The future of work tends to be synonymous with automation, which in turn has become synonymous with anxiety over job loss and human obsolescence.
A recent survey published and commissioned by Ricoh Ireland and UK, however, repudiates the idea that these fears are widespread and deeply ingrained in the hearts of employees.
Optimism about automation and the future of work
After polling 3,600 employees in the UK and Ireland, the results indicate that employees are largely optimistic about automation and its impact on working life.
Of those surveyed, 65pc said that automation technology will enable them to be more productive and 52pc believe that artificial intelligence will have a positive impact on their job.
Employees also feel that technological will make them work more efficiently, by granting more immediate access to data (44pc), allowing them to work from home more often (42pc) and reducing repetitive tasks (41pc).
Fears of lack of digital proficiency
This optimism does not extend to employees’ perspective on their own abilities – 70pc of employees believe that younger workers are better suited to working with new technology, and 36pc fear that their business will fail within five years if it does not effectively adapt to technology.
Additionally, 46pc of those surveyed feel that their competitor has the technological edge and 33pc of those surveyed expressed fears that they would lose their job due to a lack of digital skills.
The need to re-skill
In a bid to keep pace with more digitally fluent employees and competitiors, 67pc of employees would like their employers to put more emphasis on digital skills training so they are in the best position to use new tools and services.
Yet 72pc of employees believe that senior management will only introduce new technology if it helps to cut costs, rather than to empower employees.
Preparing for automation
These findings indicate that employees are as sanguine in their outlook as researchers, considering the history of how automation has affected working life. This optimism is very sensibly tempered with an awareness that re-skilling and a willingness to continually adapt to the new demands of the market will be incredibly important going forward.
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