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What is Workplace Automation?

workplace automation, workplace analytics
by
Chuck Leddy
Published on

We’ve all been using automation and AI in business processes for years (chatbots and recommendation engines, anyone?), but now these tech tools are not only accelerating their business capabilities and use cases, but also getting integrated into more technology platforms (spoiler alert: including Robin).

Let’s look at the most talked about example of recent AI acceleration. ChatGPT, a generative AI tool that creates text, was launched in late 2022. In the months since, many people and popular technology platforms have integrated the new generative AI tool to automate/perform some of their common work tasks.

ChatGPT, for example, can help HR professionals write a job description in seconds, a task which normally takes multiple hours if done manually. 

While some anxiety remains about “AI taking away our jobs,” AI tools integrated into workplace automation platforms can actually expand people’s capabilities and productivity, doing tasks that are time-consuming, mundane, and repetitive for humans (such as booking a meeting room or reserving their favorite desk).

Automating these manual tasks also boosts accuracy (AI doesn’t lose focus and make mistakes due to tiredness, as humans do) and scalability. 

Workplace automation, far from taking our jobs, can free people up from repetitive business processes, monotonous, and time-consuming tasks and enable them to spend more time working on strategic, higher-value work. 

This blog post will describe how AI and workplace automation technology is becoming more integrated into people’s daily workflows and the various technology platforms people use.

Ultimately, these tools create a better workplace experience and a better human experience, boosting employee experience too. We’ll ask and answer three key questions: 

  1. What exactly is workplace automation?
  2. How is office automation affecting workplaces and workplace experience?
  3. What are the benefits of AI-driven office automation for people and workplace leaders? 

What is Workplace Automation?

Like all tools, office automation saves people time when they need to do a task. In the last few years, artificial intelligence has been getting more (well) “intelligent” because it’s learning from larger data sets and can analyze more patterns via algorithms that learn and improve accuracy as they go. ChatGPT, for example, pulls in text from the entire internet in order to analyze and generate text. 

So when you ask ChatGPT to write an email “like William Shakespeare,” the AI is actually accessing and analyzing all of Shakespeare’s available writings, then generating a “Shakesperean” email based on that large language set.

Automation can make it easier for employees to book their favorite desks.

Workplace automation deploys the growing power and increasing intelligence of AI to efficiently perform common workplace tasks without human labor. Some of those workplace tasks include:

  • Making it easier for people to schedule their visits to the office and
  • Streamlining workflows for booking office spaces and conference rooms
  • Enabling employees to efficiently access the resources they need
  • Providing workplace analytics that help leaders identify office and employee needs

A recent Robin survey of 300 workplace leaders (managers and executives) found that nearly 40% of them used office automation tools either “daily” or “fairly regularly.”

Even more revealing, 71% of respondents believe AI-driven features in the workplace will either be “important or very important” in shaping the future of work. 

How Automation is Changing Today’s Workplace

Technology site readwrite estimates that a typical office employee spends over 30% of their working hours simply reviewing and managing paperwork: a mundane and repetitive task that can be readily automated.

The truth is that many of the time-consuming workplace tasks people perform manually each work day can be simplified with the right automation tool, especially ones that are repetitive, can be broken down into discrete parts, and that benefit from pattern recognition.

In terms of saving people time and frustration, automation is hard to beat. 

For example, research from office furniture supplier Steelcase found that 40% of employees waste up to 30 minutes per day looking for meeting space. That’s 10 wasted hours per month, multiplied by the total number of your employees. But what if you could automate the time-consuming process of booking meeting rooms? 

Workplace automation features can provide users with suggested spaces based on historical usage analysis, the number of people attending the meeting, and required resources. These types of automated processes save your people time searching for the right meeting space, which could be re-deployed elsewhere. 

Free up time spent searching for meeting rooms so teams can focus on what matters.

Would employees stop using some of their “skills” as automation takes over tasks like meeting room booking and data analysis? Yes, but people will also hone skills necessary to do more strategic, higher-value, and deeply human tasks. If you have a bucket truck you don’t need to know how to shovel for hours. For most people, that’s okay. 

Yet skilled and experienced humans with technical skills will still be needed to perform complex tasks that are not subject to AI-driven automation. Would any company use an AI chatbot to apologize to a big customer for a mistake? No, they’d send an empathetic, emotionally-intelligent human who would look the big customer in the eyes and say “we are very sorry for our mistake and we’ll work to make things right.”

