Recent technological developments have enabled businesses to automate a wide range of workplace processes, in a faster, more effective and accurate way. It’s well known that automation will lead us to increased levels of productivity, decreased costs, a greater level of regulatory compliance, and fewer errors and risks for businesses.

However, for every “techno-optimist”, who sees considerable gains for the economy and workforce in terms of automation, there still remains a “techno-pessimist” – who is concerned that automation will bring about the mass destruction of jobs.

ADP recently found that a third of UK workers feel that their job will be automated within the next decade.[1] The question must therefore be asked, do the benefits of automation for the business outweigh the concerns for the workforce? Here are some of the more unexpected upsides of automation in the workplace:

Opening up new frontiers

Fears surrounding automation in the workplace often fail to consider the role that humans will need to play alongside robots. Whilst some sectors, such as manufacturing, are likely to see automation replace jobs, advanced technologies – such as AI – could actually create jobs in other sectors, such as healthcare and education. Gartner has predicted that even by 2020, AI will have created more jobs than it eliminated.[2]

According to ADP’s recent research, of those who fear their job will be automated in the future, a worrying half (49%) say their employer isn’t preparing to reskill them for the new world of work.[3] However, if the process is managed well, and employees are trained to work alongside automation and AI, the technology has the potential to reskill workers, create new roles, and even new sectors entirely.

Creating more meaningful work

It has long been argued that automation and AI will empower workers to carry out more ‘meaningful’ work. Automation allows professionals to reduce the time they are spending on repetitive and mundane tasks. Instead, knowledge workers get to focus on more rewarding and challenging parts of their role, like overseeing projects and problem-solving. This naturally creates greater satisfaction in the workforce.

No matter how advanced AI and Machine Learning gets, we are still a long way away from having it replace humans entirely. IBM Watson Project Debater recently competed in a public debate with a human. Whilst Watson conveyed stronger facts, it actually lost after failing to deliver its points with proper impact, lacking “linguistic precision and argumentative clarity”.[4] The age of automation will provide the perfect opportunity for workers to embrace their soft skills; communication, leadership and teamwork, among others.

Increasing productivity

Not only is there a benefit in the creation of jobs and more meaningful work, automation may well be the opportunity to challenge the UK’s productivity problem – despite the productivity paradox which has been witnessed throughout the third industrial revolution. In short robots will save time and add value.

However, there is a more significant point on personal productivity to be considered. Removing the mundane aspects of working lives, ending dangerous – or physically demanding – roles and adding meaning to people’s day-to-day is also likely to increase an individual’s productivity.

What now?

Automation is unlikely to impact every workforce right away – but change is afoot. Employers need to be open in addressing any fears or concerns employees have about losing their jobs to technology. Instead, they should consider and relay the unique upsides that automation will have, not just for the business but for the employees themselves.