• 5 min read
Blending humans and AI/bots in the workplace
by Raymond Lim
Technological evolution is a neutral phenomenon. By that, I mean we define whether the phenomenon is positive or negative, friend or foe. Some of us have this lingering fear of AI and bots replacing jobs and impacting the employment market, but I am a strong advocate that AI is here to help us live and work better now—and in the future.
AI and bots are rapidly becoming a large part of our day-to-day life. Robots vacuum our floors when we are out, smart security systems keep our homes safe, and autonomous vehicles drive us around. From search engines to voice activated personal assistants like Siri and Alexa, AI is making the world a smarter, faster, and more connected place.
In addition to domestic life, AI is rapidly seeping into workplace—enhancing employee experiences, boosting productivity, increasing efficiency, and enabling businesses to make more accurate, faster decisions. In fact, AI is capable of handling huge volumes of monotonous tasks—freeing time for employees to focus on innovative solutions, complex assignments, and meaningful work.
AI is not only capable of handling routine tasks, it can also provide instant response rates and offer 24/7 support—what we call process automation. AI-operated chatbots are specific process automation solutions. From information gathering to initiating the process of feedback, an AI-powered chatbot significantly reduces the time necessary to complete this type of work. Relatedly, programs like MS Power Automate, which enable employees who lack coding knowledge to automate routine tasks, can be used to increase efficiency—giving employees more time for strategic and meaningful work.
However helpful chatbots and programs like MS Power Automate are to the workplace, it is important to note that AI does not eliminate the necessity for human support—as people are needed to manage more complex requests. Rather, chatbots and the like are available to handle repetitive tasks and take away a huge chunk of the workload—helping people perform their jobs better and in a more meaningful way.
AI can decipher data, detect patterns, and analyze information in order to understand employee or client behavior, make accurate predictions and assumptions, or provide change recommendations. AI can even be used to reduce the time and effort needed for space utilization studies. By merely understanding how one moves through an environment, we are given insight into what, how, and why that specific space is used.
In space utilization studies using AI, sensors are employed to help a business or organization understand how to optimize space for maximum results. In the past, space utilization research took a significant amount of time and effort. People were tasked with walking around the space, observing, and taking notes of the activities being conducted. The data was subjective and not always accurate or detailed.
Today, a one-time setup is all that is required—and the AI-powered system runs seamlessly throughout the study period. The data collected is granular and precise, since the sensor is pinging 24/7, and the data dashboard collates and aggregates the data to provide solution recommendations.
Imagine a workday where an app leads you to your preferred seat when you arrive at the office, orders your favorite coffee, and organizes your schedule for that day. With predictive analytics, this scenario becomes a reality. A workplace management app, or programs like Microsoft Cortana, are great examples of this future-now technology. Predictive AI aggregates data on how you regularly use an app in order to predict your preferences and provide relevant, real-time recommendations. These applications are capable of reminding you of your to-do list, managing your calendar, recommending time slots for you to do focus work, and so on.
The AI market is extremely competitive. AI-powered solutions are incorporated in the workplace to enhance human experiences—increasing overall satisfaction and productivity. Predictive analytics help companies gain a competitive advantage when they are used to attract top talent from the job market, reduce the risk of failures or downtime, reduce costs due to consistent predictive maintenance, increase operational efficiency, and improve safety and compliance.
Process automation, cognitive insight, and predictive analytics are key AI solutions for the workplace. With these supplemental supports in place, workplace benefits include:
Research suggests AI does not always perform best on its own. AI technologies are great at driving or even replacing repetitive tasks and activities, but businesses achieve the greatest performance improvements when humans and machines work together.
To make the most of the powerful technology that is AI, we should consider AI as a means of supplementing rather than replacing human capabilities. The future of the workplace is about embracing new machines and technology as a supplement to our work—intended to simplify difficult tasks, help with mundane daily activities, and provide big-picture and granular insights.
Have you ever wondered why Starbucks opens several branches of their stores on the same street? The answer is in the data. The coffeehouse has leveraged big data to determine the success of each new location, analyze potential foot traffic, and understand area demographics and consumer behavior—all prior to opening a new store.
Big data will be the fuel for the future, just like the invention of electricity in 1882 transformed domestic and work life. With the amount of data available today, it is difficult to envision future innovations—but know big data and AI will be part of it all.
With the amount of data on hand—and the proper application of AI and bots in the workplace—we can improve the way we work and live.
• 6 min read
Finding the balance between virtual and in-person spaces
• 4 min read
Office evolution for the future
How our environment communicates purpose and offers possibilities for action