The future of how, where, and when we work is evolving to encompass more of our modern values surrounding work-life balance, efficiency, user experience, cost, and speed.

Factors such as AR (augmented reality), automation, AI (artificial intelligence), and the gig economy have already begun to shape the way we work. Although this all sounds rather sci-fi, it’s actually already a big part of our everyday lives.

For example, if you upload a photo to social media, AI technology can recognize the faces in the image and will suggest names to tag from your friends list. Furthermore, streaming services such as Netflix and Spotify will provide you with recommendations based on what you have previously watched and listened to.

More overt and sci-fi movie-esque examples of this technology include voice search devices such as Alexa and Echo, smart home meters, VR in video games, and virtual product try-on through AR.

But how is AI, AR, automation, and the gig economy actually going to have an impact on the future of work? Let’s find out.

Automation, AI, and AR

When it comes to automation, AI, and AR in the workplace, some people envision a world run by robots and mass unemployment, but automation is actually focused on improving safety and efficiency in our daily lives, not hindering them.

Although there are some futuristic and novel examples of this technology in practice including, self-driving cars and drone delivery, the technology actually has many practical uses including reducing administrative tasks in the healthcare industry, photo recognition e-passport machines in airports, and mobile banking payment reminders.

Automation, AR, and AI aren’t just used by big organizations anymore either. They also play a big part in our everyday working lives. From paperless offices, autofill in emails, machinery used in food production, factories, and self-service checkouts; AI and automation are more common than you think. Augmented reality is also used across a variety of industries such as remote surgery, the paint companies using AR to allow customers to virtually paint their homes different colors, and glasses companies enabling customers to virtually try on glasses.

Increasingly, businesses are  implementing AI and automation into their strategy, and it’s not just to cut costs. Automation can help employees cut down time spent on mundane tasks such as data entry, can improve customer service experiences by using AR and chatbots, and remove health and safety risks in manual labor roles by introducing robots. All of which allows staff to spend more time doing rewarding tasks, thus improving job satisfaction and efficiency.

Gig economy

The gig economy has gained traction for several reasons. Not only has it benefited employees’ modern views around work-life balance, but it has also helped businesses to become more efficient and cost effective.

The recession in 2007 meant many businesses had no choice but to be more frugal in terms of their financial strategy, whether that be reducing the number of permanent employees,  improving their operational efficiency through automation, or improving user experience through augmented reality.

Seasonal spikes in customer service roles across most businesses have also helped in the rise of the gig economy and flexible working. A responsive workforce allows organizations to plan for peaks and valleys as well as sharpen business performance. Flexible staffing platforms provide businesses with lower labor costs, the ability to scale up faster, and a diverse group of skilled workforce available instantly.

Of course, technology has also played a huge part in developing the temporary and mobile workforce, enabling the gig economy to grow from strength to strength. Temporary jobs platforms such as Indeed Flex, have enabled integrated communication between employers and employees, real-time job posting, and easy management of payroll and job offers. While Indeed Flex provides a temporary staffing solution, Indeed Flexers are well vetted and oftentimes transition into longterm employees.

All of the above has contributed to the trend of companies hiring independent, short term workers at short notice.

What does the future hold?

So will automation AR and AI affect employment rates? According to McKinsey and Company, automation will eliminate less than 5% of total occupations. However, it will be able to accomplish about a third of current activities in roughly 60% of all occupations. In other words, the likelihood of automation and AI entirely replacing us is pretty unlikely. The much more likely scenario is that robots will complement our work rather than take our place.

According to Erik Brynjolfsson, director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), as we automate a lot of repetitive work, we are going to see an increased demand for creative skills. We are also going to see an increased demand for those with social skills, interpersonal skills, who are nurturing, caring, teaching, persuasive, have negotiating skills, and are good at selling. This will create many new jobs, new avenues for education, and training opportunities.

Thus, roles in the hospitality and events industry will be of much higher value and importance. Even the industrial sector, which will likely become a machine-based workplace in the future, will require humans to fix and monitor machine work.

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