New Study: Impact of COVID-19 on the Future of Work and Automation

forrester study covid impact future of work

There are a variety of terms out there for what the world is experiencing right now: turning point, hinge moment, or critical juncture. Whatever you call it, it means change is happening. And not just short-term, Band-Aid change, but transformational, big-picture change.

Over the last several months both businesses and individuals have come to the realization that what comes after the COVID-19 pandemic won’t be a “return to normal” but a chance to create an entirely new version of normal.

As an addendum to the January 2020 thought leadership paper, "The Future Of Work Is Still Being Written," UiPath commissioned Forrester Consulting to evaluate the impact of COVID-19 on the future of work and automation. The resulting study describes how the pandemic has accelerated digital transformation plans and “forced the world of work to balance the dichotomy of employees seeking assurance and stability with organizations themselves pursuing resilience and agility.”

In this post, we’ll walk through some of the key takeaways from Forrester’s study. We'll also talk about how to achieve your automation goals while considering the changing employee experience.

Automation as post-pandemic business imperative

Forrester’s study states that “Automation will define the post-pandemic world of work.” When the COVID-19 pandemic began to spread in early 2020, organizations experienced immediate disruptions to their revenues and supply chains. And as the months wore on those disruptions only worsened, creating extraordinary financial pressure.

This disruption led businesses to shift their priorities to digitization—and quickly. As Forrester put it: “The world has seen more digital transformation in the past months than in the preceding five years.”

These digital transformation efforts, including increased spending on robotic process automation (RPA), may have previously been projects for a time in the vague future. But COVID-19 pushed organizations to enter the future of work now. The Forrester study notes that organizations won’t just go back to the way things were before when the pandemic is no longer an issue.

Once the pandemic passes, which it eventually will, organizations will see structural changes to work. In fact, with so many people already working from home, employees and enterprises must reshape how they conduct themselves. Automation technologies have emerged as an invaluable asset for organizations to tackle this new world.

Forrester Consulting, "The Future of Work: A Pandemic Spotlight"

In fact, 48% of the respondents to Forrester’s survey said they expect to increase their RPA spend in the next 12 months by 5% or more.

RPA addresses COVID-19 challenges

So what are these organizations using RPA for? According to Forrester’s study, high priorities for automation include:

  • Prioritizing speed and business-model resilience

  • Augmenting IT use cases

  • Expanding self-service capabilities and chatbot options

Businesses are also using RPA to address cost pressures by rapidly automating back-office and operational tasks and supporting remote work.

Automation anxiety is only increasing

Another key takeaway from Forrester’s study is that employees’ pre-pandemic concerns about losing jobs to automation have only gotten more intense. 57% of respondents said their employees are moderately or very anxious regarding their ability to succeed in their jobs. And 14% went so far as to say their employees feel threatened with the growing complexity of tasks.

This means that organizations must develop a post-pandemic employee experience. According to the study: “Providing opportunities for education in the workplace and increasing employees’ transferable skill sets will help organizations sustain a growth mindset and make them fit for the future of work.”

In addition to leveraging automation, addressing employee anxiety head-on will be a crucial part of succeeding in the new future of work. Download the full Forrester study to see their recommendations for how to tackle the challenges of COVID-19 and strategically position your business, and your employees, for that future.

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Kelly Glista-Anderson

Manager, Global Demand Generation, UiPath

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