Artificial intelligence (AI) is transforming the world of work. Millions of jobs are being replaced by automation, but millions more are emerging.
What impact will the AI revolution have on the physical workplace?
The future of jobs
The World Economic Forum’s ‘Future of Jobs’ report estimates that AI will replace some 85 million jobs, but that 97 million new jobs that are adapted to the new division of labour between humans and machines could be created by 2025.
AI is undoubtedly causing a shift in how we work and the types of jobs organisations will require in the short and long term.
A significant benefit of AI for business is that it handles repetitive tasks, allowing employees to focus on creative solutions, complex problem-solving, and impactful work. Jobs being replaced include those requiring copying, pasting, typing and transcribing. And in areas like medical diagnosis, speech translation, and accounting, AI can outperform humans.
In an interview for the Steelcase Work Better podcast, New York Times technology writer Kevin Roose said three categories of work are unlikely to be automated anytime soon:
- Surprising - jobs that are different every day, e.g. nursery school teacher
- Social - jobs that involve making things or interacting with people and making them feel something, e.g. a therapist in the healthcare industry or a barista at a coffee shop
- Scarce - jobs that require rare or niche skills, e.g. a 999 operator
Roose argues that people in any workplace can make their jobs safer by making them more social:
"Work that requires building relationships, helping each other, and having empathy, is more likely to survive than simply typing into a box in a solitary way."
So what are the new roles being created by AI?
Roles growing in demand include those related to AI and robotics, such as Data AI and Machine Learning Specialists, Robotic Engineers, and Data Scientists. Newly emerging roles include the likes of Process Automation Specialists and Internet of Things Specialists.
And, as PwC point out, there will also be many new jobs created from the general boost to productivity and wealth that these technologies will bring - just as technologies have done throughout history.
AI and the physical workplace
Jobs may be changing, but the physical workplace is here to stay.
The pandemic provided the ultimate test and proved workers need a space to gather, socialise and collaborate face-to-face. Research has shown workers may be more productive at home but are less creative and come up with fewer new ideas.
But, AI can be used to enhance the physical workplace experience. For example, it can:
Meanwhile, AI technologies, such as natural language processing (NLP), can even be used to understand how team members interact, providing valuable insights on how they can improve communication and collaboration.
Boost health and wellbeing
There are many ways AI can positively impact employees' health and wellbeing at work. Using AI to monitor environmental conditions like air quality, temperature and humidity, you can ensure employees work in a comfortable environment. It can be used to create personalised workspaces for employees based on their personal preferences. It can even be used to detect mood and energy levels and to monitor activity levels throughout the day. It could signal the need for team meditation and infusing biophilic elements like plants into the office when workers are stressed and wellbeing is low.
Elevate workplace safety
AI can help to identify and reduce potential safety hazards in the workplace. Sensors can monitor the environment in real-time and alert employees of unsafe conditions. For example, changes in air composition or temperature. AI algorithms can also monitor data streams to identify patterns and trends indicative of safety issues, allowing employers to take preventive measures before an incident occurs. Machine learning tools can also be used to analyse past incidents and develop predictions for future ones.
AI is causing a seismic shift in the world of work and has many benefits for driving business success. In the physical workspace, AI benefits both employees and businesses alike by helping to improve collaboration, wellbeing, and workplace safety.