Adoption of Voice – at work but not the workplace

Smart speakers have surprised many people in how quickly they have become mainstream and have driven acceptance of voice. Voicebot’s survey in January 2019 showed smart speaker adoption reached 29% of the adult population in Australia compared to 26% in the USA at the end of 2018. Canalys’s latest report predicts the global units installed to grow by 82% in 2019 and China leading the growth surge with an expected 166% growth in new units sold. To put this in perspective, smart speakers will be more popular than tablets by 2021.

The adoption of voice is happening fast but up till now, the growth has predominantly been within the consumer space with Microsoft’s latest report highlighting voice search being the most popular interaction.

Higher Visibility’s 2019 report on Voice search shows consumers are using voice search mostly whilst driving. The decline from 53% to 35% is curious and may be due to more cars having built in voice input features.

So why not at the workplace?

Shouldn’t the take up of voice assistance and conversational AI be also happening in the workplace? We think whereas the home is a safe space and controlled by the user; workplaces have a number of factors going against them in driving adoption of smart speakers and voice input.

Workplaces are noisy and public. There is the underlying concern of either disturbing your fellow workers with your spoken commands or revealing information that shouldn’t be shared. Similarly, an audible response would expose the reply to anyone listening and the security risks as a consequence. At Verbz, we don’t see the open plan workplace as a natural environment for smart speakers or voice interfaces at this time.

Where we do see the benefits of voice interfaces at work are in those situations that deskless professionals find themselves regularly. The hours spent driving in your car or lost walking between meetings knowing there are actions that need to be taken and highlights to be captured. There’s value in providing a means to be immediate after the meeting whilst being present during the conversation.

For the deskless professional, their vehicle is their mobile office and a safe space to work. Voice interfaces facilitate more potential for productive work during their drive time beyond making calls and listening to messages. Being able to delegate tasks and share insights with their teams in a hands-free and eyes-free way will reduce catch up work when they do get to a desk.

Adoption of voice is growing fast at home but not at the workplace. With over 80% of the workforce essentially deskless; the path for voice adoption at work lies not in the office environment but in the field and in the car where productivity gains are there for the taking.

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