Smarter Working: five ways tech can make us feel human again

Smarter Working: five ways tech can make us feel human again

Current events mean that remote working has gone from a nice-to-have that keeps employees happy to a necessity. To meet such a rapid change, companies rely on technology to keep us all working productively. More than ever that means simple-to-use technologies with the human touch that maintain essential contact between teams, wherever they are.  

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38% of SMB employees surveyed by Forrester said tech issues were the main reason they got distracted at work. And 78% of those who felt they were productive were satisfied with their job, compared with only 23% of employees who said they had productivity issues. So, is the digital workplace leading to disengaged employees? And how can companies boost their own productivity – and cut their staff’s frustration – by bringing back the personal touch?

“For a list of all the ways technology has failed to improve quality of life, please press three.”

Comedian Alice Kahn’s little joke might make you wince rather than laugh. It brings back memories of interminable customer service calls – of unheard pleas for one actual, real human being to talk to.

As a customer you might have left the world of ‘press three’ behind (more or less) for online chats and instant replies. But stats show that, as an employee, you probably haven’t.

In fact, many employees fight every day with machines that seem designed for machines. They lose hours toggling between systems and learning strange processes just to complete basic tasks.


Turning the tables on tech

So, how can companies go beyond digitalisation to put employee experience (and their own productivity) first?

As technologist and artist Bran Ferren said: “Technology is a word that describes something that doesn’t work yet.”

It’s not a question of training people to use machines. Or of returning to a pre-digital age. It’s a question of pushing tech forward so that it’s an effortless extension of us. The ideal user interface could be used by a caveman – with no explanation whatsoever.


Five tech changes that put people first

AI and machine learning feature in everyone’s favourite sci-fi vision of a mechanised, dystopian future. But they could actually swing the relationship between people and technology back in favour of tech-tired employees. Here’s why:


Ask, get

That’s the principle behind digital experience layer software. A single AI interface is the gateway to thousands of applications, meaning employees simply ask their device to perform tasks. Plus, employees will be able to cut down on labour-intensive jobs like summarising information – asking the device to do it for them.


Great first impressions

When a post has a high number of applicants, the initial stages of recruitment can feel like a production line. AI could give candidates an interactive, engaged experience straight away. Which would also give employers a better understanding of how suitable they are.


Empathy in the machine

Like a sensitive person, machine learning will adapt to an individual’s needs and tastes. It can provide short-cuts for frequently used tasks, saving time. And it will mean employers can create game-based training that adapts to the trainee’s level – instead of boring people with what they already know.


Seeing things from our perspective

It might look space-age, but AR is actually one of the most human ways for employees to access information. Engineers could get real-time feedback and alerts about dangerous situations. With ultra-light designs like the ThinkReality 6 HMD, the headsets go unnoticed. And at the same time the tech can learn about employees’ jobs through their own eyes, allowing experience and skills to be passed down through VR training.


A great listener

Done right, AI can flag HR issues much faster than any survey. It could help management understand what’s causing stress or frustration in the workplace by analysing language patterns and emoji use. That said, security will be the difference between a great listener and a malicious eavesdropper. End-to-end protection such as that offered by ThinkShield  will be the key to keeping this sea of data safe.


The post-digital future

After years of enthusiasm for all things digital, executives need to consider making technology disappear for their employees. In that future, training will be less important than creating systems that don’t require it.

And what about those who do break the mould? Accenture found that companies with a great employee experience outperform the S&P 500 by 122%. In other words, engaged employees could be the competitive advantage every executive is searching for.