Fear of Automation and Working In the Digital Age

Although technology is here to stay and automation is on track to expand its reach, this doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re doomed to be completely replaced.

Let’s face it, whether you’re tech-savvy and totally comfortable and up to speed with the latest gadgets, or you’re still struggling to even figure out the point of Snapchat, one thing’s for certain; we live in an increasingly digital age. From smartphones to smart homes, to augmented reality apps, hybrid cars and bitcoin, the daily living experience has taken a massive technological leap.  Nothing’s escaped this digital shift. Not even the workplace.

The Workplace’s Digital Transition

We’re not trying to paint a picture of post-apocalyptic AI-ruled dystopias, like a scene from one of the Terminator films, but the fact remains that more and more organizations are adopting an automated approach to running their day to day operations. Have you been to Wal-Mart lately? Or caught a movie at a theatre? You’ve probably noticed – and taken advantage of – the self-checkout kiosks. There’s something wonderful about shorter lines and the control of handling your own transactions. The convenience and minimal hassle of ordering your groceries online or using an automated kiosk to pick up movie tickets that were purchased before you even left the house, by far outweighs the manual operation of days gone by.

It’s hard to deny the ease and efficiency that machines provide. We love them as consumers, and as business owners our productivity skyrockets with greater output, reduced errors and increased revenue. But, what about the other side of this phenomenon? What happens to the people who used to perform those jobs now that machines have taken over the majority of their roles?  If you’re an employee wondering what this digital transition in your workplace might mean for you in the long run, you’re not alone.  According to recent research, almost everyone is worried to some degree that automation might erase their jobs.  Three out of five adults feel their jobs are at risk, and even 57% of 18 – to 23-year-olds are worried that automation will negatively impact their jobs.

So How Do We Deal with It?

Fear of automation, while common, need not be a reality. Although technology is here to stay and automation is on track to expand its reach, this doesn’t mean that we’re doomed to be outpaced and ultimately replaced.  The upside of automation is delegation. It’s meant to help us do our jobs better and faster. The caveat here, is that although we now have help to do our jobs, it doesn’t absolve us of the responsibility to continually add value to our roles.

Let’s put it this way: before the advent of the internet and emails, for example, a job requiring an extensive number of letters to be written would see those documents being executed by hand and mailed off in person. Today, they can be composed and issued with just a few keystrokes and clicks of a mouse. But the sender still needs to know how to write correspondence effectively. Our skills are what keep us valuable in an ever-changing workplace. So, the way forward lies in our adaptability.

If you’re struggling with the idea of sharing the spotlight with – or possibly being overshadowed by – a digital transition, the best way to slay the monster is to stay ahead of the curve. Always continue to seek ways to add value to your position by upgrading your skills and learning new ways to achieve company objectives. That way, should you actually be faced with the prospect of a position made redundant by automation, you’ll not only have seen it coming; you’ll be equipped to create a brand-new space for yourself due to the absolute necessity of your skills.

Don’t run from it; embrace the shift.

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