Editor's Note: This article originally appeared on ITProPortal and has been republished with permission.
The workplace of the future is going to be made up of hyper-connected workers, and AI will play its part in ensuring this outcome. Soon, digital assistants, voice-controlled devices, and huddle rooms will be commonplace in the office. For businesses, this rise in AI assistance will greatly improve workplace collaboration and free up valuable time for employees to undertake more productive activities.
Today’s tech-savvy employees are well-versed in tech such as live video and instant messenger to connect and collaborate from anywhere in the world. The introduction of AI will act as an extension to this technology. It’s therefore crucial that businesses implement these technologies into their professional working environment sooner rather than later. If businesses fail to equip their workers with the best tools, then they’ll lose out on the best talent. With recent research from Mercer having shown that 51% of employees still demand tech to improve their workplace and flexible working experiences, more needs to be done.
Here at BlueJeans, we expect to see a significant percentage of cloud-based companies start to bring AI into the fold to assist in streamlining their key business functions. Adoption of AI is a certainty and will be done with collaboration and productivity at front of mind. The crucial element is ensuring workers have the tools at their disposal to maximise the ROI of implementation.
Creating a workplace where workers are not penalised for working from home and can dial in to meetings no matter their location, is what the smart offices of the future will be all about. If businesses can effectively implement AI with the already existing workplace tools such as live video and shareable docs, these valuable time-saving tools will empower employees to do their best work, uninhibited by the trivial obstacles that previously sapped from their day.
AI to Act as an Extension of Existing Tools
For many businesses, and consumers in general, there seems to be a reticence towards AI, or at the very least, a level of suspicion or skepticism surrounding the technology. This is perhaps understandable with the grandiose headlines in the media detailing AI-related horror stories that will supposedly leave millions out of work. But, whilst those stories make for good headlines, they are misleading in terms of the positive role that AI can play in the future of work.
The reality is, AI does not have to be this intimidating, all-encompassing presence; in fact, the likelihood is that in most cases it will be far from that – improving the workplace experience instead. In the future of work, AI is most likely to be deployed as an extension of existing tools, with the aim of adding to the capabilities of pre-existing technology, improving the resources that workers have at their disposal. Integrating AI into the workplace can help make life easier whilst improving collaboration and productivity. These changes may not seem transformative, but these cumulative gains make a big difference over time.
Integrated AI into Existing Technology
As an example of how AI can be integrated into existing technology to play a key role in the future of work, BlueJeans recently announced the new meetings platform, which has embraced AI to make video meetings simple and trustworthy. The new platform incorporates AI in various different forms; from Amazon Echo voice control to Kaptivo interactive whiteboards and Voicera digital assistants.
Developments like this are a great insight into what the workplaces of the future will look like—offices with smartly deployed technology that can streamline tasks and improve worker experience. Smart offices should aid employees to help them deliver their best work—they should be supporting staff, not replacing them.
In fact, Voicera’s Eva is a transcription solution that joins your meetings like all other participants, listening, taking notes and providing highlights—it’s a part of the team. Full transcripts and recordings, as well as action items, are also saved and available to be shared with all attendees and non-attendees straight after the meeting. Not only is this a useful tool in practical terms, but it’s a pragmatic time-saving solution to boot. By having a piece of tech transcribe the meeting in full, it negates the need for a designated scribe at the meeting, which will no doubt be music to the ears of many. The unwanted role of note-taker can be delegated to AI, which means that all employees are available to actively contribute in the meeting, adding real value to the meetings instead of frantically taking notes. This small integration has a noticeable impact on productivity; with employees freed up from the responsibility of making notes and sharing them post-meeting, they can focus their efforts on more important and profitable tasks that AI could not.
Tamara McCleary, CEO at brand advocacy firm Thulium agrees that well-implemented digital assistant can aid efficiency as well as job satisfaction. Tamara also believes that smart assistants keep us organised, efficient, and frees up time to spend on the tasks that truly require an individual’s creative expertise. If we all did an honest accounting of our day-to-day activities, we'd most likely find that many of the things that take up the bulk of our time and energy could be better performed and managed by a smart assistant. For instance, how would your life change if you didn't have to manage your email?
But the future of work is not simply about automating tasks, it’s about improving people’s ability to collaborate with one another. Automated transcription is a useful tool, but equipment such as interactive whiteboards, which can capture images and live stream content, provide services that employees could not, bringing generic meetings to life in the process and creating an engaging and informative meeting centered around improved collaboration. This function, supported by time-saving improvements, such as using Amazon Echo to dial-in to calls and act as a speakerphone, typifies what the workplace of the future will be all about—pooling resources to provide workers with convenient technology that makes their life simpler and maximises their output.
That being said, Joanna Young, Chief Delivery Officer at professional services firm BlueLine Associates, offered some words of caution regarding AI. Specifically, that technologies such as AI and RPA (robot process automation) are still in their infancy, though RPA is both further along and has less barriers to adoption.
The impact on the workplace will only be as good as the design and implementation. Poorly implemented AI could have disastrous effects on a company, its customers, and its workforce. Businesses looking for productivity improvements are well advised to start small, measure carefully, and learn. However, they should plan for this small start soon because the initial learning is critical to identifying and prioritising where AI can have a positive impact, Joanna adds.
The future of work does not need to be a seismic shift from the current state of play. It merely needs to focus on improving the quality of the tasks that are already a staple of day-to-day office life. As communication and collaboration technology continues to improve, more people will be working remotely and companies will not be limited by geography when recruiting talent, so long as they have the tools to facilitate productive work. AI has a hand to play in improving collaboration and increasing productivity by acting as an extension of existing tools and automating mundane tasks that eat away at employee’s precious time.