Working remotely doesn’t suit every role and industry. However, When applied to the right people and company cultures, this approach can offer multiple benefits to an organisation.
Around the world, remote workforces are growing steadily. A recent Forbes article reports that more than 1.54 million people in the UK worked from home for their primary roles during 2019, compared to only 884,000 in 2009. This is a big leap in ten years—and can be explained by the rising availability of digital technologies that make workers more efficient and accessible, no matter where they’re located.
Over the next decade, 38% of hiring managers predict their employees will work remotely most of the time, according to an Upwork survey, and the Coronavirus outbreak could push this number up even higher, as more companies offer remote working options to their employees in a bid to mitigate the risk and keep workplaces healthier.
Why this approach works
Being set free from the traditional confines of an office-based routine has a positive impact on workers and their employers.
Working remotely allows people to save the time and money they would have spent on the daily commute. They also have an opportunity to live in more cost-effective areas or closer to loved ones. This improves quality of life and contributes to higher levels of employee satisfaction and loyalty.
Giving workers more freedom to choose their location is good for business, too. Companies can reduce the size of their offices while retaining headcount and human capital. It’s not surprising that 60% of the top 20 companies in the World’s Best Workplaces list have an active remote working policy in place.
And when expertise is not readily available or easily affordable locally, businesses can bridge skills gaps by hiring remote talent in other cities and countries.
Pockets of resistance
Some business leaders are reluctant to adopt remote working practices. Often, this is due to their belief that face-to-face interactions in the office, both planned and spur-of-the-moment, are critical to operational success. They may also be concerned that working remotely will erode the quality of communication and collaboration, with a negative impact on performance.
A lack of trust is another roadblock. If managers are not confident that their remote workers will stay on task, meet deadlines, maintain a good work ethic and be available whenever their input is required, they will not feel comfortable with a remote working scenario.
Fortunately, robotic process automation (RPA) can help to address these issues and support a productive and efficient remote workforce.
What is RPA?
RPA is an automation tool that handles routine tasks for employees, using the software, apps and systems they already have in place. RPA provides digital robots—or ‘bots—that can be trained to execute rule-based process steps, such as opening a file, extracting information and transferring this to another system.
RPA can seamlessly integrate with all the tools your teams use every day, such as Office 365, Box, Salesforce, financial systems and so forth. This means that employees can delegate a broad range of routine tasks to bots, enabling the organisation as a whole to boost operational efficiency and deflate overhead costs.
Also, with a bot taking care of the tedious, manual work that previously capitalised their time, people can focus on more important, complex, strategic or creative projects. This allows businesses to get both the routine and higher-value work done faster.
How RPA supports remote workers
Without digital technology, remote work would be difficult. Using tools like email, file sharing services, virtual meeting solutions and instant messaging apps, employees can easily communicate, collaborate and support each other, no matter where they’re based.
Now, RPA technology can open up more opportunities for employees to work remotely; and provide existing remote workers with a deeper level of support.
An RPA bot can, for example, be configured to act as a personal assistant or digital collaborator that works with an employee, based on his or her computer, to reduce workload, speed up tasks and enhance productivity.
Thanks to RPA’s ability to work across multiple systems and web-based apps, bots give remote workers secure access to all the organisational data and content they need, despite not being on-site. A bot could, for example, be directed to collect content from different line-of-business systems, compile a draft report and share this with the remote employee. This individual could then review the report and make any necessary adjustments before sending this back to the office.
And while the bot is busy compiling the report, this employee can focus on another project that requires his or her undivided attention— free from mundane tasks, the distractions of office noise and chatty colleagues.
Employees can also remotely trigger bots based on office computers to automate tasks on-site as needed. With RPA bots labouring away in the back office, more people can spend time out in the field, on the go, or working from home on complex projects that require peace and quiet. In these and many other ways, an RPA bot can act as a remote worker’s ‘digital twin’—their virtual presence in the workplace.
Alternatively, managers could set up unattended RPA bots to conduct routine processes automatically, potentially at scheduled times. For example, a bot could process a batch of financial transactions overnight or respond to standard emails as and when these come in, without being triggered to do so. This could make it possible for certain staff members to spend less time in the office.
Managing misconceptions and boosting buy-in
While remote workers are usually tech-savvy, some people in the workplace (potentially even managers) may be wary of robotic process automation. The concept of robots and/or automation may trigger fear and concern that jobs will be lost.
In this context, it’s important for employees to understand the positive potential of RPA technology. Automating rule-based processes is not the same as replacing entire roles. Rather, it makes people’s jobs more efficient, valuable and fulfilling—especially when it enables the company to give more people more freedom to work where they choose.
When there’s broad buy-in, RPA can really amplify the benefits of working remotely, supporting increased data accessibility, processing speed, productivity and performance.
How to get started with RPA?
Velocity IT specialises in providing cost-efficient, future-proof process automation and optimisation solutions. We can help you to identify ways in which technologies such as RPA can help your businesses transition to a remote working model by guiding you with the selection of the most appropriate tools and technologies that will help you gain maximum value from your investment.
rnrnGet started by downloading our free guide which outlines the business benefits and challenges of implementing software robotics, as well as exploring how RPA adds value to a broader process transformation strategy. We also provide step-by-step guidance on how to effectively implement an RPA solution in your organisation.