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WFH and Excel skills

Author: Simon Hurst

Published: 30 Sep 2021

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I was chatting to a friend recently and strangely the conversation touched upon Excel. He admitted that he'd managed to elevate himself to becoming his team's Excel office guru by knowing who else in the organisation to ask about different elements of Excel, ensuring that, whatever Excel question he was asked, he was able to come up with an answer after a few minutes' 'consideration' (which was actually a quick consultation with the appropriate in-house expert).

Microsoft themselves showed their understanding of the importance of the office guru by encapsulating the concept in the world's most irritating paper clip animation decades ago. Of course, if you were the actual office Office guru you could swap 'Clippie' for the much more approachable Power Pup.

However, now we have had well over a year of extensive home working during which finding the answer to Excel queries has presumably required the employment of a different strategy than shouting across the open plan office to the much put-upon fount of all Excel knowledge. Will this have resulted in an increased self-reliance when it comes to using Excel as people learn to work out, or search for, their own answers? Maybe many Excel users will even have been inspired to invest their time in some comprehensive online training rather than just following piecemeal internet search results and YouTube videos.

Perhaps in the WFH era people have just created less efficient and more cumbersome spreadsheets because they have had to stick to the limited methods and techniques they already knew, rather than having someone on hand to point them towards better ways of solving their spreadsheet problems. On the other hand, perhaps all the office gurus have just been very busy dealing with their colleagues' Excel queries via phone, email, social media, Zoom and Microsoft Teams.

As people start to return to their offices it will be interesting to see what has happened to their Excel skills. Will Excel users have acquired a whole new set of Excel skills and a newfound confidence in their ability to solve problems for themselves, or will there be a requirement for extensive remedial work to sort out a morass of poorly constructed and poorly designed workbooks?

If the commenting facility hasn't been restored to the ICAEW platform by the time you read this, please let us know what your experience of the effect of WFH has been on the way people have been using Excel in your organisation by sending us an email at excel@icaew.com.

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