Worried About Sickness, Labor Shortages, & Quiet Quitting? Smart Bots Can Help.

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Quiet Quitting? Smart Bots Can Help

Most companies have been fighting fires over the last few years. We've had COVID, rapid technological adoption, rising economic uncertainty, and now a new threat is on the horizon - quiet quitting. 

As the threats mount up, more and more companies are turning to smart bots to solve their problems. Software bots, also called smart bots, can help bridge the gaps (or gaping holes) left behind by less than enthusiastic workers. Bots make work more efficient by taking care of the tedious, repetitive, and error-sensitive tasks that employees would rather not do. And increasingly, smart bots are replacing workers altogether. 

But what's going on here? Why are smart bots more crucial than ever in the current business landscape? Let's get into it. 

Sickness and “Sickness” - The Impact of Absenteeism

According to data from 2019, employee sickness costs $575 billion and 1.5 million days of lost productivity every year. If that wasn't alarming enough, workdays lost to short-term and long-term disability have increased yearly since 2015. 

Absenteeism is when an employee doesn't report to work as scheduled. Usually, when companies refer to absenteeism, they're talking about employees missing work beyond the scope of what's expected - repeated and extended absence from work. However, even occasional sick days can harm a company if they occur enough across the workforce. 

Absenteeism is a recurring problem for businesses worldwide and results in significant losses to productivity and opportunity. Or in other words, companies with high absenteeism rates experience a hit to their finances and morale - who wants to work in a dead workplace?

People miss work for various reasons; some are unanticipated, and others are deliberate. Here are the main causes of absenteeism:

  • Dissatisfaction, disengagement, and low morale: Employees who are not committed to their jobs or feel unappreciated are more likely to miss work. They simply don't have the same motivation as engaged employees. 
  • Burnout, stress, and mental health: Heavy workloads, urgent deadlines, and personal stressors can take a toll on mental health. Employees may arrive late, leave early, take longer breaks than allowed, or not show up to work at all. 
  • Childcare and older adult care conflicts: You may be dependent on your workers, but they often have dependants too. Sometimes workers don't turn up because they need to stay home to care for a child or older relative when everyday arrangements fall through. 
  • Illness and injury: Sickness, injuries, and medical appointments are the most common reason for missing work. Absence due to sickness usually spikes in the winter when cold and flu are more prevalent. However, it's worth noting that many workers report sickness when the real reason might be low motivation or job hunting. 
  • Job hunting: Is Dave leaving work early for a doctor's visit wearing a full suit? Workers may call in sick or leave early to attend a job interview. 

But just how bad is absenteeism for a business? Well, it's a dire picture. According to the Society of Human Resource Management, 75% of companies surveyed said employee absences have a moderate to large impact on productivity and revenue. In addition, 47% of overtime is a direct result of employee absence, and workers covering for absent employees are 29.5% less productive—absenteeism ripples through the business and impacts everyone. 

Quiet Quitting – A Worrying New Trend

If you've spent any time online recently, you may have come across the term 'quiet quitting.' It's the latest workplace buzzword and has even the most optimistic CEOs worried. But what exactly is quiet quitting? 

Quiet quitting doesn't mean an employee has quit their job, but rather they're taking a more relaxed, or strictly interpreted, approach to their job role. Employees still perform their duties, but they don't go above and beyond. It's essentially a rebellion to hustle culture - the idea that you should work hard for long hours to strive for professional success. Hustle culture is also called burnout or grind culture. And this is precisely what modern workers want to avoid. They reject being overworked and overstressed and want to enjoy a better work-life balance. 

As you might expect, quiet quitting is highly controversial. Some people view it as doing the bare minimum required, while others think it's more about not doing more than you were hired to do without fair compensation. 

Job roles often change over time and additional responsibilities pile up, while pay often remains stagnant. Workers in this situation are now fighting back, but stealthily. 