Increasingly, humans will work with and alongside AI and automation tools. ChatGPT, for example, is an amazingly powerful tool, but requires a skilled human to write effective queries and also review the tool’s generated text for factual inaccuracies, mistakes in message tone, and various biases.

AI is another tool in our toolbox and skilled people will still be necessary to deploy these tools in order to achieve results. 

5 Ways Workplace Automation Benefits Your Hybrid Office

Workplace automation has many benefits, including these four big ones:

1. Employee productivity increases as repetitive tasks decrease

Automating repetitive and mundane tasks liberates employees to focus on more strategic, value-added work that’s best done by humans, and that many people find more enjoyable. 

Research from Zapier found that 90% of knowledge workers said that automation had improved their work lives, with 65% of respondents reporting that automation had decreased their workplace stress.

2. Workflows in the office become streamlined and painless

With the right workplace automation tools you can make coordinating in-office time a breeze. High-performing hybrid workplaces rely on streamlined processes. Businesses need forward-thinking technology to: 

  • Simplify employee workflows
  • Optimize resource management 
  • Make smarter space utilization decisions

For example, you can use data to automate desk booking, making a time-consuming process fast and efficient. AI can quickly analyze individual preferences, team dynamics, and desk availability, and then intelligently assign workspaces that best accommodate each employee’s needs, enabling a more productive work environment.

The more you can streamline workflows, the easier you make the workplace experience for employees.

3. Automation reduces errors and their related costs

Whether automation is focused on entering floor plan information into your office management system or performing complex, predictive analysis of workplace demand, AI makes fewer mistakes and works much faster than people do.

Errors get reduced, meaning the need for manual clean-up downstream gets reduced, meaning less cost and more accurate data. 

4. Intelligent tools help companies scale 

Adding more automation in the workplace also enables companies and businesses to do more (and do it more efficiently) without increasing employee inputs. Employees can focus on what really matters – being strategic about helping the organization grow.

Workplace automation thus allows organizations to scale with lower operating costs, which also frees people from manual tasks and improves cash flow to spur growth.

5. AI enriches your workplace data for more strategic decision making 

AI-driven workplace automation generates constant data about your various business/operational processes. This constant stream of data provides invaluable workplace analytics that workplace leaders can use to optimize efficiency and streamline processes.

For example, automating the meeting room booking process can give leaders real-time insight into space utilization (which rooms are being used and how often) that can inform ongoing CRE decision-making. These automated systems provide a wealth of insights for decision-makers.

When you understand how your office is being used, you can better optimize your spaces.

Removing Obstacles Between Your People and the Office

AI-driven automation can take the work out of hybrid work by enhancing employee experience and automating multiple workplace tasks, including:

  • Suggested desk booking: Advanced AI algorithms can automate desk booking, making the process quick, easy, and efficient. By analyzing a booker’s preferences, team dynamics, and space availability, automation can intelligently assign workspaces that suit each user's needs (and those of meeting attendees).
  • Automated desk check-in: Saves people time when they check-in at the office and provides workplace leaders with real-time workplace analytics they can use to inform decision-making.
  • Predictive office usage: Optimize your office spaces, typically your second-highest business expense after salaries. and plan for your organization’s long-term corporate real estate (CRE) needs. Say goodbye to manual data entry and hello to more accurate office usage analytics.
  • Social event organization: Building a strong company culture is essential in the modern workplace, and social events play a crucial role in fostering connections. Workplace automation streamlines event organization, from sending out invitations and tracking RSVPs to coordinating catering and venue arrangements. 
  • Intelligent Space and Resource Management: Automation capabilities can help organizations optimize their use of space and resources. By analyzing real-time data on desk occupancy, meeting room usage, and resource allocation, AI-driven algorithms can identify underutilized areas and suggest adjustments to configurations, amenities, layouts or schedules, maximizing efficiency and reducing costs.

Workplace experience platforms like Robin are rapidly integrating more automation to make life easier for employees and workplace leaders. Workplace automation technologies supports better collaboration, improved connection, and the automation of mundane and repetitive tasks. 

In the end, automation software and AI functions enhance the employee experience and provide more workplace analytics for leaders to leverage for better decision-making. The most important output AI delivers may be happier, more productive, and more engaged employees.

To learn more about Robin and office automation, visit our office automation page. You can start with Robin today for free.

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