Updated: Dec 24, 2019
For leading organisations, the scope of Digital Transformation extends beyond customer service chatbots and process automation to the systems and platforms that influence the digital employee experience every day. One obvious application is the Digital Workplace, providing a platform to connect staff, provide tools and resources and enable mobile working and collaboration. Now, bots and Artificial Intelligence are pushing beyond these boundaries to further enhance staff productivity and quality of work life.
AI is transforming the way people interact with their workspaces, making administrative tasks like locating a resource or requesting leave easier and less frustrating. For more advanced applications, opportunities exist to extend AI solutions to perform clerical tasks, proactively manage activities and enhance the environment.
Meetings: less annoying
Often the worst part of having a meeting is all the admin that goes with it. You can already tell Microsoft’s Cortana to schedule a meeting with Denise and Raj for Tuesday after 11am and avoid the endless back and forth that saps our will to live. But more recent iterations of Microsoft’s integrated meeting room management offerings incorporate facial and voice recognition to identify participants, transcribing + distributing meeting notes and automatic follow-up scheduling, as well as real-time translation for international meeting participants and augmented reality to label every participant so you never forget someone’s name. Imagine: meetings where you just have to worry about getting your actual work done!
Environment: more comfy
With the cost of IoT sensors falling considerably in recent years, the latest generations of smart buildings will adjust lighting, temperature and even recognise and automatically organise cleaning or stock replenishment. From a safety perspective, a bot can be trained to identify issues from an uploaded image, making it faster and easier for people to report and address hazards. Last year WeWork trialled a desk that recognises an individual via a phone app and adjusts to their preferred seat and desk height, as well as temperature and screen brightness. No word as to whether your preferred beverage magically arrives but this SHOULD be in the roadmap if it isn’t already.
Concierge: feel like a VIP
“Alexa – organise flowers for the ACME CTO’s birthday”.
“Cortana, do I have enough leave for two weeks holiday in June?”
“Mr Zhang, traffic is heavy. You should leave for your 3pm meeting in 15 minutes. Should I call an Uber?”
In times past, only the cosseted C-Suite got VIP treatment with an EA providing time management, popping up with reminders, making transport bookings and smoothing over forgotten anniversaries. Now we can all feel like rock stars as our digital assistant reminds us of emails saved in draft, due dates and neglected clients. Importantly, the best bots will not only highlight a pending deadline but provide helpful options and recommend action, simply requiring a “yes / no / please book now” to avert disaster.
Life Coach: go directly to the nap pod
“A recent Gallup study of nearly 7,500 full-time employees found that 23% of employees reported feeling burned out at work very often or always, while an additional 44% reported feeling burned out sometimes. (WORKPLACE Employee Burnout, Part 1: The 5 Main Causes (Gallup))”
AI is not only about turning us into awesome productivity machines, it’s about taking care of people at work. Chatbots can be used to support staff wellbeing and help manage stress, providing proactive, tailored coaching on effective work practices and healthy lifestyles at a scale that has not been previously possible. While respecting privacy considerations, AI can also use multiple inputs and observations for early identification of potential mental health issues and help employers address some of the work-related causes.
Not quite Minority Report…
…But Microsoft has recently revealed a vision for future desks as touchscreens. These would allow users to view, drag and drop documents and other content to combine different contributions. AI would then help to recognise images and text – even audio & visuals – to implement a consistent style, creating a cohesive document from many different collaborators.
As we become more comfortable with non-human interactions, as the technology becomes more accessible to provide more of us with individual administrative support and as employers start to take more responsibility for how our work environment affects our health and wellbeing, Artificial Intelligence has the potential to make our daily working life more comfortable and rewarding.
About the Author
Managing Director, WebVine. With more than 20 years’ experience in the tech industry across three continents, Marcus Dervin is passionate about improving the way organisations work. Marcus is a recognised thought leader in the Digital Transformation space, contributing regular articles to the technology and business press.