The pandemic of the last 12 months has changed the way we work. It has seen many employers and employees drastically change what and how they work. But it has also accelerated the adoption of high tech management tools in many workplaces. More of us working remotely has meant that some employers are using technology to keep a check on us. There is no doubt this technology would have entered our workplaces eventually, it was just a matter of when.
The future of work for so many is uncertain at the moment, but what is certain is that technology will influence the future of work. Amazon has recently opened its first physical grocery store in London. This latest venture by the tech company is, “till-less” shopping, using cameras and new technology so shoppers can walk in, take items off a shelf and walk out again, with no human interaction needed. Contactless options have become necessary due to the pandemic, but the popularity of “self checkouts” has been increasing for years. New technology could accelerate this change and make it permanent.
Technology in the workplace
Technology in the workplace is now also being used by some to perform more roles. Artificial intelligence (AI) is the latest technology to be adopted by some companies. It is being used for everything from employee performance monitoring and management, recruitment and even to decide on redundancies. The Trade Union Congress (TUC) are beginning to raise concerns about this use of technology in workplaces.
Keeping up with changes
Trade unions and the TUC, argue that employment law has failed to keep up to pace with the roll out of new technology, and calls for employers, tech companies and the Government to take action to fill the gaps and ensure employees are protected. Concerns include surveillance and also possible discrimation in the AI systems used for hiring and firing. There is an opportunity for AI to have a positive impact on productivity and our work lives, but when it is being used to decide who should be hired and fired, we should be worried.
Technology in the form of automation and AI will continue to change the world of work. As technology advances it will be possible for robots and computers to undertake tasks we previously thought could only be done by humans. It could lead to high levels of unemployment, or it could lead to more highly skilled employment. Governments may be tempted to focus on the benefits of technological progress, while largely ignoring its negative impacts.
Prepare for the future
The future is uncertain, technology and innovation is a good thing, but a balance needs to be found to ensure workers rights are protected and it does not lead to widespread unemployment. In the long term, investment in education and retraining is needed to ensure the workforce can keep up with technological changes in employment.
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