The ‘Humans vs Robots’ report explores the potential impact robotics and AI will have on the workplace. Adecco surveyed 1,000 board level and senior decision makers and over 1,000 workers in 13 sectors across the UK.

Despite the rhetoric that robots will steal our jobs and leave us redundant, the study reveals that the workplace of the future could create opportunities for more flexible and fulfilling work. Indeed, two-thirds (65%) of employees believe that overall, technology has actually increased the number of jobs available to them. The majority (54%) also believe that advances in technology will continue to create more jobs than it destroys over the next decade.

Alex Fleming (pictured below), Managing Director at Adecco UK and Ireland, notes that many employers and employees are buying into the idea of flexible working, but struggling to implement the reality. Yet, she believes that robots could be a significant part of the solution. “Robots will help us to work more flexibly as they give us access to the technology required to do our jobs – from the comfort of our own homes. MIT’s use of ‘iPad robots’ is one example of how this is happening today. As technologies including artificial intelligence (AI) advance, so too will our remote working environment and capabilities.”

Fleming also notes that by taking on the more ‘mundane’ jobs, robots will free up employees’ time, and therefore create greater opportunities for more flexible working patterns.

In fact, a significant proportion of workers (87%) think that computers will make their role easier within the next 10 years and of these, over half (57%) think their jobs can be made a lot easier. This belief was high in the IT and telecoms sector (68%). Additionally, 58% of employees think that the introduction of robots in the workplace will give them greater scope to choose to work on more valuable projects by allowing robots to take on the more routine jobs.

But, in order to futureproof jobs, employers almost unanimously (95%) agreed that upskilling will be essential. Indeed, almost two-thirds (62%) of them believe it to be the single most important factor in preparing people for the workplace of the future.

alex-fleming.1As new jobs are created and existing roles evolve, organisations need to be ready to re-train, deploy and recruit the necessary workers to ensure humans and robots can work harmoniously. They also need to investigate new ways of working that will afford employees greater flexibility. “In an increasingly automated world, people will (even more so) become a business’s key competitive differentiator. So whilst digital skills like coding will be crucial, soft skills should not be neglected,” points out Fleming. “Alongside boosting digital skills in the workplace, organisations should focus on recruiting and developing the skills that robots cannot – flexibility, creativity, adaptability, communication skills and flexible thinking.”