The beginning of the 21st century saw a boom in technology that changed civilisation forever. In the first decade alone, the iPhone, Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube all launched. Each of these changed how people communicate and interact on a daily basis, forever.
Today, we are experiencing another boom. Machine learning and artificial intelligence in particular can revolutionise our lives. This includes our relationship to work. Technology has the potential to facilitate a much healthier work-life balance, automating away and speeding up the most time-consuming and dull tasks.
In this article, we’ll explore how cloud computing, ML, and AI are at the forefront of innovation. And how, once again, they can impact lives for the better.
What Does ‘Work-Life Balance’ Mean in 2023?
Work-life balance has long been a major concern for companies. Precisely what constitutes a ‘healthy’ balance will differ for both companies and workers, with factors like sector, expectations, and individual preferences all playing a role.
But getting it right is crucial. Putting too much weight on the ‘work’ side can lead to burnout and other mental health problems, making employees’ lives harder and creating issues in productivity and staff retention for businesses. Putting too little weight on work, on the other hand, can cause businesses to fall behind on productivity, efficiency, and, ultimately, getting the job done.
The Covid-19 pandemic dramatically altered attitudes to work-life balance in two main ways.
First, it caused many employees to reconsider what mattered, with many reassessing the importance of rest, home cooking, and time spent with families.
Second, it radically changed how we work, establishing new ways of working focused around remote collaboration. Many businesses now have hybrid working models, allowing for at least some level of remote working and requiring office attendance only on select days of the week.
And at the heart of this new understanding of work-life balance lies technology.
Technology is Fundamental to ‘New Ways of Working’
The role of technology in ‘new ways of working’ is easy to see. Remote working would be far more difficult without video calling platforms like Zoom and Skype, while corporate-focused solutions like Slack and Microsoft Teams improve remote collaboration with messaging and file-sharing capabilities, as well as calls.
Increasingly, companies can also turn to a variety of technologies that use AI and ML.
- Asana, which uses AI to prioritise tasks based on user activity, provide intelligent recommendations on task management, and even automate the most repetitive jobs.
- Google Assistant, which makes it far easier to manage scheduling, as well as doing things like providing reminders of events and to-dos.
- Mycroft, a customisable virtual assistant that can help track tasks and projects in integration with a variety of devices and platforms.
How AI Improves Remote Collaboration
There is nothing new about integrating AI into business workflows. But companies are finding ever more opportunities to use AI to help streamline their remote working practices.
Virtual assistants of the sort listed above, for instance, can help ensure employees have all the information they need easily accessible.
For employers and HR departments, meanwhile, AI can help generate and analyse huge amounts of data on employee practices. This in turn enables businesses to develop and adjust their workflows with far more precision than ever before.
What is Conversational AI?
Tech Target defines conversational AI as ‘a type of artificial intelligence that enables computers to understand, process and generate human language.’
From customer service chatbots to virtual assistants that allow you to control your phone by just speaking a command, businesses are benefiting from the power of conversational AI.
In particular, conversational Ai can enable businesses to automate both the investigative and problem-solving aspects of dealing with a range of IT issues.
Conversational AI can help by:
- Identifying the most common queries
- Generating responses to those queries
- Ensuring more complex and involved queries are passed to the correct team or individual
Conversational AI can be used in both customer-facing and internal problem-solving. In this way, it can massively reduce the amount of time that staff spend dealing with the most rote issues.
This improves work-life balance in two ways. First, it decreases the time-demand of a standard support role. Second, it frees up time and energy for more challenging, creative tasks.
What is Collaborative AI?
Harvard Business Review defines collaborative intelligence in simple terms: ‘when humans and machines work together’. Collaborative AI improves the ways that humans work with both other humans and with machines.
The new ways of working ushered in by the pandemic changed the meaning of collaborative work. Before, it meant sharing physical space, and often required splitting up mundane tasks. Now, it is far more flexible, with virtual meetings, quick and easy file sharing, and direct collaboration on shared documents, spreadsheets, and more.
Here, too, AI provides opportunities.
When it comes to collaborative work, AI analytics capacities can assist by:
- Providing deeper insight into the productivity of individual team members
- Painting more detailed pictures of employee strengths and weaknesses
- Suggesting optimal ways to delegate tasks
And collaborative AI goes far beyond data and analytics.
Generative AI technology like ChatGPT enables users to find more detailed answers to complex questions far more quickly than traditional search engines do. This aids collaborative work by reducing the time individuals need to spend on solitary research tasks. Virtual assistants, too, reduce the burden of things like scheduling and syncing calendars.
With developments like Salesforce’s integration of ChatGPT into its popular Slack platform, employees have more opportunities than ever to draw on the power of AI to aid in collaborative work.
How Machine Learning is Accelerating Business Growth
Perhaps the most significant benefits offered by AI come in its ability to generate and analyse data. Machine learning enables AI tools to progressively refine their ability to capture and understand data. The tools learn by doing. Each time they go through a process and receive feedback, they know more about what to prioritise next time.
This has a wide range of benefits. and is already seeing companies improve productivity and efficiency and achieve higher levels of growth.
We have already noted how IT support for both internal teams and external clients can be improved with AI. These same benefits extend to customer service. Project management, workflow, and resource allocation are all similarly more effective when they can draw from AI.
Recruitment is another area where businesses can achieve major gains with AI and ML.
When hiring, HR departments are often inundated with as many as hundreds of CVs. With AI and ML, they can avoid getting buried beneath this flurry of paperwork. Increasingly, recruiters use AI to sift through huge numbers of job applications.
It can then:
- Cut out candidates who do not fit the position
- Highlight especially strong candidates
- Analyse trends such as who is applying and which qualifications and skills are the strongest
Hiring departments can then turn their attention to issues like fit, and to conducting interviews with potential candidates.
In all cases, letting machines handle the arduous, time-consuming task of data-processing enables workers to devote more energy to decision making and strategy.
How the Cloud Improves Productivity
We define cloud computing as ‘the on-demand consumption of IT services and resources over a network.’ In simple terms, cloud computing reduces energy consumption and increases energy efficiency by removing the need for businesses to constantly maintain their own systems for thing like data storage.
With Nutanix, companies can build AI and ML into their cloud structures to allow them to create approaches that are more flexible and responsive. Tools like hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) extend the power of these approaches even further.
And, again, creating more efficient processes improves work-life balance, as it reduces both the time investment and stress of dealing with productivity blocks like data storage and searching issues.
In the case of Airbus, for instance, Nutanix cloud solutions were able to help the company spend 50% less time on integration, taking the time taken to bed products in from weeks to days.
Work-life balance has changed a lot. And much of this change is due to technology, with everything from AI and ML to cloud infrastructure and HCI allowing for automated workflows, faster research, bulk data analysis, easy data access, and more.
With these systems in place, employees can engage in both in-person and remote collaboration more effectively, and conduct remote working just as well as they can work in the office. Most importantly, reducing the time and energy spent on mind-numbing and rote tasks frees space and creative energy - and helps confine work to working hours, with more time for leisure.
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