For years now, professionals have voiced concerns that robots and automation would steal jobs away from hardworking individuals. The bulk of workers, though, are actually pretty laid back about the idea of robots in the workforce and aren't concerned that their jobs are at stake.

Ego and exposure help people have a positive view

Robotic process automation (RPA) company Kyron conducted a survey of 1,000 U.S. employees. The results showed that over 70 percent of individuals are not concerned that robots will be capable of replacing them in the workplace. Some of this confidence comes from the fact that people still perceive the human mind as superior, with 75 percent of respondents saying they're not worried that the robots have more potential or intellectual capability than themselves. Some 60 percent of respondents said they believe that RPA couldn't do the majority of their work.

Harel Tayeb, Kyron's CEO, asserts that people also are comfortable with RPA because of the way technologies have been integrated into daily life over time. Rather than being scared of losing their jobs, most American workers are seeing robots and related tech as virtual assistants that can help them work better and shed mundane tasks. Tayeb says:

People are very comfortable working closely--in fact, hand in hand--with software right now. They see how software has made their lives so much easier in everything from getting a taxi, to pairing to smart speakers, to something as simple as buying more light bulbs with voice tech. So they welcome that kind of liberating collaboration in the workplace. People recognize this technological integration for its potential to shift gears in a more productive direction.

And as workers see what tech can do for them, they're becoming less tolerant of inefficient, repetitive jobs. More than 40 percent of respondents said they're fed up with these tasks on a day-to-day basis, with more than one out of four people spending up to five hours a week on repetitive work. What's more, half of employees currently feel underutilized. Tayeb says:

Employees are able to do more when they do not feel the weight of the buildup of small tasks, freeing up their time to solely focus on what is important.... The reallocation of use of time in the workplace on more valuable, in-depth, less repetitive tasks grants personal benefit and will continue to be welcomed.

In fact, this idea that robots merely shift work, freeing us to other types of more creative and enjoyable tasks, is one of the biggest sentiments of RPA supporters. Yet employees might still be a little in the dark when it comes to really understanding RPA's scope and potential. Kyron's survey also found that 70 percent of respondents are unsure or completely uneducated about what RPA entails. It could be that this lack of education is skewing perceptions toward the positive, making it difficult for individuals to see existing RPA threats.

What are we going to get?

In the end, no matter how welcoming people are to RPA, the whole point of business is to do something for someone else, to improve their life and the larger community in some way. Making money in the process is just frosting. In this sense, any RPA system has to be evaluated on its overall contributions and influence. Will it connect us, rather than isolate us, for example? The intangible is very much part of the picture, and we have a choice about what we want the final image of the world to be.

Published on: Apr 17, 2018