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How AI can ease workplace distraction & increase productivity

31 Aug 2020

It is Monday. You have finished your weekly meetings, squared up your calendar, and you’re ready to work. Somebody pulls you aside and asks you to do a task for them, or you get a notification on your screen about another new email - adding to the pile of ones sitting in your inbox.

Distraction – whether it is in the office or at home – is a major barrier to productivity – research suggests that people are distracted more than 400 times every day. 

Further, a study from McKinsey Global Institute found that employees spend 20% of their time on simple things such as information gathering or finding out where their colleagues are.

According to Citrix Australia and New Zealand managing director and area vice president, Keith Buckley, “This is often because, much like team members, various apps and systems do not talk to each other either, creating much unnecessary, manual work. This means that workflows are very often driven by the needs of the application, or the constraints of the system, rather than by what works best for the business or the employee.”

Technology may be causing some of these distractions, but it can also help to sort things out.

Buckley says that artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) capabilities are gaining serious ground, particularly when it comes to micro-functionality. They are now able to better integrate features and micro-apps at a task-based level, which means employees can focus on their immediate jobs. It is micro-functionality that gives users what they need when they need it.

Buckley says that Citrix has demonstrated how this would work in a real-life scenario. AI-driven task and workload management can help employees in many roles and industries.

Employees have a constant flow of background activities, but they need to be able to focus on a foreground task when they need to. Using an illustration of a high street bank, Buckley explains how this would work. 

He says, “The branch manager is able to introduce an automated workflow, incorporating workspace intelligence and micro apps, so that when a high-value customer entered the bank, that individual could immediately be prioritised with all relevant information, forms, ID checks and financial specialists made immediately available through a single user interface, in just one click."

So how can businesses make AI-driven workflow management a reality? There are many no-code workflow and automation tools that can help business owners and their employees build their own experiences the way that they need things to work. 

If businesses start with a common, pre-built model, they can begin to adapt that model to their own ways of working. Even chatbots and virtual assistants can learn from how employees use these tools to determine what workflows are best for each individual employee.

Buckley says there is a common issue whereby employees may prioritise the most ‘urgent’ tasks over the most ‘important’.  For example, in the previous bank example, an employee may need to provide a quote for a customer request (important), but they may also have to serve a high value customer (urgent).

Intelligent workflow management can filter and prioritise these tasks whilst fading out the more menial tasks to the background. This will ultimately lead to reduced employee distraction during the working day.

“By automating the repetitive, mundane tasks that waste employee’s time, knowledge workers can focus their efforts on the creative projects that add the most value to businesses, without distraction. This will not only have an exceptional impact on business productivity in the future, it will boost the quality of work,” concludes Buckley.