The future of work: Am I going to be replaced by a Robot?

It’s 2021, the UK has gone into a third lockdown and we’re back to working from home and it doesn’t seem likely that we are going return to normal working patterns any time soon.

There is no doubt about it, Covid-19 has changed the way we work and has accelerated the rapid adaptation of technology and there is no going back.

As we say goodbye to the 9 while 5 office and adapt to a hybrid way of working, what will work mean for us, our space and social interactions? We know one thing; it will be increasingly determined by the adoption of tech; both in work and play.

The shift to working from home has provided a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reimagine everything about how we do our jobs and how we run our companies.

Technology has been providing opportunities to make life easier and here in the workplace there’s an opportunity to retain the best parts of office culture – when we finally return – while also freeing staff from inefficient processes, through the adoption of tech and more specifically, robotics and automation.

Business owners can do better, and things can move faster, and this could be their chance.

Technology has amplified this and it’s not just about the ability to have online meetings and work from home.

For some, the uptake of AI, machine learning and robotic process automation (RPA) has transformed their business to one that is agile and adept at moving with the times.

As the use of tech only increases, does this mean we are in danger of losing our jobs to the machines? Certainly, it has been the script in many action-packed movies, when Arnie has to save the world, that has been taken over by machines; or Will Smith, when a robot breaks from its rules.

According to Gartner, the analyst company expects businesses to intensify their RPA usage over the coming years- robotics and the use of automations will continue to grow.

It said 90% of large organisations will adopt RPA in some form by 2022 and will go on to triple their RPA portfolio capacity by 2024.

RPA is a form of business process automation that allows anyone to define a set of instructions for a robot or ‘bot’ to perform and ultimately it is about automating some of the most mundane and repetitive computer-based tasks and processes in the workplace.

For example, when mortgage holidays were introduced during the initial lockdown last March, one in nine homeowners took up the offer, that is nearly 1.2m people in the UK.

Many frustrated mortgage holders struggled to get through to their lender as phone lines were busy, leaving banks – who face their own staffing pressures – to prioritise the most vulnerable.

UK Finance, which represents banks, and which compiled the figures, said payment holidays were best organised, if possible, by filling in a form provided online by most lenders.

But imagine if all lenders were able to automate this entire process. The time it would have saved both the lender and the mortgage holder is enormous.

Yes, in some cases those repetitive jobs can be done by a robot, but smart organisations can then use their staff to do their jobs – in the case of lenders, this would have meant more people available to speak to worried customers during a global pandemic.

In GP surgeries the amount of paperwork is never-ending with doctors often working late to get through it all.

But here automation can help streamline the operation, taking out the most mundane tasks so doctors can focus more on patients and healthcare delivery.

While GPs can’t reduce their workload, they can change the way they work.

Martin Keelagher, CEO of Manchester-based RPA firm, Agile Automations, said: “There are many aspects of an organisation where the implementation of RPA can significantly save time and money, this does sometimes lead to the need to look to reallocate members of the team, that might have previously been undertaking those tasks manually. However, automation is all about unlocking the potential within your team or indeed business; by removing these repetitive, often, unrewarding tasks, the organisation can unleash their potential; often finding new talent, that was previously unable to be realised, as they were stuck in the wrong role, to make the best use of their talents.”

“But that’s not to say RPA will take over all jobs, nor should it. If we are able to automate the administration in healthcare; then this has the ability to free up their time to concentrate on patients care, customer services staff can actually speak to customers and bankers can focus on understanding their clients and lending and supporting their transactional needs.”

He added: “The automation of repetitive tasks, through software robots, has been one of the top priorities of business leaders for a few years now and the Covid-19 pandemic has, arguably, put it at the top of to-do lists, on board’s agendas.”

“Technologies such as RPA reduces the time and cost of doing millions of repetitive tasks every year, improves customer services at the same time, and lets your employees apply their human intelligence to more valuable tasks – and that’s the ultimate goal.”

“Are you going to be replaced by a Robot? No. But I hope, that those tasks that you see within your working day, or even personal life, that really cause you a headache, are automated, with a bot, doing the hard. Laborious work for you.”