Using spreadsheets for absence management and employee data is not smart

Usings spreadsheets for absence data is not smart

Covid-19 has brought employee health and the challenge of managing absence to the top of the agenda. It placed new demands on managers and HR teams. They must now track a complex array of Covid-19 related absences alongside new challenges such as arranging coronavirus tests. 

When the pressure is on and there is new information to capture, it is natural to turn to the tools you have at hand. That might be the software originally installed to support some routine HR activities. It may be the flexible document tools on your desktop, such as spreadsheets.   

The trouble with spreadsheets for absence 

Spreadsheets are often the default tool of choice.  The trouble with using spreadsheets for absence and other employee data is not just they were never designed for it. Their strength is figurework not sensitive and business critical data management.

There are risks and problems including: 

  • Protecting sensitive employee absence or health data, sharing it securely and only with those who need access to support staff or manage returns to work  
  • The inability to validate whether absence information typed into a disconnected spreadsheet is accurate – data is too easy to enter and hard to check 
  • It’s hard to generate reports as spreadsheets cannot be queried like a database – especially if you need to integrate data from several sheets across an organisation  

Perhaps the most persuasive argument for avoiding spreadsheets for absence management and employee data handling is that it is not actionable.

  • There is no way to ensure the right manager is alerted when a staff member’s absence is reported.
  • It is not connected to any of the important processes of returning an absent employee to work after sickness, let alone the time-critical process of Covid-19 test booking.  

For a fuller exploration of this theme, read our PDF ‘Absence of Control: why spreadsheets are unsuitable for employee health and absence management.

Spreadsheets for absence aren't smart PDF

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