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Will AI fix work? It will create new ways of working

AI has great potential to free people from digital debt and fuel innovation



The platform shift to AI is underway and will completely transform the way people work. And for many, the fix can’t come soon enough. The pace of work has increased exponentially — along with the crush of data, information, and always-on communications. People are struggling to shoulder the weight of it all, while business leaders feel pressure to increase productivity amid economic uncertainty. We spend more and more of our days separating the signal from the noise— at the expense of creativity. And the tax on individual productivity is compounding, undermining organizational productivity and global GDP.

AI can help to lift the burden. To date, AI has mostly been on autopilot. Now, next-generation co-pilots will work alongside people, freeing us from digital debt and fuelling innovation. Organisations that embrace AI will unleash creativity and unlock productivity for everyone — ushering in a new wave of productivity growth and value creation.

“This new generation of AI will remove the drudgery of work and unleash creativity, ” said Satya Nadella, Chairman and CEO, Microsoft. “There’s an enormous opportunity for AI-powered tools to help alleviate digital debt, build AI aptitude, and empower employees.”

To prepare leaders and businesses for the age of AI, Microsoft surveyed 31,000 people in 31 countries and analysed trillions of Microsoft 365 productivity signals, along with labour trends from the LinkedIn Economic Graph. The 2023 Work Trend Index: Annual Report data points to three urgent insights business leaders must know as they look to quickly and responsibly adopt AI.

·         We’re all carrying digital debt: the inflow of data, emails, meetings, and notifications has outpaced humans’ ability to process it all. And the pace of work is only intensifying. Everything feels important, so we spend our workdays trying to get out of the red.

·         Nearly 2 in 3 people (64%) say they struggle with having the time and energy to do their job—and those people are 3.5x more likely to also struggle with innovation and strategic thinking.

·         Nearly 2 in 3 leaders (60%) are already feeling the effects, saying that a lack of innovation or breakthrough ideas on their teams is a concern. In a world where creativity is the new productivity, digital debt is more than an inconvenience — it’s impacting business.

·         With the balance of work hours spent communicating, 68% of people say they don’t have enough uninterrupted focus time during the workday.

·         Across the Microsoft 365 apps, the average employee spends 57% of their time communicating (in meetings, email, and chat) and 43% creating (in documents, spreadsheets, and presentations). The heaviest email users (top 25%) spend 8.8 hours a week on email, and the heaviest meeting users (top 25%) spend 7.5 hours a week in meetings.

Top 5 Obstacles to Productivity: The data reveals an urgent need to make meetings more effective — people report ‘inefficient meetings’ as their number one productivity disruptor. Most people say it’s difficult to brainstorm in a virtual meeting (58%) or catch up if they joined a meeting late (57%), that the next steps at the end of a meeting are unclear (55%), and that it’s hard to summarize what happens (56%). And since February 2020, people are in 3x more Teams meetings and calls per week (192%). The data shows a clear need to make meetings better. Today, only 1 in 3 people (35%) think they would be missed in the majority of their meetings. But meeting FOMO is real.

Amid concerns about AI replacing jobs, the data revealed an unexpected insight: employees are more eager for AI to lift the weight of work than they are afraid of job loss to AI.

While 49% of people say they’re worried AI will replace their jobs, even more — 70% — would delegate as much work as possible to AI to lessen their workload.

Not only did 3 in 4 people tell us they would be comfortable using AI for administrative tasks (76%), but most people also said they would be comfortable using it for analytical (79%) and even creative work (73%).

People are also looking for AI to assist with finding the right information and answers they need (86%), summarizing their meetings and action items (80%), and planning their day (77%).

AI’s Productivity Promise: Amid fears of AI job loss, business leaders are 2x more likely to choose ‘increasing employee productivity’ than ‘reducing headcount’ when asked what they would most value about AI in the workplace.

Employees and managers were also asked to envision how work could change by 2030. Their answers paint a bright future—fuelled by AI. When asked what changes they value most, people imagined producing high-quality work in half the time (33%), being able to understand the most valuable ways to spend their time (26%) and energy (25%), and never having to mentally absorb unnecessary or irrelevant information again (23%). And with AI poised to remake work, the future will arrive in months not years.

The paradigm shift to AI as co-pilot requires a whole new way of working—and a new AI aptitude. Working alongside AI — using natural language — will be as inherent to how we work as the Internet and the PC. Skills like critical thinking and analytical judgment, complex problem solving, and creativity and originality are new core competencies—and not just for technical roles or AI experts. Leaders we surveyed said it’s essential that employees learn when to leverage AI, how to write great prompts, how to evaluate creative work, and how to check for bias. Learning isn’t keeping up with the pace of work.

Already, 60% of people say they don’t currently have the right capabilities to get their work done. AI will open new paths for learning, and success depends on leaders equipping employees for an AI-powered future. As of March 2023, the share of US job postings on LinkedIn mentioning GPT is already up 79% year-over-year. And 82% of leaders in our survey say their employees will need new skills to be prepared for the growth of AI.

AI is poised to lift the weight of work — and has great potential to free people from digital debt and fuel innovation. And for both overwhelmed employees and leaders looking to bolster productivity, that promise is overdue. But AI won’t simply “fix” work — it will create a whole new way of working. Leaders will need to help employees learn to work responsibly alongside AI to reap the rewards of the AI-employee alliance: more value creation for businesses and a brighter, more fulfilling future of work for everyone.

Shalini is an Executive Editor with Apeejay Newsroom. With a PG Diploma in Business Management and Industrial Administration and an MA in Mass Communication, she was a former Associate Editor with News9live. She has worked on varied topics - from news-based to feature articles.