Mention the word “robots”, and chances are you’ll often get a mixed response. To some, they are the stuff of science fiction dreams, for others, a dystopian nightmare. But love them or loathe them, robots are increasingly present in our day-to-day lives. And this is also true in our professional lives. However, whereas public perception may have previously deterred business owners from investing in this technology, there are indications that our attitudes may be changing. But what impact are robots currently having in the workplace? What impact could they have in the future? And how will this effect IT and recruitment services?
Robots in the Workplace
When we think of robots, we often tend to think of futuristic advanced computers that always seem to be a few years away. But it’s important to recognise that robots have been an influential part of the UK workforce for many years. As early as the 1970s, the UK automotive industry has been using robots in their manufacturing plants. Even modern developments such as software robots and chatbots have become an overlooked robotic infrastructure in businesses. So, whilst it’s true that robots are developing at a much faster rate than we’ve ever seen before, it’s important to recognise that their legacy has already been established.
Moving forward, we can expect to see automation and robots feature more heavily in our everyday lives. Some of you may remember the debate about robot nurses and the NHS, and whilst the dedication and skill of human nurses cannot be replaced, automating some processes may help towards alleviating staffing pressures. According to The Guardian, these robots could be developed to take on a range of medical tasks, including helping patients to eat meals, diagnosing serious illnesses, and recovery after serious operations.
Robots are also being developed to make the workplace more accessible. An article by Forbes discusses a prototype by Japanese company DAWN, who create robotic serving staff for busy city-centre cafes. But these robots are actually piloted by people who are housebound, and they use ipads or gaze-controlled remotes from their homes to see and speak with customers. This not only helps the economy and the workplace, but it’s a massive wellbeing boost for those involved.
But despite the advancements, could public perception halt the rollout of robotic technology in the workplace?
Robots vs Humans
In previous years, public perception to robots has been frosty, to say the least. But there is evidence that this is changing. A report by the BBC on Starship delivery robots in Milton Keynes found that overall, humans reacted warmly to these robots, especially when a robot in need responded with a “thank you message” after it is helped by a human. In Starship’s base in Tallinn, Estonia, the robots have become a normalised part of everyday life, and are frequently given right of way at crossings.
Andy Curtis, Starship’s UK Operations Manager, describes the robots as “designed to be cute, not invasive”. And this seems to be the key, if the robots are designed with human-like tendencies (such as the ability to thank or smile), and can create human connections, we seem to be able to work much more successfully with them. Perhaps this could influence robot design moving forward?
But what impact could this have on Recruitment and IT departments?
The effect on Recruitment and IT
For recruitment, it’s arguably too early to tell the impact that robots could have on the industry. There are some suggestions that robots may replace human recruiters entirely, but such advancements, if any, will be several years away. Right now, robots and artificial intelligence (AI) are already a big feature of the sector, with automated screening and online candidate searches becoming commonplace in recent years.
Robots have the potential to be very big news for IT departments. Not only will human IT staff be required to source and setup new robotic technology, but they will need to understand how they operate in the workplace, and be on hand to resolve any malfunctions. Robots could also replace aspects of IT, such as diagnosing and fixing simple issues and installing new software, taking some of the pressure off already highly-demanded IT staff.
What are your opinions on robots in the workplace? Do you think they are the future, or unlikely to change our already heavily-automated workplace? Get in touch to let us know your thoughts!