Skip to main content
Article | Executive Pay Memo – UK

Using AI to redesign work for the post-pandemic era

Future of Work
N/A

By George Zarkadakis | September 28, 2020

The pandemic crisis is not over yet, however businesses are much better equipped in order to deal with the new wave of infections.

The pandemic crisis is not over yet, however businesses are much better equipped in order to deal with the new wave of infections. The experience of the past few months has demonstrated how quickly organizations can react in a public health emergency, and how easily employees whose work can be done remotely adapted in new working patterns from the comfort, and safety, of their home. 

Leaders, however, have already started looking beyond the pandemic and into how they can seize this unique historical opportunity for delivering a more efficient and more productive workplace, as well as better employee experience. The workplace of the future is not a farfetched concept anymore, but one that is with us today, as millions of employees are already working from home creating a “new normal”. But how should leaders plan ahead?

The workplace of the future is not a farfetched concept anymore, but one that is with us today”

George Zarkadakis
Digital Lead, Talent and Rewards

What should be the right approach towards designing and implementing a “hybrid” workplace for the post-pandemic era?

Economic research points to several nuances when redesigning work in a hybrid workplace. Under certain circumstances working from home can deliver improvement in performance up to 13%. But that is not always the case. Not every employee wants, or likes, working from home. There are cases where working from home is not practical.

The big opportunity of the pandemic is that businesses can now reimagine work, and redesign it for greater efficiency.

The ones who do like working from home need back up on childcare, or for the care of vulnerable members of their family. More importantly, networking and innovation require a physical space for people to meet and collaborate in person. The social aspects of a physical workplace, the camaraderie of colleagues, the impromptu meetings at the water cooler, the ambience and energy of an office, are important in employee mental and emotional wellbeing, as well as in nourishing company culture and esprit de corps.

As leaders strategize about the workplace of the post-pandemic era, they need to take into account how their employees feel, their specific circumstances, but also the readiness and suitability of their job roles to be transformed for a flexible working pattern framework.

The big opportunity of the pandemic is that businesses can now reimagine work, and redesign it for greater efficiency and better employee experience, while keeping the right balance between the physical and the digital. To do so, however, there are several other important things to be considered.

Contact Us

Redesigning work

At the core of work redesign is the breakdown of job roles into tasks, and the assessment of those tasks with regards to their specific characteristics. For instance, there are job tasks that are quite repetitive and rules-bound, and do not require any teamwork; for example, a task that requires the extraction of some information from a document and the input of that information in a database or some other system of record. Such tasks can be automated using Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and some AI, for example a Natural Language Processing (NLP) system that can read a document. Automating such tasks can create efficiencies up to 30%. Other tasks may be of relative low value, in which case it might be better to outsource them to a lower cost contractor via a talent platform.

Think, for example, tasks that have to do with presentations; these are usually very demanding in terms of time and effort but not of great value. On the contrary tasks in a role that are of high value (for example, tasks that are client facing or revenue generating) can be redesigned so that they are augmented by technology. Depending on the characteristics of these tasks, they can be done either done digitally by remote, or done in a physical environment. By distributing automatable or low-level tasks to alternative sources of work, and keeping and augmenting tasks of high value, a role can be redesigned so that it delivers higher productivity, better career prospects, and better work satisfaction.

Bringing in the AI

Work redesign is simple for a limited number of roles but gets very complicated when it needs to be done at scale. Complex organizations may have dozens of roles, with a range of nuances depending on geography and function. Moreover, even for a limited number of roles, there needs to be a standard and coherent approach to the redesign, which is a challenge when redesign takes place manually. At Willis Towers Watson we have developed WorkVue, an AI solution that allows organizations to redesign roles at scale.

WorkVue uses NLP to quickly read and understand the text that describes job tasks; then applies an intelligent algorithm to classify tasks and recommend strategies for redesign and improvement. It includes graphics and analytics to help designers make the business case for work redesign, and to demonstrate the ROI from distributing, automating and augmenting tasks.

As business leaders envision the flexible workplace of the post-pandemic era WorkVue is a very useful tool to help them test various scenarios for work redesign and run pilots in order to evaluate different options, reduce risk, and increase the speed of adoption by the workforce. Significantly, WorkVue enables work designers to identify the skills that are necessary to evolve the redesigned roles and plan personalised reskilling pathways and new career paths for employees.

About the Authors

George Zarkadakis
Director of Willis Towers Watson’s Digital Incubator and leader of the Future of Work Strategy Advisory Services for Great Britain and Western Europe



Related content tags, list of links Article Executive Pay Memo – UK Future of Work

Related Capabilities