AI is here, and it will completely change the way we work. And for many, the solution can't come soon enough. The pace of work has increased exponentially - along with the volume of data, information, and communication. We struggle to bear the weight of it all, while companies feel pressured to boost productivity amid economic uncertainty. We spend more and more of our days sorting through the signal and noise – at the expense of creativity.
At Automize, we believe that AI can help lift the burden. Now, the next generation co-pilots, namely AI, will work alongside humans to foster innovation. Organizations embracing AI will unleash creativity and productivity for all - heralding a new wave of productivity growth and value creation.
With AI, you can make room to focus on what you find exciting. So, AI can handle the tedious tasks in your work like writing text, creating Excel formulas, and PowerPoint presentations. There's a significant opportunity for AI-driven tools to help alleviate digital debt, build AI skills, and empower employees.
To prepare leaders and businesses for the AI era, Microsoft surveyed 31,000 people in 31 countries and analyzed trillions of Microsoft 365 productivity signals along with workforce trends from the LinkedIn Economic Graph. The data points to three urgent insights that business leaders need to know as they adopt AI quickly and responsibly.
We all carry digital debt: the influx of data, emails, meetings, and messages has surpassed human capacity to process it all. And the pace of work is only intensifying. Everything feels important, so we spend our workdays trying to get through it all. 64% of respondents say they struggle with having time and energy to perform their work - and these are 3.5 times more likely to also struggle with innovation and strategic thinking.
Almost 2 out of 3 leaders (60%) already feel the effects, stating that a lack of innovation or groundbreaking ideas in their teams is a concern. There are only so many minutes in a day – and every minute spent managing this digital debt is a minute not spent on the creative work that leads to innovation. In a world where creativity is the new productivity, digital debt is more than a inconvenience – it impacts business.
The number of work hours, workdays, and meeting time has steadily increased over the past few years – it's easier than ever to communicate and harder than ever to keep up. Looking closer at how people spend their time, it's clear that a lack of focused time, information seeking, and the volume of constant communication has an opportunity cost. 68% say they don't have enough uninterrupted focus time during the workday. And 62% of survey respondents say they struggle with too much time spent seeking information in their workday.
Across 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 (the top 25%) spend 8.8 hours a week on email, and the heaviest meeting users (the top 25%) spend 7.5 hours a week in meetings. This global average includes frontline workers - for knowledge workers, who are even more dependent on digital communication, the proportion of the week spent on emails and meetings is even greater. AI can tip the balance in people's favor to regain time and energy for the important work that fuels innovation.
The data reveals an urgent need to make meetings more effective – people report 'ineffective meetings' as their biggest productivity disruptor.
Take meetings, for example. People report that the biggest productivity disruption is ineffective meetings, closely followed by having too many meetings. Most say it's challenging to brainstorm in a virtual meeting (58%) or to catch up if you join a meeting late (57%), that the next steps at the end of a meeting are unclear (55%), and that it's difficult to summarize what happened (56%). And since February 2020, people are in 3 times 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 most of their meetings. But meeting FOMO is real. When asked what makes meetings worthwhile, people's biggest motivation was: "I will receive information that will help me do my job better" – ahead of giving feedback, making decisions, or advancing their careers. With AI, every meeting becomes a digital artifact. When meetings are more than a point in time, you can engage and interact with them when and how it works best for you, whether synchronously or asynchronously.
Amid concerns that AI is 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 the population says they are concerned AI will replace their jobs, even more - 70% - would delegate as much work as possible to AI to reduce their workload.
"It's fascinating that people are more excited about AI saving them from burnout than they are worried about it taking their jobs," says author and organizational psychology professor Adam Grant. And it turns out, people turn to AI for help in nearly every aspect of their work. 3 out of 4 people told Microsoft they would be comfortable using AI for administrative tasks (76%), but most also said they would be comfortable using it for analytical (79%) and even creative work (73%). People also turn to AI for help finding the right information and answers they need (86%), summarizing their meetings and action items (80%), and planning their day (77%).
And AI optimism doesn't stop there. People also believe it can boost creativity. The more people understand AI, the more they see its promise to help with the most meaningful parts of their job. For example, 87% of people in creative roles extremely familiar with AI said they would be comfortable using AI for creative aspects of their job.
Amid concerns of losing jobs to artificial intelligence (AI), business leaders are twice as likely to prefer to 'improve employee productivity' over 'reduce the number of employees' when asked about what they see most positively about AI in the workplace.
The data shows that business leaders seek to empower people with AI rather than replace them - they are 2 times more interested in using AI to increase productivity than reducing the number of employees. In fact, reducing the number of employees was last on the list of what leaders would appreciate from AI. After "increasing productivity," leaders' biggest hopes for AI are: helping employees with necessary but iterative tasks, increasing employee well-being, eliminating employees' time spent on low-value activities, improving employees' skills, and speeding up employees' work pace.
When asked to imagine work in 2030, respondents said they would most appreciate changes that saved them time – such as producing high-quality work and learning new skills faster.
Microsoft also asked employees and leaders to imagine how work could change by 2030. Their responses paint a bright future driven by AI. When asked about the changes they would most appreciate, people imagined producing high-quality work in half the time (33%), being able to understand the most valuable ways to use their time (26%) and energy (25%), and never having to mentally absorb unnecessary or irrelevant information again (23%). And with AI ready to reshape work, the future will arrive in months, not years.
The shift to AI as a co-pilot requires a completely new way of working – and a new AI capability. Skills like critical thinking and analytical assessment, complex problem-solving, as well as creativity and originality are new core competencies – and not just for technical roles or AI experts. The leaders Microsoft surveyed said it's important for employees to learn when to leverage AI, how to write good prompts, how to creatively evaluate work, and how to check for bias. As AI transforms work, collaboration between humans and AI will be the next transformative work pattern – and the ability to work iteratively with AI will be a key skill for every employee.
'Analytical assessment,' 'flexibility,' and 'emotional intelligence' top the list of skills that leaders believe will be crucial for employees in an AI-driven future.
Learning is not keeping pace with the pace of work. Already, 60% of the population says they currently don't have the right opportunities to get their work done. AI will open up new learning methods, and success depends on leaders equipping employees for an AI-driven future. 82% of leaders say their employees need new skills to be prepared for the growth of AI.
And they'll have to start building these new skills today: there are 33 times as many LinkedIn posts mentioning topics like generative AI and GPT as there were a year ago. "We're in the next phase of change with the introduction of generative AI, and it's already starting to reshape the job market," said Karin Kimbrough, chief economist at LinkedIn. "While it's still early, this shift will expand opportunities, create new roles, and boost productivity." In fact, the share of U.S. job postings on LinkedIn mentioning GPT has already increased by 79% from March 2023 year over year. And 82% of leaders in our survey say their employees need new skills to be prepared for the growth of AI.
AI is ready to lift the weight of work - and has tremendous potential to free people from digital debt and foster innovation. And for both overwhelmed employees and leaders wanting to empower productivity, this promise lands in a warm place. But AI won't just "fix" work - it will create an entirely new way of working. Leaders will need to help employees learn to work responsibly with AI to reap the benefits of the AI-employee alliance: more value creation for businesses and a brighter and more satisfying future for work. For everyone.
Is your company ready to embrace the future of work with AI? Let's explore together how Automize can help you integrate AI-driven solutions and free up time for innovation and creativity. Contact us today for a no-obligation conversation and kickstart the journey towards a more productive and innovative working world with AI as your co-pilot.
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