Remote and hybrid workplaces existed before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, of course. But by March 2020, many organizations that had not viewed these models as a key part of their operations had to do so – quickly.
This rapid shift to remote and hybrid work environments has naturally come with many setbacks, but the increasing availability (and affordability) of workplace-oriented automation tools made the transition somewhat easier.
“Automation played an important role as it was easier for companies to let robots take over repeatable tasks when the workforce was uncertain or when people had to take time to take care of them. themselves or their families who had been affected by COVID, ”said Hansa Iyengar, senior analyst. of the company’s IT strategy with Omdia, of the evolution of operations at the start of the pandemic.
Now, as we enter a new stage of life with COVID-19, many expect the increase in digital workplaces – full-time or part-time – to continue. For example, information released by Gartner this summer predicted that just over half of knowledge workers the world will be gone by the end of this year. Three to four times as many people could end up work from home than before the pandemic, McKinsey predicted.
“All of our data shows that more work will take place away from the traditional office environment compared to pre-pandemic levels, ”said Adam Holtby, Senior Mobile Workspace Analyst at Omdia.
For this movement to be viable in the future, businesses must face a variety of challenges by moving away from where people work and providing the necessary resources regardless of location, Holtby said. With this in mind, organizations are looking at where automation and hybrid working fit into their longer-term operations – and how they can interact successfully.
The role of digital transformation
When it comes to answering the question of whether hybrid workplaces have made automation easier or harder, it’s important to know where a given organization was on its way to. digital transformation when the pandemic struck.
“A clear picture emerged that the companies that had already made significant investments in technology to support remote working were the ones that did not experience major disruption, ”said Iyengar.
There are logistical issues to consider, Holtby said, including an infrastructure that ensures remote and hybrid employees can work productively and securely, wherever they are. There are also cultural challenges, he pointed out – people can be resistant to change, especially after a time when so much of everyday life has drastically changed.
But even given the unexpected expenses organizations faced during the pandemic, they are still investing in promoting digital transformation – and automating, by association – forward.
“We see no indication of slowing digital agendas,” said Iyengar. “On the contrary, the pandemic has proven that it is possible to provide uninterrupted services despite a majority of the workforce working from home, and that companies with a strong digital base are the ones that will survive the ten or next twenty years. “
Demand for automation in the hybrid workplace
But with many workplaces already planning or undergoing digital transformation, automation continues to be a priority area for IT investments in many industries.
“We are seeing increased interest and investment in automation tools / solutions as much of the workforce continues to be remote,” said Iyengar, “and where businesses are struggling to to fill positions that had been made redundant in the past year. “
In recent years, concerns have emerged in professional categories about the potential of automation to replace existing roles occupied by humans. Even though proponents of digital transformation tout its potential to allow people to focus on more rewarding work, some change and redundancy seems inevitable.
“The future workplace is where automation / robots and humans will coexist, with robots doing most of the mundane tasks, freeing people to focus on adding value to the customer,” Iyengar said. . But training (and retraining) seems to be an inevitable part of dealing with labor shortages and ensuring that the post-pandemic economy works for it. all workers as automation changes the look of this workplace, both onsite and remotely.
“In addition to the actual adoption of any new automated technical solution,” Holtby advised, “the implementation of new automation capabilities should also involve programs to help educate people on the benefits and implications of their role, and to equip people with new skills when possible. “