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It's holiday season - when the workforce is out, who's doing the work?

It’s the time of year where colleagues and co-workers head off to far flung corners of the world to spend time with friends and family. Many of us in the UK look on in envy at mainland European countries, most of which disappear for weeks on end.

But we’re not all on the beach. There are still people left working in offices (and homes, now) all over and the world keeps on turning. Jobs need doing, deadlines need hitting and processes are still running - you may be on holiday, but you still expect to get paid on time, right?

All of which begs the question. Who is doing the work when the people that normally do the work are not there?? 

Handover from human to bot

A handful of hotels across the US – from the Mandarin Oriental in Boston to a Holiday Inn Express in Redwood City, Calif. Came up with a novel idea. Collectively, they have turned to robots to provide guest services usually performed by human employees that - for whatever reason - are no longer available. You can read more on this here. Though, these are not the first businesses to turn totally to the bots. Heck, they’re not even the first hotels. Several years ago, Japanese travel and hospitality group HIS opened the world’s first robot-staffed hotel and it is now planning to export the concept. 

Of course, this is extreme. We’re not professing you make friends with a bot while the rest of your colleagues are sipping cocktails at sundown. But extremes and humour aside, it raises an interesting issue around the handover of work from human to bot.

Work humans don’t want to be doing

You don't need to look far to see evidence of the rise of workplace automation. It’s almost certainly happening in your company now, whether you are aware of it or not. Looking ahead, it has been predicted by analyst firm Forrester Research that across Europe, 12 million jobs will be lost by 2040 through automation technologies, as reported here in The Register.

These figures are headline grabbing for lots of reasons not least because they’re big and scary. But the argument for the adoption of workplace automation has always included the fact that it will take on existing human roles. In fact, this has been one of the main messages for its adoption, namely because bots can work when people cannot, process an infinite amount more data at speed and, as a result, can take on huge swathes of repetitive and tedious tasks. The likes of which people don’t want to be doing.

It’s a sentiment underlined recently by UiPath. Its Office Worker Survey found 43% of UK respondents say they would consider resigning from their jobs in the next six months because monotonous tasks are amplifying employee unhappiness and uncertainty. The study also found that employees would welcome new processes and technologies such as automation to allow them to focus on work that matters. In addition, 91% of global respondents believe that automation can improve their job performance, namely by saving time (52%), increasing productivity (46%), and creating opportunities to focus on more important work (45%). Seventy-one percent agree they can focus on more creative work with the help of automation.

This cultural shift to our desire and comfort in adopting bots will come into even sharper focus as Europe moves to adopting a four-day working week - as explained here.

The founding principle behind successful workplace automation

Automation has allowed businesses to remain productive and efficient thanks to its time-saving capabilities, as well as adapt to the unpredictable landscape we have come to expect. But at times like this, it’s vital to appreciate the role orchestration can - or should - play in keeping the workplace running. Having solid departmental automation is fine when things work, or when people are around in other areas of the business. But for periods of intensified people's absence - like now - bots in HR need to communicate with bots in finance who need to communicate to bots in payroll. 

To unlock maximum efficiency, bots need to talk to bots, with a system designed to be self-sufficient, requiring human intervention only, when necessary, to perform checks or to address anomalies. Having orchestration in place is what stops the ‘I know you’re away but….’ emails coming in. It’s what will improve business performance exponentially and be a key driver in the adoption of the four-day working week and it’s what people are beginning to realise is the founding principle behind successful workplace automation.

A win-win for all

Bots are happy to work on repetitive, mundane, labour-intensive tasks 24/7, 365 days/year, with zero holiday, freeing your teams to spend their valuable time on strategic work that impacts the bottom line — or on holiday during the dog days of summer. It’s a win-win-win for all.

So, when you’re away this summer and spreadsheets are running, tasks being done, and payments being made - you can thank the bots. Similarly, if work stops or slows, you come back into a pile of admin, ask yourself - what isn’t a bot doing this?

Happy holidays!