Survey: 75% of U.S. Workers Think Their Jobs are Safe from Automation – Robotics Business Review

Most U.S. workers feel that their jobs are relatively safe from automation in the next decade, according to a new survey. But some questions remain about whether workers understand the difference between the terms robots or automation, which can imply artificial-intelligence algorithms that automate tasks within an office.

In an October 2019 survey, SYKES and Pollfish surveyed 1,500 workers across the U.S. to ask them questions related to automation and the future of work. Results from the questions show much optimism from workers about the role of robotics and automation and how it will help them in their jobs, rather than replace them outright.

Results from the survey showed:

There is some concern on the horizon, however. While 95% of those surveyed have not lost a job due to automation, 37% of those workers said they do worry about this. In terms of the impact of automation in 2020, 53% said they expected a bit more of the workload to be handled by automation, compared with 31% who said they expected significantly more of the workload to be handled by automation technologies.

At the moment, the impact of automation programs, whether robots in factories, or AI-based software automation in the office, hasnt really been felt yet. When asked whether any automation program in 2019 has saved them from doing parts of their job that were repetitive and boring, 33.8% said they had such programs.

When asked how they could be better at their jobs if certain tasks were automated, most said that automating certain tasks would allow me to do more in less time (63.27%), followed by reduce errors in my work (38.8%), allow me to be more creative (27.47%), and allow me to focus more on long-term strategic planning (28.8%).

Respondents were asked an open-ended question on what repetitive and boring tasks they wish automation would save them from doing. Examples of responses included:

Physical labor tasks were also mentioned, such as Loading books onto a conveyor belt to be three-hold punched, and I wish some of the labor was replaced with forklift machine and Placing nuts and bolts.

Ian Barkin, SYKES

In discussing the results with Robotics Business Review, Ian Barkin, the chief strategy officer at SYKES, said there could be some confusion in workers minds about the terms automation implies for them in their own jobs. One could posit that some respondents may have imagined physical walking, talking robots something like Rosie the Robot from The Jetsons doing everything they do at their job, and could not fathom it happening anytime soon, said Barkin. Or perhaps this same group of respondents are those who also told us that their employer is providing either some or a lot of training and/or resources to help them keep current with changes in technology which over half of our respondents say is their experience.

Barkin said there is some psychology behind such large numbers of American workers who dont think their jobs are at risk in the next 10 years. Humans dont anticipate, or process, black swan events very well, he said. We anticipate change to be gradual, and we would rather assume that unfortunate events happen to others rather than ourselves so some of the answers we see in our survey may very well be influenced by optimism or denial of impending change.

He added that the speed of the change is often not as fast as media headlines would have us believe. An intelligent understanding of the technologies in question now that is the real issue, said Barkin. Im certain most people dont understand the types and capabilities of labor-emulating algorithms on the horizon. How could they?

A blog post highlighting details from the survey is available here. You can also download a PDF version of the report.

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Survey: 75% of U.S. Workers Think Their Jobs are Safe from Automation - Robotics Business Review

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