Establishing a good work-life balance is something that certain countries, and people, are better at than others. Technology is not helping this problem.

Try and get hold of someone who works in France on the weekend… you will have better luck trying to get them to parlez vous anglaise. In fact, the French government has just passed a law which makes it illegal to contact staff outside of business hours.

Can we just take a step back and appreciate how hard this is in a world where technology brings work to your fingertips? In the past, if the office phone rang and nobody was there to answer it, the call had to wait until Monday; now, mobile phones mean that you can run but you cannot hide.

An article on enterpriseinnovation.net points out that this is becoming a serious problem.

Key research.

The article pointed out that global health service company Cigna Corporation’s latest global 2019 Cigna 360 Well-Being Survey – “Well and Beyond” has found that 64% of people around the world work in an ‘always on’ culture, which causes stress and adversely affects both physical and mental well-being.

The Cigna 360 Well-Being Survey, now in its fifth year, examines people’s perceptions of well-being across five key pillars – physical, family, social, financial and work. The survey was conducted online in 23 countries and jurisdictions around the world.

The article added that respondents have cited a decline in their physical health as a result of not having enough sleep and exercise.

Most respondents feel that employers are not addressing wellness concerns sufficiently and often have a one-size-fits-all mindset when it comes to stress management and workplace wellness programmes.

Jason Sadler, President, Cigna International Markets, told enterpriseinnovation.net: “There is a real need to resolve the always on culture before it escalates further as it is negatively affecting the global workforce. We want to equip employers with the knowledge and practical know-how to both support business productivity and wellness in the workplace.

“With the data from this survey and other research projects, Cigna can help improve the health, well-being and peace of mind of the people we serve. The addition of new health-related topics, such as women’s wellness and heart health, makes this our most comprehensive survey to date,” said Sadler.

Pressed on both ends.

The article pointed out that the survey found that the sandwich generation, those between the age of 35 and 49, hold an increasingly negative outlook on their well-being as they are often caring for both ageing parents as well as young families.

Given this generation is the core talent group driving business, their well-being impacts economies and society overall.

Wellness needs more work.

The article added that stress was identified as a key health problem in previous surveys and is still the pivotal issue, with 84% saying they are stressed and 13% saying they are unable to cope with their stress.

Respondents perceive a lack of employer support. Of the 46% who received stress management support from their employer, only 28% felt it was adequate. Two-fifths (38%) of respondents said that no stress management support was provided at all.

Working women seek tailored programmes.

The article pointed out that 61% of working women feel that workplace wellness programmes need to better address their needs. Half of the women surveyed feel that senior management are not serious about workplace wellness.

Working women seek accessible, clear-cut and comprehensive programmes that will encourage participation, allow flexibility, give a sense of security, and offer measures to counter stress.

While stress is a problem for both men and women, our study reveals that working women are, on average, more stressed than working men.

Preparing for old age.

The enterpriseinnovation.net article added that half of the respondents to the survey are prepared for older age, with those holding insurance policies and living in emerging markets feeling more financially optimistic.

For many over the age of 60, they see working as a way of staying mentally sharp, physically active and sharing their knowledge through mentorship.

This contrasts with younger people who believe they will be working only for financial reasons as they age. There is a perception that companies are unwilling to hire older adults and unable to provide adequate support.

Understanding heart health.

The article pointed out that, for the first time, the survey looked at the issue of heart disease. The survey reveals that there is moderate understanding of Body Mass Index (BMI) and blood pressure, yet a disparity exists between knowledge and active heart health management.

While the majority agree that a lifestyle change is a prerequisite to good heart health, one in six people have taken no action to address a possible symptom of heart disease.

Virtual health services becoming more accepted.

The article added that virtual health services – via telephone and online – offer convenience, accessibility, and affordability. The survey found that there is a growing acceptance of virtual health, with 59% willing to consider it for consultation and diagnosis. However, only one in five respondents fully understands its benefits.

Each year, the survey tracks a global well-being index which measures the overall health and well-being of respondents. This year’s index remained largely steady at 62.0 points, closer to 2017 levels, with a marginal improvement from 2018’s decline.

Countries such as India, Indonesia, Nigeria and Saudi Arabia showed the strongest improvement in overall wellness with a rise of between 2.1 and 4.4 points, while six markets fell. The heaviest drop was in New Zealand, followed by Taiwan and Singapore.

The terminators have arrived.

There is a way around the need for employees to have a work-life balance. Remember James Camron’s 1988 classic Terminator? Robots replacing human workers are becoming increasingly common.

The reality of a future workplace with humans working side-by-side and hand-in-hand with ‘digital workers’ – be they bots or automatons or AI – is dawning upon us.

As our organizations transform digitally, it has become increasingly important for business leaders to have well thought through strategies, that would effectively employ AI, automation and human talent for an efficient, productive and conducive workplace.

