How to Increase Productivity and Save Costs During an Economic Downturn

Christian Brink Frederiksen

CEO of Leapwork

As the coronavirus (Covid-19) continues to spread across the globe, more company leaders are starting to ask themselves the same question:

Are we on the verge of a long-lasting economic recession?

And if so…

How deep of an impact will this recession have?

Pandemics unfold over months and the economic conditions become eventually distorted. This causes business disruption and uncertainty. While some companies experience business obstruction, others thrive during the outbreak. Independently of which side your organization is in, you should nevertheless prepare yourself for the economic downturn that has been caused by this pandemic.

Most organizations suffer during a recession, both because there’s a decline in demand and an increase in uncertainty. For this reason, businesses should devise a contingency plan to pull through this economic decline, no matter the size.

So, how can an organization prepare for a possible recession and what should it do when one hits?

According to Harvard Business Review, research shows that there are ways to mitigate the damage. The most interesting findings were found in four areas: debt, decision-making, workforce management, and digital transformation.

Investing in Efficiency Through Technology

A key indicator of success during a recession is whether an organization continued to invest in technology or not. It’s tempting to think that during an economic downturn one should secure the hatches and play it safe. However, when an organization invests strategically in the right technology, they’re more likely to come out on top once the market bounces back.

According to Gartner, technology will enable organizations to better adapt to the changing situation of the coronavirus outbreak. Technology can make your organization more efficient, flexible and transparent.

Software Automation as a Key Enabler

Katy George, a senior partner at McKinsey, says that organizations should prioritize digital transformation projects, such as automation, because they pay off quickly. Automation helps organizations increase productivity and mitigate risk which, in turn, helps reduce costs.

In the short term, investing in automation can help your organization operate more efficiently with less overhead costs while making better use of your current resources. And this means that, in the long term, your organization will be ready to make capital out of the economic growth once it occurs.

When we find ourselves in times of economic turmoil, we are able to turn attention toward our organization’s internal processes. Meaning that, instead of cutting staff or services, you can look at the challenges that your organization has been facing and identify ways in which automation could help you improve those inefficiencies. Regardless of whether you will use automation for RPA or test automation, it will surely simplify and reduce costs throughout your operations. 

A key factor, however, is adoption time. The quicker your employees can implement and adopt automation in their day-to-day work activities, the quicker you will see the economic value of automation. A way to ensure a short learning curve and quick adoption time is to invest in a no-code automation tool. No-code automation tools allow anyone to automate without previous programming knowledge. This, in turn, speeds the return on investment (ROI).

Productivity Increase

Investing in automation can keep your employees productive and creative by allowing them to spend more time in tasks that really have a financial impact on your organization. If you were to automate processes within a Sales Department, for example, it would help sales reps spend more time engaged in activities that drive revenue, such as sales interactions instead of drowning them in admin tasks.

Not only that, investing in your team during an economic downturn can be a strategic way to retain your best employees and limit staff turnover. This will become extremely important once things pick up again.

Risk Mitigation

If there was ever a time when core business processes must operate at their very best, it is during a financial downturn. Automation speeds up the process and reduces human error while ensuring that all business processes are operating as expected.

Some may use automation for data migration, for product quality assurance during the software development process, or for monitoring critical systems in the health, banking or financial sector. 

Independent of which use you give to automation; one thing is certain: mitigating risk during a recession is paramount. So, the sooner you have a solid automation portfolio in place, the better. 

Cost Reduction 

Using technology to handle time-consuming and error-prone tasks reduces operating costs. As mentioned above, automation increases productivity and reduces risk which, as a result, reduce costs in an organization.

Automation not only makes things easier for employees, but it also helps reduce OPEX in the process. It allows organizations to free up human resources in order to tackle the more challenging work that is needed during challenging times.

Lastly, automation offers a quick ROI that outweighs the initial set up cost, especially when we talk about no-code automation.

“The ROI is absolutely there. Leapwork has provided us a service that makes it easier for us to reach our main objective, which is to deliver 5 times the ROI within one year,” Paul Fredrik Eilertsen, Team Manager for Process Automation at VISMA.


Many organizations are hesitant to adapt to new technologies, especially when they see an economic downturn ahead. However, automation makes organizations more agile and this, in turn, allows them to endure uncertainty and the evolving impact of a recession.

No matter what the motivation behind investing in automation software is, a business will always experience reduced costs and mitigated risk, as well as increased productivity. And these benefits will occur simultaneously, as they each reinforce one other.

Organizations that neglect digital transformation during harsh times may be ignoring a key component of business resilience. Let automation help you withstand the storm and put you at the top when the weather clears.

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