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Downturns are “moments of truth” that are likely to make a clear difference between companies that move in the direction of success and those that go backwards. It’s all about how companies choose to respond to the factors that drive economic decline, and how well and fast they are able to adapt to new economic and social dynamics.

Declines definitely pose significant risks, and it’s the organisation’s approach that can actually turn risks into opportunities. Both gains and losses are more dramatic during periods of instability. A Bain & Company research from May 2020 shows that there are 47% more ‘rising stars’ in troubled than in stable times, and 89% more ‘sinking ships’. The natural question is then what you should be doing in order to maximise the likelihood to be a member in the cohort of rising stars after COVID19.

“84% of companies across the industry spectrum consider accelerating automation initiatives – 95% in financial services, 90% in retail, 83% in manufacturing, etc.”

Faced with these very high percentages, you too might consider robotic process automation as an opportunity to position your company on the winners’ side after the confrontation with the coronavirus.

We’ve been trying to keep you up to date with post-COVID transformations, and with corresponding suggestions for how to leverage RPA in order to adapt, and to use these shifts to your advantage. We argued that crises can be better handled by using robotic process automation, and that the RPA-driven rise in operational efficiency, i.e., performing the processes better, faster, and cheaper, can help you conquer the ‘new normal’ that we are about to experience.

For now, we will delve into the topic of remote work, and how RPA can assist businesses to adjust to this change of the workforce landscape brought about by the pandemic.

The connection between RPA and remote work

The story is rather simple: the only way to stop the spread of the virus was to prevent as much as possible physical contact between people. This is why schools, pubs, restaurants, and eventually also parks closed, and most people had to adapt to working from home, e.g., 62% of employed people in the United States, according to Gallup.

The shift in how we work happened almost overnight. And since results weren’t bad at all if we consider productivity improvements, improved morale, reduced employee turnover, and operational cost savings, remote work is one of the shifts due to COVID19 that’s worth further attention. In fact, in the case of Australia, an Indeed survey from 2019 found that 68% of Australian employers were already allowing remote work. So we might be facing a very natural transition.

The Deloitte report Post COVID-19 Cost Optimisation recommends that businesses conduct a “Strategic Cost Optimisation” in order to better manage the difficult times we are all traversing. The first step they suggest is workforce optimisation, or ensuring a correct (i.e., skill-based) and efficient division of labour. They bring robotic process automation into the picture as an appropriate technology to foster post-pandemic workforce-related measures.

How can robotic process automation support remote work?

1. Performing revisions required by the context of the pandemic

Many companies had to quickly tailor their legacy systems to the context of the viral outbreak. Manually modifying the paid leave and sick day policies would have meant revising the HR and Finance systems, which is very time consuming (let alone dull).

On the other hand, programming software robots to do it is fast and not difficult at all. And let’s not forget that it allows your employees to invest more of their time and cognitive energy into adjusting to a situation that poses a significant toll on mental wellbeing.

2. Foster new hires’ adjustment to a new work environment

The HR department is one of the most affected by remote work. Despite the pandemic, you might still want/ need to perform additional hirings. But what are you to do with new hires if there is no one who can show them around and help them get used to a new environment?

Well, you might offer them the help of RPA for getting used to new systems. Working (from home) with bots “on their side”, they wouldn’t have to burden their memory with “how to…” information. The bots can simply perform fast and accurately the clicks and keystrokes  that are necessary. The outcome is surely going to be a lot less marred by new hires’ errors.

3. Automatically update meeting status

When working from home, colleagues cannot know directly if you are or aren’t at your desk. But this is relevant information for efficiently tailoring the workflow to staff availability, so you’d better do something about it.

Software robots can easily use information from your calendar activity to update your Slack status (or whatever software you’re using for internal communication). This streamlines the collaborative workflow. Bots can use the information in your calendar to detect conflicting times and locations, and to subsequently attempt to reschedule.

4. Efficiently handle back office operations

Back office tasks can be very monotonous and dull – consider settlements, clearances, record maintenance, or regulatory compliance. But tedious as they are, they are a must for all businesses. In the case of highly regulated industries, such as telecommunications, media or finance are in Australia, the need to keep up with new compliance regulations is even more stringent.

Robotic process automation (RPA) provides support for remote work by taking over these repetitive back office tasks, which have many of the features that are suitable for RPA, e.g., rules based, low exceptions, high volume, etc. In the meantime, your employees can work safely from home, dedicating themselves to more high-value jobs.


The shift to remote work is not exactly “a piece of cake”, and companies must make quite an effort to rethink the meaning of “workplace”, perhaps even let go the concept all together for a while. To this end, they should make use of all available resources.

In the context of the coronavirus pandemic, the acceleration of digital transformation by means of digital upskilling seems to be the way to go. Because robotic process automation enables 24/7 processing capabilities and an average 75% reduction in process TAT, it promises to ease the adoption of remote work. Everything for the benefit of our economies, societies, and institutions, during times when the threat of the pandemic effects is ubiquitous.

If you haven’t read our recent whitepaper Thought Leaders Survey: How Are Australian Companies Leveraging Automation? where we surveyed over 2000 thought leaders from Australian companies – now’s the time to do so. Download it instantly to get an idea about current business trends and what your competitors are doing, and make better business decisions during these uncertain times.

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