Enterprise Innovation spoke to Adrian Jones, EVP, APAC at Automation Anywhere about digital workers in the workplace, why we need them, and how we could best work with them.

As firms in Asia-Pacific digitally transform, why is it increasingly important for business leaders to consider what jobs can be automated, and how to automate them?

As companies accelerate their digital transformation efforts, the workplace is continuously evolving to reflect new levels of innovation and unparalleled momentum that these changes bring. Automation Anywhere believes that the future workplace will encapsulate the best of human creativity and the power of digital technology.

Business leaders need to start taking steps toward directing this change, by ensuring that their workplace and employees are trained to be able to harness the power of digital technology effectively. This would be crucial to ensuring that they continue to deliver significant value to their target audiences, especially since the automation of jobs serves to take the mundane and repetitive tasks out of an employee’s daily work, freeing them up to fully prioritize higher level responsibilities that can make a substantial difference to their work.

With talent as an increasingly finite resource, automation helps to ensure that business tasks are completed, and employees feel empowered to take on higher levels of responsibility and more meaningful tasks. The automation of job processes also empowers more seamless data integration that can help employees deliver on a much higher level than before with the actionable insights they gain from this data.

What are digital workers and how real is their introduction into the workplace of the future?

At Automation Anywhere, we have introduced Digital Workers – ready to deploy digital personas that combine task-oriented, cognitive and analytical abilities to automate repetitive activities, creating the world’s first marketplace for the workforce of the future. While software bots are typically task or process-centric, Digital Workers are human-centric, and built to augment human workers in specific business functions, across a range of verticals.

Some examples that we have introduced include Digital Accounts Payable Clerk and Digital Talent Sourcer that automate entire processes and perform multiple tasks in a set of sequences, such as regularly submitting invoices through the system from beginning to end with little to no supervision.

We are already beginning to see them at workplaces all over the world, including corporations like Google, LinkedIn, and Cisco that we work with. Even as we move toward becoming Digitally First in the near future, digital workers have a role to play in enhancing the strengths of our existing workforce and ultimately making businesses more efficient.

Additionally, as businesses start embracing frontier technologies like Artificial Intelligence, digital workers will prove useful, allowing businesses to implement AI into business processes 70% faster and at less than half the cost incurred by deploying automation from the ground up.[1]

Underpinned by Robotic Process Automation (RPA), organizations are able to build world-class Intelligent Digital Workforces, with software bots working side by side with employees to do much of the repetitive work in many industries with near-zero error rates, while dramatically reducing operational costs.

What does automation mean for workers who find some aspects of their jobs being automated?

As with any technological shift, there is understandably uncertainty among workers around how automation will impact them, however, Automation Anywhere believes automation will truly augment the human enterprise, helping workers to refocus their efforts from repetitive and cumbersome activities to value-added work that exercises ingenuity, creativity, empathy and collaboration.

Additionally, as data is increasingly becoming a business’ most important digital currency, the automation of work processes will help employees to tap onto disparate data sources to gain more insight into how they can best meet customer needs and thrive in their job functions.

At Automation Anywhere, our vision is to remove the mundane parts of employees’ daily jobs, and in the process, make work more human. When workers find some aspects of their jobs becoming automated, this allows them to focus on what humans do best: using their creativity and ingenuity to drive productivity and innovation.

With employee satisfaction directly linked to performance, they can look forward to more meaningful careers.

How would intelligent machines — ranging from AI to intelligent assistants to RPA bots — redefine the way human beings work with machines?

At Automation Anywhere, we envision a future workforce where humans work alongside digital workers, bringing together the best of human creativity and decision making with the power and depth of digital workforce technology.

As we move toward this changing reality, humans and machines can no longer be siloed – each on their own will not be enough to drive businesses in the coming decades and will need to come together to unlock new levels of growth and innovation.

Given the human-centric nature of intelligent machines, it brings the focus back to how we can augment and enhance the crucial roles that employees play. These machines and systems mirror human user actions and, in a non-intrusive way, handle complementary and repetitive tasks – from accurately filling in forms and moving files, to extracting specific data from documents and logging into applications.

This will create a shift towards greater interdependency between humans and machines.

Work hard…rest hard

Adding his weight to the argument, GTconsult Co-Founder and CEO – Bradley Geldenhuys – said that it is hard to appreciate how sensitive the issue is.

“At GTconsult, we believe that hard work pays the bills and that teamwork makes the dream work. However, while we work hard, we also play hard. Looking after employees should be the primary objective of a company; a product or a service may be the heart of the company, but its employees are its soul,” said Geldenhuys.

He added that value can be found in digital workers, but this needs to be managed.

“Sure, a robot is always on and can work 365 days a year. However, they are programmable and can only effectively respond to specific situations. When there is a case where an empathic decision needs to be made, a robot or digital worker cannot be trusted. This is because the majority of key business decisions that we make are based on context which robots and digital workers cannot calculate,” said Geldenhuys.