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AI to create new ways to work, and users are all for it: Microsoft report

AI is set to completely transform the way people work, helping to reduce burnout  and increase productivity — and workers are ready to embrace the change, according to Microsoft’s latest Work Trend Index.

To compile its latest report, Microsoft surveyed 31,000 people in 31 countries and analyzed trillions of Microsoft 365 productivity signals, along with labor trends from the LinkedIn Economic Graph. This resulted in three key findings: an abundance of digital notifications is hampering innovation, employees want AI to help lessen their workloads, and employees at all levels of a business should be given training to help them best leverage AI.

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

Using AI as a productivity driver, not a disrupter

Since 2020, the pace of work has increased exponentially and since February of 2020, data from Microsoft shows that Teams users are now attending 192% more Teams meetings and calls per week than they were before the COVID-19 pandemic. 

As the number of so-called productivity disrupters — such as inefficient meetings — has increased, according to the latest Work Trend Index, 64% of respondents said they now struggle with having the time and energy to do their job, while 68% said they don’t have enough uninterrupted focus time during the workday and 62% said they struggle with too much time spent searching for information during their workday.

Among Microsoft 365 users, the average employee spends 43% of their time creating content such as documents, spreadsheets, and presentations, but the other 57% is spent in meetings, sending emails or chat messages, which respondents say has made it more difficult for them to think strategically or innovatively. As a result, 60% of leaders said that a lack of innovation or breakthrough ideas on their teams is a cause for concern.

Productivity also remains a key priority for business leaders and among those surveyed by Microsoft, respondents said they would be twice as likely to use AI to increase productivity, rather than to reduce headcount.

Despite this finding, warnings that AI could result in widespread job losses unless governments act are reflected by the survey — 49% of respondents to Microsoft’s survey said they are worried AI will replace their job. However, the potential benefits of AI seem to outweigh the fear, with 70% said they would like to delegate as much work as possible to AI in order to lessen their current workload.

This includes 76% who said they would use AI for administrative tasks, 79% of would use it for analytical tasks and 73% of would use it for creative work. Additionally, 86% want AI to assist them with finding the information and answers they need, 80% want it to summarize their meetings and action items and 77% want AI to plan their day.

Respondents were also optimistic about AI’s ability to help them to be more creative at work, with 87% of workers who are extremely familiar with AI and work in a role related to product development, design, or marketing stating they’d be comfortable using AI for creative aspects of their job.

Employees must be taught core AI skills

As is the case with most emerging technologies, organizations that fail to provide the necessary training and skills to their employees to help them best leverage the technology will find themselves losing pace with their competitors, the report suggests.

While writing out a natural language prompt might come naturally to most, as generative AI continues to proliferate the world of work, Microsoft says that skills like critical thinking and analytical judgment, complex problem solving, and creativity and originality will be necessary for all employees, not just those in technical roles or are AI experts.

Already, 60% of respondents said they don’t currently have the right capabilities to get their work done, while data from LinkedIn found that as of March 2023, the share of US job postings on LinkedIn mentioning GPT are already up 79% year-over-year, with 82% of leaders surveyed saying their employees will need new skills to be prepared for the growth of AI.

Copyright © 2023 IDG Communications, Inc.

This story originally appeared on Computerworld

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