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Man versus machine: UK workers look to tech to outpace AI rivals, Unum finds

24th September 2018

  • Almost half (43%) of UK workers look to tech to optimise performance as anxiety increases around AI
  • Over a third (36%) are willing to have workplace technology monitor their routine to improve productivity
  • New research from Unum examines the motivations and priorities of UK workers to understand how the nation’s workforce will change over the next decade

UK workers are embracing tech in the workplace to maximise their productivity in the wake of developing artificial intelligence (AI) technology, according to a new report from employee benefits specialist Unum and independent researcher The Future Laboratory.

The report, “The Future Workforce”, predicts a new breed of worker more open to using technology to enhance their minds and bodies, allowing them to excel in an increasingly AI-driven landscape.

This Tech-Enhanced Worker would be interested in seeing tech in the workplace that optimises brain chemistry, such as meditation apps, or headsets that monitor or alter brain activity – a view held by 43% of workers. Almost half (49%) would be interested in using tech, such as activity-tracking wearables and time management apps, to improve their performance.

Many believe that AI would benefit their jobs (43%) – yet a greater proportion (55%) expressed concerns AI may render their jobs redundant in years to come.

36% of workers stated they would like to see more technology that monitors their daily routines to help optimise their work, and they’re also willing to surrender personal data to enable them to be more efficient. Over half (55%) stated they would be happy to accept the associated benefit rewards for participating in their employer’s data-optimised workplace.

The report, which focuses on emerging workforce trends in the next five years and how employers need to adapt to ensure they attract and retain top talent, identifies three additional emerging groups of workers:

  • The Socially-Committed Worker – a group that wants its employers to have a powerful social conscience

The research revealed that 61% of workers feel strongly that companies have a duty to make a positive contribution to society, with 59% stating that they want to work for a company with a powerful social conscience. This rises to 69% of those aged between 25-34.

46% of 24-34 year olds feel that companies should be fined if they are not participating in civic and ethical contributions, further defining this type of worker.

The Socially-Committed worker will also expect their employer to give them dedicated time off to pursue charitable initiatives (37% of all workers).

  • The Obligated Worker – a group that requires flexibility in their work life out of necessity

Obligated workers look to manage their numerous work and life commitments to combine financial security and career fulfilment. They include those with dependents and the ‘Sandwich Generation’ attempting to balance raising children with caring for ageing parents.

56% of workers claimed they will need to work longer out of necessity, and 61% have expectations that their employer will accommodate for their needs based on their life stage (e.g. grandparent leave, and associated benefits, and different hours to suit their lifestyle).

These workers want to build careers that are flexible - particularly at different life stages - often leading to ‘portfolio working’ featuring multiple roles and employers.

  • The Self-Fulfilled Worker – a group that tends to have portfolio careers to increase self-fulfilment

In contrast to the Obligated Workers – this group also tends to work flexibly, but out of choice rather than necessity. Almost two thirds (65%) of workers expect to work more years in their life because they want to, not because they have to. And 46% of workers said they’re likely to have multiple careers over their lifetime as opposed to one structured, lifelong career.

Peter O’Donnell, CEO of Unum UK said: “Today’s major societal trends will have a very significant impact on UK business and the needs and expectations of the workforce. Workers of tomorrow are likely to be more willing to share personal data with employers to improve productivity, more conscious of their company’s ethos, and more demanding of workplace flexibility to fulfil personal obligations or lifelong learning goals.

“UK businesses will need to think ahead to ensure they attract and retain talent within this new landscape – be it through integration of new workplace technologies, clearly laying out their sustainability credentials or increasing role-sharing to enable greater flexibility. We hope the report will give business leaders food for thought, and that it will start a discussion around how to prepare for the workforce of tomorrow, today.”

For more information on the findings and how the employers can adapt to the changing needs of the future workforce, please find the full report here: https://www.unum.co.uk/future-workforce.

We have also created a short quiz which helps employees find out what workforce futures they most associate with, and employers to discover how prepared their workplace is for the workers of the future: https://www.unum.co.uk/future-workforce-quiz

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Notes to Editors: For questions or comments, contact Danielle Anthony at Danielle.anthony@unum.co.uk or Kelly Spencer at kspencer2@unum.com.