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For several decades, automation has been used to increase efficiency in business. Now, with over 2 million robotic employees worldwide, we’re automating our personal and working lives more than ever.
The subject of robots in the workplace is a divisive one; people are split on whether robots are beneficial, or a clear sign that modern technology having gone too far. In fact, some experts believe that robots will eliminate 800 million jobs by 2030. These kind of statistics are worrying to many individuals and to businesses that operative in sectors such as manufacturing.
What are the benefits of robots in the workplace? And are there real disadvantages of robots in the workplace? Will robots take over the world eventually? Find out below.
The following are arguments for the pros of automation in the workplace.
Safety – Safety is a key argument in favour of utilising robots to perform manual tasks such as operating machinery, and utilising hardware. Robots can take on hazardous tasks such as these with much lower risk that humans.
Speed – Unlike humans, robots don’t need a lunch hour, breaks, nor do they require holiday time off. Robots can work at all times, and therefore speed up production for companies. The speed at which robots can work is a clear benefit of automation replacing jobs.
Productivity – Generally speaking, robots can contribute to a more productive workforce. Robots can perform some tasks (usually the more arduous or physical ones) but many tasks will still need to be done by a human. This creates the argument that robots create a more productive workforce overall.
Quality – Because a robot is programmed to perform a specific task, the quality of what is produced will usually be higher than if it was done by a human. They act as production and quality control, eliminating possibility of human error.
Job satisfaction – If you’re removing manual, arduous and dangerous tasks, chances are that employees will be happier – and will be focusing on more engaging, stimulating work that will aid their professional development. This will help employees feel a greater sense of job satisfaction and increased loyalty to the company they work for; so is a clear benefit of having robots replace human jobs.
And what about the cons of automation? Many people would argue that technology has gone too far in employing robots in the workplace.
Investment costs – Initial costs involved in employing lots of robots can be enormous. They are expensive to purchase, train and and set up; and equally, if an organisation relies on too many robots, the costs can be huge.
Less intelligent – Robots are programmed to perform a certain task; but they don’t have the same level of intelligence as humans. They can’t develop their skill set, consider new ways of doing things or learn new software, outside of their pre-defined programming. This means that for many jobs, they can’t perform in the same way as a human.
Lack of emotion – Robots don’t have emotions or a conscience, meaning that they are not-well suited to many workplaces and specific roles. Any role that requires any level of human interaction or facing challenges could not be replaced by robots.
Unemployment – One of the key arguments against robots in the workplace is that it may result in a spike in unemployment. With automation replacing jobs, there is a chance that many jobs will become redundant, especially those which require manual labour (and currently employ millions of people worldwide).
Malfunctioning – If robots malfunction, the cost of replacing them, and fixing any issues must also be considered. Unlike humans, who remember information, if a robot malfunctions it will need to be completely reprogrammed. This might be a disadvantage of letting robots replace human jobs.
In this infographic for graduates, we look at the likelihood of different jobs being replaced by robots and automation.
Medical - 2% - Professionals in the medical sector will be unlikely to be replaced by robots – the knowledge, skill set and emotional skills needed can’t be replicated by automation. Because there are so many different niches and skills within the sector, you’d need to have a robot which was programmed to each one.
Legal – 3% - Professionals within the legal sector need conscience and emotion; it forms a central part of their jobs. That being said, the general consensus is that few jobs or graduate jobs in the legal sector could be replaced by robots.
Design – 5% - Design relies heavily on creativity, making it difficult to programme a robot. While the ability to use certain software could be programmed, the likelihood of automation replacing jobs in the creative & design sector is minimal.
Programmer/ Software Developer – 5% - A Software Developer or Computer Programmer is unlikely to be replaced by robots or AI. While a lot of the logical steps might be able to be automated, Software Developers often need to respond to issues, challenges, and decide on the most logical thing to do in a situation.
Management Consultant / Business Analyst – 7% - As with many analytical jobs, there is a change that Management Consultants / Business Analysts will be replaced by robots. However, the level of human interaction that these roles require might prevent robots replacing human jobs in this field for the time being.
Sales / Business Development – 16% - Sales jobs & business development roles are at a small risk of being replaced by automation; however, given that they require negotiation and interpersonal skills, probably won’t be replaced by robots in the next few years.
IT Support Technician – 22% - IT Support jobs are unlikely to be replaced by automation, because they require helping and assisting others, as well as coming up with original ways of thinking.
Human Resources (HR) – 24% - HR is not very likely to be replaced by automation, because they include a high level of human interaction, and often require empathy to support team members with technical issues.
Advertising Account Manager – 33% - Advertising jobs like Account Managers are likely to be influenced by automation. Although they are unlikely to be completely replaced, due to the customer-facing aspect, automation may start to take on some of the time consuming, repetitive and admin-based tasks, especially those online.
Marketing Associate – 33% - Similarly, Marketing Associates are unlikely to be completely replaced by robots, because they are required to have some level of creativity and initiative. However, several administrative duties may be replaced by automation.
Finance Analyst – 41% - Finance Analysts are moderately likely to be replaced by automation, with some experts claiming that as many as 1 in 5 finance jobs will be lost to automation and AI by 2030! Robots can be programmed to understand numbers; however Analysts might be safer than most due to the need to come up with original ideas and processes.
Broker – 51% - It’s fairly likely that Brokers will be replaced by automation, even though the job requires a level of human interaction, persuasiveness, and empathy. Robots could be programmed with knowledge of stock, asset or commodity they are selling.
Telephone Salesperson – 93% - Telephone salespeople are extremely likely to be replaced by robots, because many sales jobs can be automated. It also does not require a human to interact face-to-face.
Machine Operator – 98% - Machine operator jobs are likely to be replaced by robots, because automation will reduce hazard and the likelihood of human error. This would result in larger profit margins and increased productivity for employers.
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Will robots take over the world? We can never know the future of work; but most would agree that automation will replace some human jobs (such as manual labour and production), and as a result, boost employee output, productivity, and job satisfaction.