Can software automation cover for furloughed employees?

Can software automation cover for furloughed employees?

Rishi Sunak announced today that the government’s furlough scheme to help employers cover the cost of employees salaries would be extended for a further four months until October.

The government furlough scheme allows companies to temporarily stop employees from doing any work without laying them off. In return, the government pays 80% of the employee salary up to a maximum of £2,500 per month. The big drawback with the scheme is that the employee is not allowed to do any kind of work for the business during this time.

With many businesses beginning to think about re-opening again over the next few months, it may be tempting to start bringing some employees back to work. At that point, the business will be unable to claim under the furlough scheme for those employees. So is there an alternative?

Using automation to minimise costs

If you need help with everyday office admin work – the things like creating and updating spreadsheets, entering data into your company databases, handling initial requests for information by email – then it’s more cost effective to employ automation software: virtual automated employees.

Right now, it’s critical for businesses to keep costs to a minimum. Keeping employees furloughed means that a large part of your company costs – your employee salaries – is covered by the government. By using virtual automated employees you can retain that income while still getting the important everyday work done.

Let’s look at an example, Sally works at a business full-time. Her work includes receiving an Excel spreadsheet by email each day and update the price of each product in the spreadsheet in the company database. On average, around 250 items are updated each day. Her salary is £18,500 so the government covers approximately £1,230 per month. Bringing Sally back into the office costs your business £1,230 per month.

While building agility and resilience have been dominant themes for much of the past decade, the unique nature of the current situation has left many companies unprepared. More than a third (36%) are accelerating their investments in automation.

Steve Krouskos, EY Global Vice Chair

What if you used automation software? Well that job that Sally does could be done without bringing anyone back into the office. Additionally, it could be done faster and sooner as the virtual automated employee works 24/7 – the email would be processed as soon as it arrives in the inbox. As a business owner, your costs are kept to a minimum and you still benefit from the furlough scheme. The company’s future – including Sally’s job – is more secure.

How does automation work?

A virtual automated employee is a software product that perform repetitive manual tasks that humans don’t like and don’t do that well. While humans lose concentration, motivation and end up making mistakes, virtual automated employees do the task in the same way every time.

Business can make use of a technology called robotic process automation (RPA) which many companies are adopting to increase productivity, improve profitability, reduce costs and make their businesses more dynamic with better customer services. Employees within those companies find they have more time to focus on important revenue generating tasks helping the business to grow.

Software automation vendor logos including UiPath, BluePrism, Softomotive, Automation Anywhere and Microsoft
Robotic Process Automation (RPA) software vendors

Another benefit of virtual automated employees is that they can be scaled up or down to suit business requirements. Once the first tasks are automated in a business, many businesses recognise that other tasks can also be automated. A single virtual automated employee can handle multiple tasks and even interact with human operators if necessary (to request approval, for example). Running cost start at £399 per month (excluding VAT and setup fees) and they can be switched on or off as required.

Secure your business’s future

As tough as things are right now, things will start getting back to normal. It may take many months so now is the right time to be thinking about managing costs while keeping important parts of your business running.

Automation is a technology that’s stable, secure and reliable. Many big companies (including Microsoft and IBM) are getting involved in the sector as they know that automation will be critical to businesses moving forward.

Companies that embrace automation make themselves more cost effective, resilient and profitable in the long term with happier employees working on tasks that they see as meaningful and important to the business.

What are you doing to secure the future of your business?

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