Let’s talk about second-order effects.

For several weeks now, we have all been living in a giant social experiment induced by the COVID-19 pandemic. Frontline medical staff and essential workers across the world have been out there, bravely waging a war against the virus on behalf of all of us. Meanwhile, the rest of us have been at home, adjusting to the new world of work, teaching ourselves the rules of social distancing, and attending video calls with colleagues while our kids and pets frolic in the background.

Some of the second-order effects of this pandemic are transient. For example, we may not have large sections of our workforce permanently adopt work-from-home once the virus recedes.

Other second-order effects will prove more resilient. Take, for example, automation and the future of work.

Studies of employment recovery in the aftermath of recent recessions show that the more recent the recession, the longer it’s taken for jobs to recover. As companies have recovered their revenues and reopened their supply chains, they have increasingly invested not on rehiring the workforce but on automation and on reducing their dependence on manpower. We do not expect the aftermath of this recession to be different. What’s changed, however, is the enterprise coverage and strategic value of automation technologies.

At Forrester, we have spoken a lot about the future of work: of adaptive, burstable workforces, fueled by automation and composed of digital and human labor. The COVID-19 crisis has added urgency to this trend. Automation has been a major force reshaping work since long before the pandemic. Now, it’s taking on a new urgency, not just in the context of cost but also as a tool for risk mitigation and business resiliency. COVID-19 just made automation a boardroom imperative. How should businesses react? I invite you to read my new report, titled “The COVID-19 Crisis Will Accelerate Enterprise Automation Plans.”

Feel free to reach out to me for an inquiry if you’d like to know more. I invite your feedback, experiences, questions, and comments.