Global firms speed up automation after Covid-19 forces employees to stay home

Nearly half of top bosses in 45 countries across the world are speeding up plans to automate their businesses as workers are forced to stay at home during the coronavirus outbreak.

Some 41% of respondents in a survey by auditor EY said they are investing in accelerating automation as businesses prepare for a post-crisis world.

The news comes just days after new figures showing that 3.3 million people have filed for unemployment in the US.

The record figures raise serious worries about the economy, having jumped from less than 300,000 the week before.

“The human cost is the most tragic aspect of this crisis, not only in terms of the lives lost, but also the number of livelihoods at risk,” said Steve Krouskos, at EY.

“As business leaders respond with urgency to the unprecedented impact that Covid-19 is having globally, workforce welfare and job preservation will be at the top of their minds.”

In the UK, the Government has said it will guarantee 80% of salaries for workers who are unable to do their jobs because of the outbreak.

Meanwhile, most American adults are set to receive a cheque of up to 1,200 dollars (£1,000) after politicians approved a two trillion dollar (£1.7 trillion) stimulus package to breathe life into the economy.

Of the 2,900 executives who were surveyed by EY across 45 countries, 43% said they expect normality to return by the third quarter of this year.

But until then, 73% say, Covid will have a “severe impact” on the global economy.

A majority of companies said they were already planning major transformation before the Covid-19 pandemic hit.

Once normality returns, they will focus on new investment in digital and technology, the survey found.

“Business leaders are seeing their transformation plans paused or slowed currently. With these plans set to restart, possibly with added energy, once the situation stabilises, executives will have to make faster moves to reimagine, reshape and reinvent their business and create long-term value,” Mr Krouskos said.