet, so you can name it however you like (up to 10 characters). When you are done, the last thing to do is customize the days off. To do it, click on the holiday plan you have just created to switch to the Holiday calendar page.

Now, it is time to adjust the holiday plan to reflect non-working and extra working days applicable to your target group. Hit the Edit details button to get started.

You can edit each individual date to mark it as a non-working or working day on a Holiday (absence) calendar.

Assign a holiday plan

The final step is to assign your newly created plan to the respective team members. You can do so with the help of the Resource Manager. Previously, you have used it to assign an absence to someone. You can also use it to add a holiday plan to an individual person.

Again, to navigate to the Resource Manager, you can either go to the Administration > Resources > Individuals or switch to “Your project” and then to the Resources module. Both paths will lead you to a resource list.

The first one gives a full list of all the resources you have imported from Jira to BigPicture. The second one shows only your project resources (people whom you have assigned to your project). Click on the person of your choice to access their individual Resource Manager page.

You use BigPicture’s Resource Manager to add, check, edit, and delete absences and holiday plans for a project team member.

Absence planning and its impact on capacity

Ok. So what’s next? You know how to register and check absences and holidays for your resources. But apart from knowing who is off and when is there any other point of absence planning? There is.

As we mentioned before, each day off reduces the capacity to zero. Consequently, somebody’s unavailability might delay the execution of their assigned tasks. Or cause other tasks to exceed their capacity. Therefore, the next step would be determining how somebody’s absence will impact their tasks.

Identifying capacity status

BigPicture Resource module uses color-coded bars to indicate every resource’s capacity. If the tasks you have assigned to someone exceed their capacity, the bars will turn red. Similarly, orange bars will turn for a neutral workload, green for underallocation, and gray for zero capacity (day off).

An overview of the particular resource’s absence and capacity in BigPicture’s Resources module.

Click on a capacity bar to get the Workload details for a selected period.

Of course, you could try to juggle her workload by extending the task, changing its period, or simply splitting it and assigning it to someone else. But the main point here is that you can immediately see when Claire is absent; what tasks she was supposed to work on a given day, week, or month; and how many hours you need to reduce from her workload (in Week 34—it is 5 hours, and in Week 32—it is 1 hour).

About The Author

Content writer at BigPicture. Previously, Aggie worked for SaaS companies writing specifically about eCommerce and marketing. As a continuous learner and advocate for knowledge-sharing, she creates content for beginners as well as more advanced readers. She loves clean plant-based food and morning workouts.