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October 25, 2017 /Insights /

Future of Work: UK Office Workers are Ready to Embrace AI Assistants

“We need to remember that AI can make our lives easier, giving us more time to be productive and innovative” 

-Mark Greenaway, Head of Emerging Business, Adobe EMEA

Artificial intelligence, or ‘AI’, is now a constant feature on the daily news agenda. While this can be about the strides taken in the development of the technology itself, the headlines more often look at the impact AI may have on our society. Will it help create jobs or take them away? Or will robots force humans into their servitude, leaving us doomed for all eternity?

Yes, the sensationalist and inaccurate reports are at times fascinating, but do they play down the real benefits AI can bring to our day-to-day work?

Changing the Conversation

Recently we surveyed 2,000 full- and part-time office professionals in the UK and uncovered that, in fact, over two thirds (68%) aren’t phased by the growth of advanced technologies like AI, as they feel their role will still need human abilities that technology can’t replace. Far from being viewed as a threat to jobs, workers are looking forward to AI assisting them around the office.

This shouldn’t really be a huge surprise, considering how much we have already embraced technology in the workplace. Most office workers view it as a positive force, with the majority (86%) saying technology already improves their working day, helps them to be more productive (85%), and enables them to connect with their co-workers (78%). You only need to look at digital transformation and the impact of new devices, with many workplaces now fully ‘paperless’, using cloud services to allow working from anywhere at any time, and some even using wearables to track employee productivity

Putting AI to Work

While AI might not be offering to do the office tea round any time soon, our research did reveal the top tasks that workers would want AI assistance for:

  1. Nearly half (46%) would want reminders of projects or appointments
  2. Over a third (36%) require help with research on a work topic
  3. A third (30%) want AI for searches of electronic documents for information

Looking at the findings, it’s clear that office workers see the potential of AI to offer assistance in their role, but don’t see the technology going so far as helping them with more strategic and innovative tasks. For example:

  • Only 16% of people are willing to use AI for creative suggestions or ideas for writing content
  • The same number (16%) wish to use AI for feedback on tone or style of emails or longer-form documents
  • Just 10% would welcome suggestions from AI on how to grow their network of colleagues

This could be put down to suspicion of the technology, but it’s more likely to be a lack of understanding of what AI can achieve both now and in the future. As we’ve seen with other technological developments in recent years, time will tell whether this will change as we see more real-life examples of the benefits of AI.

Having Confidence in Technology

As humans, we are often creatures of habit, with new processes and tools taking time to ingrain themselves in our routines. Embracing new technology is a prime example of this. From our survey, we found that two thirds (60%) of people think that admin based office tasks will be done by technology in the next 20 years. What’s more, the vast majority (87%) predict that their jobs will change in the next five years.

However, while people are open to this change they don’t quite have the confidence needed, with only 19% saying they feel ‘very equipped’ to deal with advanced technology. This shows a disconnect by employees in what they want to achieve with technology and the confidence to use it, signalling that more needs to be done by businesses to empower employees with tech updates. As long as workers adopt a learn-it-all mindset, and companies design user-centric technology that’s intuitive, technology and work patterns should evolve hand in hand.

For a more in-depth look at the Future of Work – and the role of AI in it– download our full report here.

 

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