As people tentatively emerge from lockdowns around the world, office space is at a premium. Most offices need to cut the number of people attending the office to ensure that they comply with social distancing policies to keep people safe.

However, deciding who is to return to the office, which job roles require team interactions, and who is a priority. Commercial real estate technology company, SquareFoot, developed an algorithm to allocate office space, with each staff member allocated 30 hours a week of office time. It identified four categories of office-based amenities:

  • Software only available in the office
  • Staff rated how important these amenities were to their work (1-5 scale)
  • On certain days, staff host prospective clients in the office
  • Each employer has a possible 30 hours a week that can be allocated

Most administrative HR roles will be automated in the next few years

SquareFoot president Michael Colacino recently said that the system is “impersonal, everyone accepts the judgment of the computer, there’s no tendency to argue.”

It is this impartiality of the algorithm that helps to create more harmonious acceptance of the limitations on people’s ability to perform their job tasks to the best of their ability. While people have been working from home, it seems that relationships between direct coworkers have been strengthened, but within organizations overall, those who have no need to contact each other have drifted apart. For this reason, some organizations are pushing to reenter the office.

Other companies have drastically accelerated their digital tech capabilities since the pandemic forced millions of workers to communicate online. A study of 12,347 workers from various countries around the world conducted by Oracle and Workplace Intelligence showed that 75% of respondents said that AI has helped their mental health at work. The top benefits noted were:

  • 31% – providing the information needed to do their job more effectively.
  • 27% – automating tasks and decreasing workload to prevent burnout.
  • 27% – reducing stress by helping to prioritize tasks.

It seems that people are finding the stressors of the pandemic overwhelming and it is AI that is coming to the aid of those who are in need. The Oracle and Workplace Intelligence study also found that 82% of people believe AI can support their mental health better than humans, and 68% of people would prefer to talk to a robot over their manager about stress and anxiety at work.

Workers have been expressing that in this year of immense pressure, the need for companies to provide mental health support services has increased. The corporate wellness market revenue is estimated to reach US$48.41 billion this year and forecasted to grow at a CAGR of more than 5.5% over the coming 5 years.

There have been numerous reports and surveys about the state of people’s overall health during this time. It is because of this increased need for empathy, support, and guidance that the role of HR managers has shifted to an increasingly automated process.

It has been reported that Adobe, Unilever, and Starbucks are investing in well-being seminars, classes, and automated bot systems to support their staff. No AI will entirely replace the role of HR managers and therapists, but it is being used to support the work of people.

“We are seeing more and more CIOs and CTOs take the helm in shaping employee culture and engagement through the corporate technology stack, their roles have changed from being a tech enabler to how people experience these platforms,” said Workvivo cofounder Joe Lennon.

One of the biggest problems facing organizations who have moved online is maintaining workplace culture. As people are interacting digitally, they have discovered that their workplace cultures are not adaptable to an online workplace. It will be the work of tech to find ways to bridge the gap by coordinating ways that people can interact as part of a digital team that has a collective goal and common values.

Millions of people have had their work lives hugely disrupted. This has forced employee communication tech to evolve, bringing with it new demands, new skills, and new roles. It is expected that most administrative HR roles will be automated in the next few years. While this transition was in progress, it has been accelerated by the pandemic.