What absence management challenges are SMEs facing in 2021?

absence management in SMEs
By Anthony Wolny | 26th March 2021 | 3 min read

We’ve found that typically, absences and sicknesses are managed relatively informally in small-to-medium-sized businesses (SMEs).

These casual absence processes may have been convenient in the past when employees all operated in the same office.

But now that the workforce is spread across the country, and the expectation is that 25% of UK employees will be working from home permanently – it’s far more challenging to maintain accuracy and transparency when relying on these outdated processes.

If you continue to manage your workplace absences without making a change, your time-poor managers will undoubtedly struggle, costing your business valuable time and resources.

Don’t worry to help you meet your demands, we’ve covered the main challenges that SMEs are facing with absence management in 2021, so you can effectively adapt to the new world.


Managers frequently have to create new documents, copies are emailed back and forth, and no one really knows which is the most up to date file.

Does that sound familiar?

For the most part, SMEs manage their absences via outdated systems and spreadsheets.

Prior to innovations within the HR space, this is how businesses handled their absences, and in a sense, there’s a level of comfort to using these methods.

You often hear phrases such as, ‘we’ve always done it this way’.

But whether you have one employee or a thousand, maintaining these outdated ways of absence management will only eat away at your valuable time and resources.

Informal requests

Within SMEs, holidays and sick days are often requested via informal channels such as email, text or in person.

With the COVID-19 pandemic completely flipping the way we work upside down, the option to walk up to your manager and request a day off is not available for the vast majority of workers.

This leaves emails and texts – but when you consider that on average workers receive 121 emails every working day, it becomes clear that simply sending messages isn’t the best option.

Often, we find that these absence requests get lost in an overcrowded inbox or are simply pushed to the side.

Lack of visibility

By relying on outdated absence management processes, a challenge that could plague your organisation is a lack of visibility.

When the above two points are used (outdated systems/informal requests), it’s incredibly difficult to see exactly who is off and when.

In some cases, this can result in staff shortages and impact projects due to a lack of team capacity which can cost your business.

For example, if ten people are working on a critical project and someone is unexpectedly off on deadline day, what does that mean? Will there be a delay? Can the team still finish?

Finding the right solution

Hopefully, the above points have provided some insights into the challenges your absence management could be creating.

In today’s dynamic world, digital processes are key to meeting your demands, and by using HR software that enables you to remotely manage absences, you and your employees can focus on what matters most – your business.

That’s exactly why we created our cloud-based solution, IRIS HR Pro, providing you with the tools needed for more freedom and flexibility.

To see how IRIS HR Pro can help with your absence management, watch the handy video below.

If you’d like more information on IRIS HR Pro, click here.