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How AI Will Affect the WFH Revolution

Photo by Chris Montgomery on Unsplash

Photo by Chris Montgomery on Unsplash

It’s difficult to imagine how the COVID-19 pandemic would have affected businesses had it struck in 1990 instead of 2020. What would working from home have looked like for millions of employees before homes were commonly connected to the internet?

When the pandemic struck, companies had to pivot on the fly to accommodate WFH capability. Still, the technology to make it happen was readily available. Once employers could provide large-scale remote access to office networks, the work of the business could continue.

Technology that makes WFH easier and more effective continues to grow. Perhaps none is growing faster than development and applications of artificial intelligence. Here are a few ways a little AI will have a big impact on the WFH revolution.

AI Will Bolster Cybersecurity for Home Networks

Although employees are accessing software and office networks to do their jobs, they’re using their home Wi-Fi to do it. Those home networks are usually far less protected than office networks. That puts employees’ personal and professional devices — and corporate data — at risk.

Enter AI-based cybersecurity systems. The same AI systems used by large networks are being scaled to serve homes while maintaining large data capacity. Such systems can recognize anomalies and threats more broadly and faster than home antivirus programs.

Home users are extremely concerned about threats such as malware, phishing, ransomware, and spam. But most aren’t doing what they should to protect against them. Nor is the company’s IT talent there to do it for them.

As employers integrate more AI-based cybersecurity programs with their own existing ones, remote workers will benefit from that protection. WFH will not only become increasingly convenient, it will become infinitely more secure as well.

It Will Increase Productivity and Balance

Employees now place work-life balance as one of the highest priorities they have. Values have changed as a result of the pandemic. Professional fulfillment no longer revolves simply around salary and benefits.

WFH employees have faced numerous challenges since the physical office shuttered. Among them is figuring out how to keep work and home separate when they’re doing both from the same space. AI could make a difference.

AI can handle many of the more routine, mundane, and tedious tasks that cause stress and fatigue. Not only will that make the vast majority of employees happier, it will allow them to focus on bigger things. The small tasks are necessary, but the big ones achieve those all-important work milestones.

When AI is helping WFH employees organize their workflow, it’s helping them organize their lives. That’s precisely what they need to achieve that balance they’re seeking in an endemic world.

AI Can Improve Mental Health and Engagement

It’s doubtful that anyone has emerged from the pandemic with their mental health unscathed. Between health concerns, their kids’ disrupted education, and social isolation, many remote employees have seen their mental health suffer. As it has, so has their productivity, job satisfaction, and engagement.

Companies can’t just tell employees to shake it off or keep a stiff upper lip. Employers that fail to address mental health among their WFH employees will lose them — if they haven’t already. Help in the form of AI might not be the first thing employers consider, but perhaps it should be.

AI robot coaches detect depression and stress by analyzing cues in daily chats and offering recommendations for managing issues. It’s like visiting a therapist without another human in the room. Other AI programs monitor cues in emails and other work-related exchanges and notify managers of potential risks.

This all sounds very “Big Brother meets the therapist couch,” so companies need to use monitoring AI with extreme caution. But if employees authorize the use of mental health AI, managers could intervene to help resolve problems earlier. That can benefit everyone concerned.

It Can Facilitate Training and Advancement

One of the reasons employees leave employers is because they see no path to career advancement. On the flip side, employees are more likely to stick around if they believe their employer is investing in them. Using AI for coaching, mentoring, and training WFH talent may be one way to retain them.

Managers and team leaders are usually the people who identify training opportunities that will help employees advance. They’re also the ones who should be mentoring team members. But they don’t always find the time to do it, especially when those team members are working remotely.

AI-enabled software provides the manager and the employee with mentoring, coaching, and training uniquely targeted to the employee. Algorithms make recommendations based on the employee’s strengths and weaknesses, goals and aspirations, and the company’s talent needs.

No human must wade through masses of external training and education opportunities or internal coaching and mentoring resources. And the WFH employee gets advice that’s obviously geared to them. That’s an investment everyone can capitalize on. 

AI Can Do the Work from Anywhere

Some jobs are more conducive to WFH arrangements than others. An employee in the marketing department can tackle pretty much anything remotely. If your job is repairing circuit boards, WFH may be impossible. Or is it?

Combining AI with robotics is making the WFH impossibility possible. Telerobotics isn’t a new phenomenon, but its applications are growing. The robot needs to be physically on site, but a human can control what it does remotely.

Think about surgeons using scopes for microsurgery or bomb squads seeing through the eyes of a robot to disarm explosives. Of course, these aren’t your typical WFH positions, but the same principle applies. A mechanical engineer could use telerobotics to repair a damaged data cable from the comfort of their home office.

AI-enabled robots have already been used in some hotels to deliver towels and room service. A concierge working from home can still make sure the customer is always happy. The concierge will probably be happier as well.

AI Evolution and the WFH Revolution

The pandemic ushered in the WFH revolution earlier and in a bigger way than what would have happened without it. Now that it’s here, it’s here to stay. As applications of AI in remote technology continue to evolve, the office may become a thing of the past for even more workers.

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