The idea of using AI in the workplace can make employees uneasy. But many more workers than expected have positive expectations for the technology.
Artificial intelligence has developed rapidly in recent years. As a result, whenever an article titled “Artificial intelligence will take away jobs” comes out, some people will have great anxiety. But Gus Nisbett, a 30-year-old music producer, is excited about the changes AI will bring to work.
Nisbett is also responsible for establishing creative strategies at Massive Music, an audio branding agency in London. “(The AI-related changes) are about co-creation,” he said. It already uses productive AI tools including ‘ChatGPT’ from ‘OpenAI’ to simplify administrative tasks and strengthen creative projects. “I start with an idea, then I use AI to shape it and develop it in more ways,” he says.
Since Nisbett introduced AI to his daily work, his work efficiency has improved significantly. Tasks that would normally take half a day, such as analyzing customer feedback on a project, can be processed much faster with ChatGPT. “If you use it in the right way for the right job, you can cut what would normally take 4-5 hours to 30 minutes,” he said. He spends this extra time focusing on tasks that require complex thinking and creativity.
Clearly, many workers are uneasy as AI capabilities advance. Others, however, are embracing the technology. They are already using tools to improve productivity and work efficiency. Some recent evidence suggests that the share of optimism about AI in the workplace may outweigh the anxiety about AI fueled by news headlines and our prejudices.
According to Microsoft’s annual ‘Work Trends Index’ released last May, 49% of respondents were concerned that “AI will replace their jobs.” On the other hand, 70% of respondents said, “I will leave as much work as possible to AI in order to reduce the amount of work.”
“Instead of fearing job losses, workers are eager to see AI help them with their backlogs in digital form,” said Collette Stollbaumer, general manager of Future for Work at Microsoft. According to the report, 64% of employees struggle to carry out their day-to-day work due to the constant interruption of emails, meetings and other digital forms of distraction. Stollbaumer said that when workers use AI tools, they will “realize that these tools are not replacing their jobs, but rather enhancing what they can do and their capabilities.”
Stollbaumer gave an example of how AI is being used to manage meetings. “When every meeting is digital, you can engage in a whole new way,” he said. When that happens, Stollbaumer could use AI to repeat key points from missed meetings and ask it to analyze the meeting in real time to see what people agree on and what needs further discussion.
Stollbaumer is not only optimistic about the technology, but says he doesn’t want to return to life without it. “In the past, people may have attended hour-long meetings to get the two-minute information they really needed,” he said. “This technology is game-changing in that you can actually choose the one that’s right for you.”
Many AI tools can take over repetitive tasks or become convenient means of managing an employee’s time. For example, Nisbett uses AI that produces images such as ‘Midjourney’ to ‘cool’ the material it provides to customers, and AI search tools to search for relevant words in a music database. Without AI tools, this would have taken hours.
Daniel Lock, who teaches organizational management, information and decision-making at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, agrees that one of the big benefits of AI in the workplace is reduced workload. “I am very excited about the potential benefits of removing much of the monotonous and boring work in the workplace,” he said. “That will allow people to focus on what they really need, what the human mind can do most to help.”
Experts say employees will be able to reclaim the time they used to spend attending meetings or analyzing long emails and spend it on the things they love. In other words, it is expected that more time will be spent on the complex, creative and human part.
“Paradoxically, using machines to speed up work means you can add a human touch to your work,” says Nisbett. “It gives me a lot more time to come up with ideas and think outside the box, rather than just focusing on doing things.”
Stollbaumer said this free time would allow for more innovation. He presented a Microsoft study that found that employees who struggle to complete their assigned tasks are 3.5 times more likely to also struggle to innovate and think strategically.
It is too early to draw any conclusions about the impact of AI on the workplace. There is an optimistic outlook among experts, and many office workers are increasingly positive about the technology. Nisbet already sees AI tools as tools for collaboration. “People will still want that human connection and the human spirit to be embedded in their work,” he said. “AI tools can be a catalyst for this discourse.”
For workers who feel uncertain about advances in technology, taking an optimistic view of AI can be a good strategy. “Thinking about how you can work with machines is always a better approach than fighting them,” Rock said.