The post-COVID economy will be one marked by more telework and accelerated automation, said Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell on Thursday.
“We’re not going back to the same economy,” Powell said during an online panel at the European Central Bank Forum on Central Banking 2020. “We’re recovering, but to a different economy, and it will be one that is more leveraged to technology.”
Powell’s comments mirror what other economic and business leaders have said about the future of work post COVID-19, but the central banker also gave a warning about the negative economic effect these trends would likely have.
Remote work is here to stay
Google CEO Sundar Pichai, told TIME magazine that he sees the software company having a more flexible workplace going forward even if they aren’t 100% remote.
In May, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said Facebook would allow many of its workers to stay remote and that the company would focus on remote hiring.
Twitter has said that if “employees are in a role and situation that enables them to work from home and they want to continue to do so forever, we will make that happen.
In October, Microsoft announced a more flexible workplace, where most employees can work from home part of the time (less than 50%).
And in a March 2020 interview, Chris Kozup, CMO at Aruba, told TechRepublic that even among organizations that don’t stay completely remote after the pandemic, many will continue allowing remote work.
The pace of business automation will increase
When ZDNet’s Editor in Chief Larry Dignan and I discussed the workplace trends that COVID-19 would accelerate back in March, the increased use of process automation was at the top of our list after increased remote work. Since then, more research has come out that supports this idea.
In a May report, analyst firm Forrester said that companies “will look to automation as a way to mitigate the risks that future crises pose to the supply and productivity of human workers. They will invest more in cognitive capabilities and applied AI, industrial robotics, service robots, and robotic process automation (RPA).”
In September, Gartner predicted that the market for robotic process automation (RPA) software will grow 19% in 2021 and account for nearly $2 billion in revenue. Gartner research vice president Fabrizio Biscotti said that COVID-19 is driving a lot of the uptick in RPA use.
TechRepublic’s own September 2020 research report, Digital transformation plans shift due to COVID-19, found that 39% of respondents were focusing more on IT and business process automation because of COVID-19.
SEE: Virtual hiring tips for job seekers and recruiters (free PDF) (TechRepublic)
Many workers will be left behind
Both the increase in remote work and automation will have a profound effect on workers, businesses, and communities.
Fewer people spending time in a physical office means the service industry jobs that rely on workers being in those offices may disappear. Likewise, worker population shifts that comes as are result of employers expand their hiring pools outside of major tech hubs will likely cause significant disruption to existing service sector businesses.
Lastly, business automation will eliminate jobs. Futurists, business leaders, economists may argue about which jobs will be lost, over what time period the losses will occur and what the net effect on workers and the economy will be, but few believe the increase in automation won’t cause significant upheaval in the job market, especially in the short term. The COVID-19 pandemic is accelerating this change and giving workers less time to adapt.
Powell echoed these concerns and said he was worried that the shift to an economy “more leveraged to technology” would make it difficult for many unemployed workers, especially low-paid, public-facing workers in the service sector, to return to their old jobs or find new ones.
“And I guess that for me, the main takeaway from all of this is that even after the unemployment rate goes down and there’s a vaccine, there’s going to be probably a substantial group of workers who are going to need support as they find their way in a post pandemic economy, because it’s going to be different in some fundamental ways.”
Policy pack: Guidelines for remote workers
The modern workforce—and the companies that employ them—have increasingly embraced the concept of telecommuting. The benefits are well documented, including stress reduction, increased productivity, a wider talent pool, and better employee retention rates. Even so, it’s important to establish ground rules to keep the remote work program effective and manageable. This set of policies will help guide you and your remote workers toward a successful telecommuting arrangement.
As more and more employees request the opportunity to perform some or all of their work from a remote location, the need has grown for organizations to have clearly defined guidelines that govern employee and company expectations and responsibilities.
This policy describes the organization’s processes for requesting, obtaining, using, and terminating access to organization networks, systems, and data for the purpose of enabling staff members to regularly work remotely on a formal basis.
Remote access policy
This policy outlines guidelines and processes for requesting, obtaining, using, and terminating remote access to organization networks, systems, and data. It applies to scenarios where employees connect remotely to in-house data centers as well as offsite facilities, such as cloud providers. The download includes a PDF version, along with a Word version to make customization easier.
VPN usage policy
As more and more users work from remote locations, the need for secure access to networks, systems, and data continues to grow. This policy provides guidelines to help IT ensure that VPNs are properly deployed and outlines acceptable use policies for end users on company-issued and personal devices.
Disaster recovery and business continuity plan
Natural and man-made disasters can jeopardize the operations and future of any company, so it’s critical to develop a plan to help ensure ongoing business processes in a crisis. This download explains what needs to go into your DR/BC plan to help your organization prepare for—and recover from—a potential disaster.
Risk management policy
Risk management involves the practice of addressing and handling threats to the organization in the form of cybersecurity attacks and compromised or lost data. The process of establishing appropriate risk management guidelines is critical to ensure company operations and reputation do not suffer adverse impact.
It’s not an easy process, achieving a sound risk management foundation, because of all the moving parts involved: Users, systems, network, data, remote or cloud locations, and other elements can produce a level of complexity difficult to tame. The approach must involve both the overall forest as well as individual “trees.”
The purpose of this Risk Management Policy from TechRepublic Premium is to provide guidelines for establishing and maintaining appropriate risk management practices. This policy can be customized as needed to fit the needs of your organization.
Systems downtime expense calculator
When computer systems won’t work, business grinds to a halt—and that costs your enterprise money. With the help of this tool, you can estimate just how much each downtime incident costs.
Ebook: Essential travel tips for business pros
Business travel can be stressful and exhausting, but seasoned road warriors know a thing or two about minimizing the hassles and making trips go smoothly. This ebook rounds up advice from professionals who travel regularly on business