Where Did All the Workers Go? A Labor Market in Crisis

The Great Resignation, a term coined in May 2021, refers to the record number of people leaving their jobs since the beginning of COVID-19. And it's not over. According to PWC's Global Workforce Hopes and Fears Survey 2022, one in five workers plan to quit their jobs in 2022. 

The last few years have been a turbulent time for the labor market, and today, companies globally are facing an ongoing labor shortage. Essentially, it's a supply and demand issue. Unfortunately, not enough workers are participating in the labor market to meet the demand for employees. 

There are various reasons for this labor shortage, including a shift in workers' expectations, low wages, immigration disruptions, and people not wanting to return to the office after remote working during the pandemic. 

For example, New York City, which recently ranked number 1 for the US city with the highest economic output, is facing an exodus of workers. As of March 2022, the city had a job vacancy rate of 7.7%, a whopping five times higher than in recent years. City agencies are especially affected here, with vacancies, resignations, and retirements at the Buildings Department and Police Department at the highest level in decades. 

Smart Bots – A Solution to Absenteeism, the Labor Shortage, and Quiet Quitting

You could come up with hundreds of solutions to address the most pressing problems businesses face in 2022. For example, companies can combat absenteeism by boosting morale, making workplaces more attractive places to be, and investing more heavily in health plans. They can address worker dissatisfaction or disengagement head-on to fight quiet quitting. And employers can offer higher wages and attractive benefits to fill open positions to address the labor shortage. 

However, there's a glaring problem with all of these strategies - they're expensive, time-consuming, and highly variable. It forces companies to invest a lot of money in plans that have no guarantee of working. And this is simply too risky in the current economic climate when budgets are tight. 

But smart bots offer a better way forward. 

When companies refer to smart bots, they typically mean robotic process automation (RPA). RPA uses software bots to perform high-volume, repeatable tasks. Robotic process automation is becoming a common feature in businesses across the world and with good reason. 

Smart bots don't quit, they don't get tired, they don't mentally "check out," and they don't go knocking on your competitor's door. 

Smart bots can both help your existing employees with their workload or, in some cases, replace them. 

Let's consider a Payroll employee and all the tasks they have to do - expense payment processing, shift payment calculation, bonus calculation, validating payroll results, termination processing, payslip distribution, and so on. These tasks can take hours and are highly error-prone. A simple mistake can cost many more hours in delays and loss of productivity. 

At the same time, the employee may have many more tasks to do outside of these repetitive administrative tasks. Maybe they're working on a new project or providing insight and guidance to other departments. This worker could be at risk of quiet quitting if their job satisfaction is low. And make no mistake; job satisfaction is often low for repetitive tasks. Mundane, manual tasks are tedious and don't allow for any real autonomy - how can you feel empowered by your work if you have no say in it?

In this scenario, a smart bot could handle all of the repetitive administrative tasks, thereby freeing up the workers' time and providing a boost to productivity and morale. 

Similarly, companies can deploy smart bots to combat the labor shortage. Instead of hiring a new human worker, they invest in a bot. This bot can work 24/7 with 100% accuracy and will never ask for a pay rise. 

Lastly, RPA bots can be up and running far quicker than hiring a new employee. The time it takes to hire a new employee varies by job function. For example, for administrative roles, it's 33 days; in finance, it's 46 days; in human resources, it's 39 days; and in sales, it's 38 days. By contrast, you can install an RPA bot in minutes. 

Wrapping Up

Here's the bottom line. Smart bots are an affordable, low-risk, and high-outcome solution to the current problems plaguing the human workforce. RPA can seamlessly integrate with existing systems (its system agnostic), it's scalable, and critically, it's exceedingly fast and accurate. Bots can step up when human workers step away.

Author

Dan Parsons

Dan is the co-founder and COO of Thoughtful. He’s built his career in helping startups build incredible product roadmaps, driving innovation with strategic decision-making and thoughtful process improvements. Now, he’s taken that passion for innovation and project success and turned it into a way for companies of all sizes to scale their own operations, faster.

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