Alexa, is a watch the biggest workplace threat?

We have written before about the threat robots pose to the workplace but while we feel a certain level of comfort that robots are somewhat in the future – and maybe not of our generation – there are more pressing advances that will be quick to adopt and change the office dynamic forever.

There was a great article in The Guardian, in association with Cisco, discussing how to remain human in the smart office. Wearables, big data and artificial intelligence are set to revolutionise how employers manage staff and how employees manage themselves – we’re in the era where science fiction is quickly turning in to science fact – Star Trek, anyone?

The crossover comes in part from the fitness and wellbeing sector, where wearables that monitor steps taken, heart rate and calories burnt are mainstream. From a retiree walking for pleasure to the most professional of sportsperson, an Apple watch, Garmin tracker or Fitbit is the norm, and there’s an ever-sophisticating set of apps for people to d analyse their performance based on body-generated statistics.

The employment sector is now taking wearables to a new level. From helmets that measure brainwaves to identify when employees are angry or depressed to financial traders who can see when they’re in a heightened emotional state – and therefore prone to making rash decisions – simply by wearing a bracelet that measures emotions through electrodermal activity.

While wearables are a great way of collecting data that’s hard to measure in conventional ways, it is two-way interaction with technology that presents the biggest threat to the employment scene. The ‘Alexa’ phenomenon – already used by many in the home to play music and create shopping lists – may spell the end to the traditional PA role. The Guardian feature highlighted the Google ‘assistant booking’ facility that saw a machine make a hair appointment over the phone as well as smart compose features, which cut down on the need for repetitive typing within emails, as imminent artificial intelligence tools that will pave the way for virtual – not human – assistants. The potential exists for this new way of working to send shockwaves through an organization’s entire structure.

With technology advancing rapidly, how far wearable tech, smart monitoring and artificial intelligence moves up the chain remains to be seen but it is a threat to be taken seriously among anyone working in the HR sector. As well as automatically negating many manual and repetitive processes, technology will counteract the need for the excessive geographical movement of professionals, all thanks to a small timepiece that does much more than merely tell the time.

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