Potential lifelines for businesses in 2024 as workplace turbulence is set to continue

Potential lifelines for businesses in 2024 as workplace turbulence is set to continue

A new year is nearly upon us. There is no denying that 2023 has been a difficult year for businesses due to many different factors and it looks set to continue into the new year. Three experts share their views on where they see businesses being able to grow, ranging from AI, transforming offices into hubs of productivity and interaction and using cobots in the manufacturing industry.

Graham Glass, CEO and Co-founder of CYPHER Learning:

In the coming year, the businesses that perform the best against competitors will be those that enlist Artificial Intelligence to support a more skilled, resilient workforce.

Skills requirements for modern professionals are changing rapidly. The World Economic Forum describes this period as a ‘new era of turbulence’ for businesses. A new study on HR and business leaders finds more than three-quarters (76%) are struggling to develop training materials with current resources. The gap between organisations that can keep up with new skills requirements, and those that can’t, may widen.

This pressure will likely drive the uptake of AI-powered solutions to act as co-pilots. For trainers and L&D leads, AI tools can mean more efficiency, productivity and creativity. Eighty-six percent of HR and business leaders state they or their team already use Generative AI – 58% to create gamified training and 53% to make courses more engaging and to develop assessments.

Institutional scepticism of AI persists, of course, but nearly nine in 10 (87%) business leaders said they would be more open to using well-controlled implementations of AI packaged within a commercial tool.

As businesses face the ‘new era of turbulence’, the journey toward an upskilled workforce will not be plain sailing. With the right AI tools and strategic approach, however, HR and business leaders can successfully navigate workplace turbulence and build a resilient workforce – and 2024 will prove it.

Karl Breeze, CEO at Matrix Booking:

As we prepare for 2024, our growth plans are set to follow the dynamic shifts occurring in the market, particularly the revolution in hybrid workspaces. We’ve moved beyond simply making remote work possible. Now, we’re focused on maximising the potential of the hybrid work model.

The push and pull between employers’ and employees’ visions for the workplace continues and the coming year will see us enhancing our product suite to meet these market needs. We’re not just talking about desk allocation anymore; it’s about transforming offices into hubs of productivity and interaction.

As the debate on the ideal hybrid set-up intensifies, our goal is to support organisations in using their office space effectively to foster the essential face-to-face interactions that underpin successful teamwork.

The workplace analytics tools within our booking systems provide organisations with valuable insights into occupancy patterns. This goes beyond mere headcounts. We help companies delve into team dynamics and space usage, informing strategic decisions around space optimisation, energy conservation and operational efficiency.

The transition from ‘assumed’ to ‘confirmed’ usage is a game-changer. It marks a major advancement for any company seeking to navigate the intricacies of a hybrid work model, especially as traditional office usage has completely changed.

More than a third of desks in offices around the globe are unoccupied all week, but most companies remain tied to fixed leases. The challenge now is to repurpose these spaces to promote teamwork and choice, transforming the office from a mere location to work from into a destination where employees want to engage and connect. Organising people’s schedules to facilitate these interactions is becoming more critical than ever.

In 2024, we’re looking to broaden our support for collaboration in the workplace. Our growth will include new features that makes it easier for employees to work together effectively when they’re in the office. These new offerings will help companies make every second count when employees choose to spend time in the office.

Moving forward, we’re enhancing our tools to assist employees in coordinating their workdays more effectively with their teams, nurturing a collaborative workplace environment. We aim to make the logistical aspect of hybrid office management seamless, allowing employees to concentrate on the work that truly matters.

We’re part of a larger movement towards enhancing workplace management. Our solutions are designed to contribute to industry best practices, offering ways to create more adaptable and intelligent work environments that reflect our changing work culture.

In an unpredictable global landscape, the only certainty is change, and we at Matrix Booking are committed to adapting alongside these shifts. Our focus is on sustainability and ethical practices as we develop our products. While we can’t predict next year’s challenges, we’re dedicated to offering solutions that support flexible and informed work environments for the hybrid era.

Stacey Moser, Chief Commercial Officer, Universal Robots:

The past year has been no easy feat for businesses, with an unpredictable global economy hitting manufacturers particularly hard. As we move into 2024 there are no signs of this relenting, with the sector recording its worst performance in the UK since the 1980s.

Increasing productivity will be a key focus in the pursuit of profitability for 2024, and accelerating adoption of automation could be the answer. However, many businesses do not have the funds or resources to adopt large, expensive industrial robots.

Enter collaborative robots (cobots) – lightweight robotic arms that can automate repetitive and dangerous tasks. Compatible with traditional industrial robots, cobots work alongside humans to offer a wide range of benefits, all underpinned by the ability to improve productivity, as well as improve safety and worker well-being.

Reimagining production lines for 2024

Due to the nature of the industry, manufacturing workers often face so-called dull, dirty, dangerous jobs. For example, palletisation – the process of stacking, loading and securing goods onto pallets – has traditionally been a manual operation that requires staff to perform strenuous tasks repetitively. Long-term, this can cause issues for employees such as musculoskeletal damage.

Working alongside humans, cobots can take on these undesirable tasks, preventing staff injuries while improving manufacturing quality as human error is reduced. With minimal human effort necessary to operate cobots, these autonomous colleagues can help mitigate on-going labour shortages.

Cobots also enable workers to focus on more valuable tasks. As employees take on more rewarding work, job satisfaction naturally improves. In a sector that faces labour gaps, this can go far in improving employee retention. Prospective workers who may have previously been drawn away from the manufacturing industry by the necessity of performing risky and monotonous tasks may now see a different future ahead.

Reducing gaps between competitors

With the current cost of living crisis projected to persist through 2024, consumer behaviour is becoming increasingly unpredictable. Cobots provide the flexibility to adapt to whatever circumstances manufacturers find themselves in, whether production must be scaled up or down, or an expansion into new markets is required.

With less human labour required to man machinery, it could open the door to 24/7 factories. Manufacturers could see goods produced and out of the door faster than ever before, a colossal productivity boost to consider as 2024 approaches.

Challenging current misconceptions

Despite cobots being widely available to manufacturers of all sizes, these modern automation solutions have yet to be considered a possibility by many. Some fear high costs, however, it’s been proven that cobots can achieve return on investment (ROI) in as little as 12 months.

Another common myth is that cobots are difficult to implement or use. However, the technology is designed with an approachable user interface. Meanwhile, software designed for use alongside cobots, such as Universal Robots’ PolyScope, means that programming cobots to complete tasks becomes intuitive.

Finally, the advent of AI and automation tools such as Chat-GPT has fuelled fears that robots may soon takeover human jobs. Manufacturers concerned about possible backlash may be hesitant to begin deploying automation. It is important to remember that cobots are designed to work alongside humans, not replace them.

Forecasting for the year ahead

As manufacturers carefully consider budgets for 2024, automation and cobot technologies should be at the very top of the list. Deployment of these technologies is now essential for increasing productivity, quality and efficiency for the year ahead, and well beyond.

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