Rise in flexible working coincides with the rise of robots

Adecco, part of The Adecco Group UK&I – a provider of workforce solutions, has launched research which found that almost half of employees (48%) think artificial intelligence (AI) will positively benefit them, by helping them to work more flexibly.

The ‘Humans vs Robots’ report, based on responses from 1,000 board level and senior decision makers and over 1,000 workers in 13 sectors across the UK, revealed the potential impact robotics and AI will have on the workplace.

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Despite the supposedly misinformed rhetoric that robots will steal jobs and leave people redundant, two-thirds (65%) of employees believe that overall, technology has actually increased the number of jobs available to them.

For the world as a whole, the majority also believed that advances in technology will continue to create more jobs than it destroys over the next decade (54%).

Dr Carl Benedikt Frey, co-director and Oxford Martin Citi Fellow, Oxford Martin Programme on Technology and Employment commented: “In many ways, robots could enhance careers rather than destroy them. The introduction of automation in the workplace will usher in a time where our jobs will become more creative and involve more social interaction. Although robots will render some occupations obsolete, as technology has in the past, humans and robots will also complement each other in many tasks, creating new types of jobs.”

Similarly, Alex Fleming, managing director at Adecco UK and Ireland added: “Far from the widespread fear that automation will make employees redundant, our research shows that the workplace of the future could create opportunities for more flexible and fulfilling work. Many organisations and employees are buying into the idea of flexible working, but struggling to implement the reality. Our research suggests that robots could be a significant part of the solution.”

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A large proportion of workers (87%) across the UK think that computers will make their role easier within the next ten years and of these, more than half (57%) think their jobs can be made a lot easier.

This belief was high in the IT and telecoms sector, in which 68% of respondents agreed. What’s more, 58% of UK workers think that the introduction of robots in the workplace will give them greater scope to choose to work on more valuable projects by allowing robots to take on the more routine jobs.

In order to futureproof jobs, however, employers almost unanimously (95%) agreed that upskilling will be essential. In fact, almost two-thirds (62%) of them believe it to be the single most important factor in preparing people for the workplace of the future.

As new jobs are created and existing roles evolve, organisations need to be ready to re-train, deploy and recruit the necessary workers to ensure humans and robots can work harmoniously. They also need to investigate new ways of working that will afford employees greater flexibility.

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Indeed, the rise of automation will threaten a number of industries and those who work in them. Manufacturing and the transportation industry stand out. These jobs will eventually be lost to technology, so it is essential those in careers threatened by ‘the rise of the machine’ are re-skilled in order to be able to compete in a new-look, technology-driven workforce.

This will be no easy task, and governments and businesses must begin to lay down foundations for how they intend to solve this impending crisis. There is no doubt, however, that AI, automation and robotics will dramatically improve people’s lives and advance society. But, it cannot leave people behind.


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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...