How is technology set to change the way we work?


Careers, AI

Hands up – who’s had a case of the Monday blues? Or maybe you’ve recently thought that you can't believe it's 'hump day' already, or said TGIF to a co-worker at the end of a regular, 9-to-5 week? The chances are that, as technology continues to improve, you'll soon be able to retire these awful sayings because the regular working week is poised to undergo a major transformation and we think it’s about time.

The 40-hour work week stems from labour laws created in the early 20th century.  When factory work became the primary form of employment in the western world, employees originally worked six days a week, taking Sundays, the traditional Christian day of rest, as a day off. It wasn’t until the twentieth century that businesses like Ford Motor Company decided that a five-day week, working eight hours a day, was better for its employees. It was justified with the fact that the extra time off would increase consumer spending and aid the economy. Also, the increased resting time would mean the workers’ productivity wouldn’t be reduced. But is this model now becoming obsolete?

According to recent analysis by the Trades Union Congress, Brits are working the longest hours in the EU, but are on average, less productive. Following this, Richard Branson wrote a blog stating that technology was destined to kill the 9-5 working week.

Branson goes on to say that, “…the amount of jobs available for people is going to decrease as technology progresses. New innovations will drive industries forward, but they will also reduce our reliance on people power. Ideas such as driverless cars and more advanced drones are becoming a reality, and machines will be used for more and more jobs in the future. Even pilot-less planes will become a reality in the not too distant future."

We’d be naive to think the working week will never change again, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll all be doing 3 days a week within the next 10 years. Before this happens, AI is likely to radically reshape how we work from home, and in the office. Let’s take a look at how our working week is likely to change in the near future.

Improve employee efficiency

According to a recent survey, nearly 50% of workers said they have struggled to locate documents and content which is scattered in disparate locations across their organisation. The study also found 40% of workers had to search three or more locations to find a file or document and that nearly half of workers were unsure if they had the most recent version.

The copious amount of data generated daily is a nightmare for employees and wastes valuable time. Thankfully, that’s where AI can help. New developments in AI set the stage for an intelligent digital assistant that is designed to help employees with data-oriented tasks — such as prioritising emails based on urgency, balancing workflows and proactively attaching relevant content to emails.

AI can automatically analyse metadata tags and relationships to apply context to information, eliminating the need for employees to manually categorise content. AI can then take that context and proactively provide “logical” assistance — such as prioritising responses to high-importance emails or preventing employees from sharing confidential information.

Improving Morale

Critics argue that artificial intelligence may be threat in the workplace. However, AI can also improve the employee experience in many ways. Drawing upon a wide variety of internal data, such as exit interviews, employee reviews and pulse scores, AI could continually monitor employee morale, allowing companies to adjust their practices as needed, better engage workers and reduce high turnover.

Predicting Work Patterns

Voice assistants like Alexa, Siri and Cortana are gaining popularity in our homes and now, employees are expecting their own voice-activated personal assistants in the office to help perform business tasks and make their job easier.

With machine learning and intelligent agents (chatbots, voice assistants), AI will free employees up to be more mobile, more productive and work smarter. While AI still has a way to go, it is soon hoped that chatbots will use machine learning to be able to have nonlinear conversations and make predictions based on previous workplace habits and patterns.

As technology continues to facilitate the future of work, it's time for organisations to recognise the future of employee expectations as well. From mobile applications to video conferencing to email and voice assistance, employees want technology that makes their job easier. And as a result of these technologies removing location restrictions and promoting a more flexible work environment, companies can experience a positive impact on their ability to recruit, hire, and retain top talent, and who knows – maybe one day we will be looking forward to a 3-day weekend 😉

Posted by Helen Thomas