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  • Writer's pictureAmanda Sterner

How to use Shifts in Microsoft Teams for managing vacation planning

Updated: May 2, 2022

I got the idea to write this blog post earlier this year when it was time to apply for the summer vacation, me and my colleagues discussed back and forth on the easiest way to add vacation (we ended up with an excel for those curious). I was thinking how to use something already built-in in Microsoft Teams and Shifts came to my mind. Shifts is an app in Microsoft Teams to keep firstline workers in sync with their schemas. So, could we utilize something that’s already there and use it a tiny bit different then originally intended?


- Shifts must be turned on; it is turned on in Microsoft Teams as default

- A subscription that includes Microsoft Teams (exceptions Teams free)

- There need to be a team connected to the shift schedule and you need to be the owner of the team

- Does not works for external accounts (even guests accounts added in your tenant)

Steps to set up a simple vacation schedule

1. The first step is to create the shift for the team.

Open Microsoft Teams, click in the left side navigation and click Shifts

More apps in Microsoft Teams

2. If this is the first time you are clicking Shifts, it will give you the option to create a new shift for all the teams you are the owner of

Create a new schedule

To create a new shift when Shifts is open, click the hamburger menu, there you will find an option to create a new schedule in the bottom.

Create a new shift

Create a new shift

3. Click the team you want to create a new shift for. You choose time zone and closest city and then the schedule is ready for you team!

Out of the box shift for a team i Microsoft Teams

Some extra changes to make it even better for you users

From now you could just leave it as is but why not spend some extra time on making it super nice and create a better experience for your team members. Bellow I will show you some standard settings and how I would adjust it to better fit this purpose.

Adding all the team members

All the people that are a member of the team you created the shift schedule for will already be a member. But if you want to decide how to organize the people and make the first impression better for the user, I would recommend adding people beforehand.

To add a person, click the icon shaped as a person with a +. If you add someone from Shifts that isn’t a member in the team, she/he will be added in the team as well.

Add team members

You can also group people if for example your team consist of more then one sub-department.

Group team members

Update the settings to fit your team

There are a few tweaks you can do to the standard settings to make it more suitable as an “add vacation app”. One is the to put “Open shifts” to off as people wont swap their vacations with each other.

I also like to change the start of week to Monday as this fits better for Swedish needs.

The last thing I would do is to update the list of type of time offs, make sure to only keep things there that the users will use. I will start with vacation and training.

Team settings in shifts

Now what?

First you need to make sure your team finds this new way of adding vacation. One flaw I see with this solution is that you must do a bit more guiding than sending a link or share an excel file. There’s an uservoice to make it possible to add shifts as a tab in a channel, latest comments say’s it’s planned but there’s no more info at the moment.

It is possible to change what to show in the left side navigation, have a look at Randy’s blog post about App Setup Policies in Microsoft Teams 😊.

So, what you must ask your team to do is to click in the left side navigation and click Shifts. You will see all different schedules you have access to in Shifts in the menu.

When a member requests for vacation

You have showed your team how and where to add vacation for the winter. Let’s see how it looks from the user perspective.

She/he open Shifts and opens the correct schedule. In the right corner there’s an icon shaped as a clock with a question mark – clicking it will open Requests.

Add a new request

Click + Add request to add a new request.

Add a new request

If the user opens request any other time she/he will see all request and the status of them.

All requests from one user

What happens now is that the team owner needs to approve the request. As it is right now, I haven’t found a way to add notifications out of the box in the desktop client (in the mobile app you get a notification) – but I’m pretty sure you could do a Microsoft Flow for it 😊. But as with most good ideas someone else also thought of it and there is a uservoice. Microsoft says it’s planned to make it more obvious when new requests come in the desktop app as well.

The owner clicks the clock icon and there she/he will see all requests that needs to be approved.

Owner needs to approve/reject request

And then it’s time to approve/reject.

Owner needs to approve/reject request

This is how the notification will look in mobile for the team owner:

Mobile view

The user finds if the request has been approved under the same place as where she/he requests for time off, in the mobile app she/he will get a notification as well.

An approved request

Mobile view

The end result?

An approval flow without any extra steps for vacation. A calendar easy reachable from desktop and mobile where you can add time off and see when other people are off. All vacation gathered in one place, you don’t have to have a large file that needs updating every year.

Besides this – why not use something that you are already paying for.

A shifts schedule for a team


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Marcus Docherty
Marcus Docherty
Mar 29, 2023

Hey I just found this page and this looks like it could be a promising solution for our organisation! Thanks for sharing! Can you also use this to manage allowances or is that a step too far and you still need to keep a spreadsheet running for that?

Amanda Sterner
Amanda Sterner
Mar 30, 2023
Replying to

Thanks for your comment Gary! Very valuable 🥰


Mar 25, 2021

Hi Amanda - thanks for sharing - this could be useful for our team. Is there a way for team members to simply enter there vacation plans without having to send requests?


Nicholas Putz
Nicholas Putz
Oct 13, 2020

Great article! Do you know if there is a way when exporting the schedule for the app to provide a summary of "requests" used in a given period?


Amanda Sterner
Amanda Sterner
Aug 24, 2020


My answer is as boring as keep your eyes on the UserVoice (if you vote on an item you'll get updates). I think this is the best place to keep updated.

There's a tag for Shifts, I could see one about Outlook at least :)


Aug 20, 2020

Hi Amanda! We've been using this implementation for a little while now, and it works well enough. That said, the product is barely a v1.0, which is weird considering it replaces their StaffHub product.

Anyway, do you have any insight on when we might see:

  1. Exchange/Outlook integration with the Shifts calendar. So, a new approved request would then appear on the Exchange/Outlook calendar.

  2. Better notifications in Shifts. Right now, when a person makes a vacation request, the manager only gets a notification in the mobile Teams app. There is no notification alert or email to the manager from the web or desktop app.

  3. An update to the Shifts Graph API. Because of the whole notification issue, I put together a…

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