There’s been a lot of talk recently about how automation can improve productivity and reduce costs for businesses, often coupled with stories of how automation is taking jobs away from workers. Headlines proclaim “Automation puts jobs in peril” and ask “Is your job about to disappear?”
Missing from these conversations is how information workers view the impact of automation in the workplace and how they believe automation will affect their lives. We were curious about how information workers think about automation. How do they believe automation will affect their lives? Do they see it as an opportunity or a threat?
To find out, we surveyed approximately 1,000 information workers across the U.S., from a diverse range of industries, company sizes, and geographies. We’re pleased to share our findings today in our Automation in the Workplace 2017 report.
Despite potential job impacts, most workers see automation in a positive light and are keen to take advantage of automation that has the potential to make their lives better. Here’s a look at a few of the findings from our survey, and what it can tell us about how information workers currently see automation.
Information Workers Largely Optimistic
Most information workers are optimistic about how automation will benefit their organizations and affect them personally. Ninety-seven percent of information workers surveyed think automation can benefit their workplaces. Though 30 percent admit to some fears about the future of their jobs, many see automation as inevitable and are eager to take advantage of the improvements to their workday automation promises.
Workers told us they look forward to spending less time on repetitive tasks like data entry and creating reports, and to spending more time on rewarding aspects of their work. While 65 percent of workers already use some type of automation in their day-to-day work, they see the potential to benefit from even more automation in the workplace.
Reduce Repetitive, Manual Tasks
One of the ways information workers believe they could benefit from automation in their daily work is by reducing the number of productivity-killing tasks they execute every day to keep the business running.
Over 40 percent of workers surveyed spend at least a quarter of their work week on manual, repetitive tasks. Nearly 70 percent of workers say the biggest opportunity of automation lies in reducing time wasted on repetitive work
Nearly 60 percent estimate they could save six or more hours a week — almost a full workday — if these repetitive aspects of their jobs were automated.
More Time for High-Value Work
Interestingly, 72 percent of workers say they would use that extra day a week (or more) of time saved through automation to do work that is more valuable to their organizations. Here’s how one respondent described the benefits they’d like to see from the automation of repetitive tasks: “If employees don’t have to complete so many mindless tasks, they are free to focus on creative endeavors and coming up with ideas.”
Information workers are eager to contribute to their organizations, and feel they could be adding more value through creative work and innovation. By giving workers more time to be creative, automation may lead to greater innovation in businesses.
More Personal Time
Workers are also interested in having some more time to spend on their personal lives. Twenty-two percent would leave work earlier if they could save time with automation, and 15 percent would take a longer lunch break. About 10 percent of information workers surveyed would spend some of the time they got back online for personal reasons, such as shopping and social media.
Workers taking time for themselves can also be a good thing for businesses. Taking time to relax, unplug, and cultivate a rich life outside of work can help prevent burnout and keep information workers inspired to stay passionate about their work.
The Potential of Automation
Information workers are ready to give some of their daily tasks to automation in order to spend more time on high-value tasks and stay engaged in their work. It’s time for organizations to take a look at the processes — and bottlenecks — they have in place and think about how they might automate them to make their workers more productive. Workers are ready for businesses to leverage automation to increase efficiency and free up time so that everyone can contribute to business success.
Watch the video below to learn how Smartsheet Automated Actions can unlock your team's innovation: