On Friday, 5th October, I slept out rough in London with a team from SAS, along with about 1500 others across the UK, as part of Byte Night. This is an annual event to raise awareness and critical funds for the charity Action for Children, which helps to prevent youth homelessness in the UK.
One of the reasons why Byte Night works is that it helps people to understand some of the problems experienced by rough sleepers. The biggest issue for me was the disturbed sleep. We were sleeping out in central London, and it felt like there were sirens going all night, not to mention other traffic. I was also disturbed by the people around me moving about, rustling, and even snoring.
The following day, Saturday, I found myself really struggling. My brain just wouldn’t work properly. I forgot to take things with me, I got my words jumbled up, and I craved all the wrong foods, such as chocolate and junk food, which I would never normally eat. What’s more, I felt clumsy. I put all this down to having had so little sleep. I was grateful, to use the words from medicine packets, that I didn’t have to operate any heavy machinery.
Sleep and efficiency
This got me thinking about automation, and in a much more concrete way than I have ever done before. I realized that it might have several benefits that I had not considered.
In the average workplace, you will have several employees at different stages of life. You might, for example, have new parents, or parents with a sick child, people caring for other family members, young people who like to go out in the evenings, and may from time to time stay out too late, and people who are worrying about something in their lives. You might even have one or two people who are sleeping on friends’ sofas because they are temporarily homeless.
All these people may have had rather less sleep than is strictly ideal last night. Some may get less sleep than is ideal every night.
If my experience is anything to go by, the result is likely to be that on any given day, quite a few of the employees in the average workplace will not be operating at their best. Some may even be borderline ‘unable to function’, but still need to turn up to work so that they get paid. The lack of sleep is not their fault, of course, it is simply the result of life circumstances. It may, however, lead to at best poor decisions, and at worst industrial accidents, injuries and time off work sick, which neither employer nor employee can afford.
What if, however, we could automate some of the tasks of these employees? What if that automation meant that these tasks could be done at 100% accuracy, with a constant speed and attention to detail, consistency and repeatability? Why would we not take advantage of this? The workplace would be safer and more efficient, and employees would be better able to cope with their life circumstances.
Working patterns could also change, with employees able to work from home, or over different hours. This would allow them to recover from a bad night and pick the work up later, when they are better able to manage. Client-facing work can often be done remotely just as easily. A little flexibility could go a long way to improving employee efficiency and ability, not to mention motivation, engagement and loyalty.
A real eye-opener
My experience on Byte Night was an eye-opener in more ways than one. To any company tempted to discard automation as being ‘a bit difficult’, I would now ask: have you really considered its benefits to both you and your employees? Have you also considered what the costs of not automating might be?
If you are considering your AI maturity or looking to use AI but not sure where to start, why not contact SAS? We have over 40 years of experience, deep advanced analytics experience and a genuine passion to help your business grow.
Recommended to you: Harvard Business Review’s AI Adoption Insight Center article Adopting AI - the impacts of AI on management. The paper discusses the reality of AI execution in businesses today and what we’re learning as AI advances.