A joint report by Deloitte, the Big Four accountancy firm, and the University of Oxford predicted that there would be a vast change to the workplace as we know it, with million people potentially losing their jobs in the future. They specifically mention lower level office jobs in admin, HR and finance. Why? The implementation of automation into the workplace.
Over the last 100 years the office has evolved into a complex hub of activity because of technological advances. We are working longer hours as we can now login to work stations any time of the day, from wherever we want to. As we have become busier we have looked to technology to help. Emails, phone calls, invoicing, payroll and even booking holidays can all be automated, leaving us free to do other more complex tasks.
New jobs disappear, as new ones emerge
Automated systems have made our lives easier and can be seen over the years in all kinds of areas. Automated technology can and has changed the way we work and live. Studying the history of the office we can see that as some jobs are phased out, new ones emerge with the new technology. Our infographic below shows you these changes in job roles and how automation has influenced this.
History of the modern office infographic
The infographic was produced as part of a study we conducted with 73 UK businesses. From this study we produced a whitepaper on Automation in the Office and the affect it is having on UK jobs.
History of the Office
1000 – 1300 High Middle Ages
The first offices were a place where most government letters were written and laws copied.
18th & 19th Century
Purpose built offices emerged with the industrial revolution. Admin clerks carried out order-processing, accounting, and document filing. 1870 saw typewriters become mainstream.
Early 20th Century
Roles became more complex with an emphasis on speed and efficiency. Admin roles became more important to businesses who now required detailed records, documentation and financials.
From the 1960s women became synonymous with administration work whilst more varied and complex office roles emerged for men with sales, marketing, and finance.
In the 1970’s a third of all working women in the USA were secretaries and there was talk that “word processing” used more generically, could replace the ‘traditional’ secretary, giving women new and exciting administrative roles. Word processing was a form of automation and both created concern around women’s job stability, and also excited others at the new opportunities it would bring. The New York Times proclaimed in 1971 that it was an "answer to women's lib advocates' prayers", because it would mean secretaries no longer had to do subservient stuff like taking dictation.
No one considered that word processing would result in managers creating documents for themselves without the need for most secretaries.
Speed, efficiency and cost cutting became more of a priority from the 1980s / early 1990s and people looked to computer technology for the solution.
Many administration and secretarial roles have since disappeared as automation took over their roles, and society’s view of administration changed considerably seeing it as accessible to all. Managers saw computers as a tool to be utilised and further training meant that anyone could now keep on top of administration, such as typing and filing, at the touch of a button. More time-consuming repetitive roles are still carried out by administration staff even now, but new technology is predicted to soon replace this.
At the same time more advanced IT, marketing, sales and business development roles have been created since the digital era took off in the early 90s.
Early 21th century business saw Human Resources roles becoming more mainstream in the office, due to globalisation, technological advances and company consolidations.
Search engines vied for popularity and in 2000 Google came out on top. With so much content on the internet, we could access all kinds of information at the touch of a button.
2003: Although social media existed in the early 90s, 2003 saw the first real surge in social media popularity with MySpace, which later lead to of course Facebook in 2004.
Analysing the patterns in history show that automation has replaced jobs and also created new opportunities. It has shifted our processes to make offices much more productive. Advanced CRM systems are introduced to manage administration, HR, finance, sales and marketing tasks, enabling repetitive, time consuming tasks to really be automated.
The problem we have is that the more digital we become the cheaper our overheads, which means less need for some employees. That is why experts are predicting that junior administrators, HR and financial staff will cease to exist and software developers, programmers, engineers and strategists will be in higher demand to produce solutions, build, plan and maintain our automated systems.
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