Will technology supersede face-to-face communications?

By October 22, 2018 No Comments

Technology like Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa have been on the market now for some years – in fact Siri first appeared back in 2011. People went mad and thought it would change their lives.

There’s no denying the fact that what the teams at Apple and Amazon have achieved is quite remarkable, but it quickly became clear that there was still some way to go to make a machine recognise and react to human language.

With the announcement that another global tech giant – Microsoft – has bought a startup that specialises in conversational AI, it’s got me wondering whether there really will come a time when robots and technology supersede humans.

Language is an incredibly complex function and is vital to our everyday existence, but language and communication is more than just words.

The average adult in the UK spends 8 hours 41 minutes per day using media devices

BBC News

The average adult in the UK spends more time using media devices than they do sleeping – 8 hours 41 minutes v 8 hours 21 minutes*. Some people multitask and are watching something on a tablet while tweeting or instagramming on their mobile, which could easily increase those numbers.

Over the years, there has been a drive towards mobile and flexible working in the belief that employees want the freedom and flexibility to work when they want, wherever they want.

One of the biggest challenges employees (and employers, consequently) face when they are working at another location is how to maintain face-to-face contact with colleagues, customers and clients. It may also be one of the reasons why managers can be somewhat resistant to remote working.

A recent study by Ricoh revealed that 93% of respondents were most productive in a fixed office location.

Maybe one of the reasons for this is human contact.

When so much of our lives are driven by online communication, being in an office with colleagues is the way to achieve this. Another reason may be presenteeism – the fear of missing out on a promotion or new project if you’re not actually in the office.

Perhaps a fixed location is where they can be most productive because the technology is there to support their day job.

Workers over the age of 53 spend less time at their desk and typically work away from the office, according to the study. This may indicate that they are more senior members of staff, but with that comes management responsibility for employees and teams.

Why is face-to-face communication in the workplace important?

Helps to build trust

When you’re able to see the person you’re speaking to, you can see their emotions and how they react to different ideas or comments.

Build a more meaningful connection

Linked to trust, but also shows how credible you are. You can’t hide behind a wall of emails. When your employees/customers/clients can see who you are, this builds loyalty.

Boosts collaboration and creativity

If you see someone getting excited about an idea, when they start waving their arms around, it’s hard not to share in their enthusiasm (if you genuinely think it’s a good idea too, of course!). Without this visual clue it could lose momentum and the best idea is lost forever.

Increases productivity

A five minute face-to-face conversation could save an email thread of over 20 messages, which could be peppered with misunderstanding and even cause unnecessary tension (which could take even longer to solve).

Develop lasting relationships

Face-to-face interactions not only develop a more meaningful connection, they build a lasting relationship and can mean the difference between keeping a customer or losing them to a competitor.

Eye contact is a form of body language

Non-verbal communication makes up around 55% of what we’re trying to say. Eye contact plays a vital role in showing that you’re engaged and interested in the conversation.

Managers that travel and work remotely want technology to work for them not against them. Will technology ever really supersede face-to-face interactions? It’s a tall order, especially given the fact we’re hardwired for personal, social interactions and group working.

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