Are remote workplace tools really making our lives better? As the onslaught of “efficient” new apps for our desktop and mobile devices continues, the ability to distance oneself from work becomes increasingly difficult.
Enterprise efficiency technology is a catchall term that encompasses all of the tech tools, both internal and external, that organizations use to make processes run smoother and communication easier.
The next generation of these tools will actually make our lives easier and happier. Thanks to the onset of AI (artificial intelligence), predictive analysis will offer services to junior and mid-level employees that were once reserved only for senior executives.
The applications that use AI to reimagine the online calendar will likely have a significant impact on our work behavior. Just as predictive analysis anticipates what we want to say in our emails, our calendars will soon predict what we want to do, where we want to go, or whom we wish to meet.
How often do you look at your online calendar and think, “I honestly don’t know why I’ve agreed to any of these meetings?” or “When will I find the time to just be productive and write?” These laments are common, and engineers know this to be true.
Soon, sophisticated AI applications for the calendar will:
- Notify teams if they haven’t met in some time—and probably should.
- Re-organize the day on behalf of the user to allocate space for “thinking time,” “productivity time,” and “writing time.”
- Crunch data for managers, showing them if their teams are spending too much time meeting or not enough time convening about the right KPIs for the organization.
- Generate data visualizations in the form of weekly or monthly reports, transparently communicating the output from key meetings to users and managers.
And that’s just the beginning.
The pessimist in me thinks big brother has arrived (again), only in a more obvious way. I want autonomy over how I spend my day, and I don’t think AI is sophisticated enough—yet—to tell me what I know to be true. Time management is still extremely personal and, ultimately, an individual choice.
The optimist in me thinks this will be transformative. As a morning person, I spend AM hours focused on writing and taking important meetings because I know I am at my most productive between the hours of 8 AM-noon. A calendar driven by AI will be able to help all of us recognize when we are our best working selves.
The calendar tools of tomorrow will offer post-meeting push notifications to indicate important agenda items worth a follow-up. These tools may also tell you what the best next steps should be to a given problem based on data sets and outcomes recognized throughout the organization.
Over time, the smart calendar will know which meetings are worth your time and which should be rescheduled or cancelled altogether. I’m sure we could all use the prompt “Could this be done over email?” to help thin out the daily calls.
Undoubtedly, these changes will happen slowly; rapid acceleration of AI would create a backlash among users protective of their privacy and personal decision-making power. But step by step, tech updates will soon have us using our calendars in a new way, and my guess is that we will begin to consider these new tools as commonplace and indispensable parts of our daily lives.
After all, once upon a time, e-mail was purely optional, as was social media.
All too often, I see tweets like this appear in my newsfeed:
Ms. Marshall is right. Our inboxes have become the to-do list that other people write for us. Email and social messaging is chaotic, in part because we can’t segment time well to address each channel with structure. It’s too easy to be distracted by email; it can cause other work to fall by the wayside.
The New Yorker further explains this conundrum, “An office worker’s life is dramatically easier, in the moment, if she can send messages that demand immediate responses from her colleagues, or disseminate requests and tasks to others in an ad-hoc manner. But the cumulative effect of such constant, unstructured communication is cognitively harmful: on the receiving end, the deluge of information and demands makes work unmanageable. There’s little that any one individual can do to fix the problem. A worker might send fewer email requests to others and become more structured about her work, but she’ll still receive requests from everyone else; meanwhile, if she decides to decrease the amount of time that she spends engaging with this harried digital din, she slows down other people’s work, creating frustration.”
AI solutions to this problem—by way of a reimagined online calendar—are coming. Whether they will create a utopian or dystopian work-life future is yet to be determined.