The Leader Magazine

DEC 2018

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46 December 2018 the lea D er F E A T U R E A R T I C L E An insightful tale signals caution for workplace technology by Sam Sahni T he Circle," a 2013 novel by Dave Eggers, is a dystopian glimpse into the future of working among the Internet giants that currently dominate business. It carries a very definitive vision of the future of workplace from the eyes of the workforce, and it is far from complimentary. The novel is an unflattering take on the campus workplace environment and there are some critical points within it that our industry should learn. The author's focus falls on new technology, data and the responsibility that comes with greater integration of both. a novel approach to the workplace The book follows Mae Holland, a young graduate who starts work at the campus of the Circle, an omnipresent tech company with billions of users. The campus is everything you might expect of the workplace of the future: devoted to wellness, beautifully designed, tech-enabled, and with wide open spaces. But in the eyes of the narrator, there is something inherently unsettling with this approach. The novel focuses on the deconstruction of privacy; how a move toward openness and transparency can leave power in the wrong hands. It is the story of big data written as a nightmare. Total access to personal information divests the subjects of any semblance of self and every moment in life is imbued with public-relations artifice. The workplace is at the very heart of the working life as an "always-on," "digitally-enabled" office that becomes a paradox by which employees give up everything to their corporate host in the belief that they are buying into the "sharing" revolution. The place for technology Despite the misgivings of the Circle, the integration of artificial intelligence (AI) will, in theory, allow us to crack that thorny issue of productivity and start pulling workplace data into meaningful shape. Getting a grip on performance data and understanding the outcomes of successful workplace design will revolutionise our market. But what is so daunting about this prospect? What we must remember is that technology is put in place to support the customer experience – not to be the customer experience. a rtificial intelligence: the future? "People analytics," as some are already calling workplace data, lies at that sweet spot where workplace, HR, and IT collide. This area is the future of the sector and the successful integration of technology carries massive potential benefits. Workplace professionals have relied on human resources to offer human-level insight or to better understand "people and performance." But if this kind of data on staff movement, presence, productivity, choice of location, utilisation and collaboration is readily available, then it will empower the workplace discipline. It will allow us to constantly adapt in order to respond to a continuously changing context. The real difference will begin when AI enables frictionless working beyond the physical workplace. For example, we are working on combining calendar, transportation and weather data for a user, which will give them back extra 15 minutes in the morning. This is where the real power of this technology lies and where it can work to the benefit of the workforce. "

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