Focus on being human: Creating a better working environment with AI

Artificial intelligence is no longer an invention of science fiction novels and Hollywood movies. In the workplace, it’s becoming a growing reality.   This isn’t a welcome prospect to all businesses though. 47% of CEOs worry about the difficulty of integrating AI projects with existing processes and systems. Many employees also worry about the prospect of […]

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Artificial intelligence is no longer an invention of science fiction novels and Hollywood movies. In the workplace, it’s becoming a growing reality.  

This isn’t a welcome prospect to all businesses though. 47% of CEOs worry about the difficulty of integrating AI projects with existing processes and systems. Many employees also worry about the prospect of AI replacing them in the workplace altogether.  

But, is AI taking our jobs a concern that we should have? For the majority of us, no. There are jobs that artificial intelligence will replace, such as assembly line jobs, but the reality is that Artificial intelligence will create far more jobs than it will replace. 

How can AI help improve my role?

For the majority of us, AI is simply going to be a tool implemented in the office. Not only will it make us more productive, but more creative. Shockingly, perhaps, AI could just be the tool that is going to make us happier and more connected.

In 2017 Deloitte put forward that “while some dramatize the negative impacts of AI, cognitive computing, and robotics, these powerful tools will also help create new jobs, boost productivity, and allow workers to focus on the human aspects of work.” Deloitte believes AI will change our working environment. They also believe it will change it into a more human-focused space, not a more robotic one.

It also becomes important to define what AI is, and how it will look in our work routines.  Movies may create ideas of humanoid robots with superhuman strength but the reality is, AI will be implemented as productivity-focused software.

Creating a More Productive and Creative Workspace

A study by Accenture shows us AI has the ability to increase productivity by 40%. The main way AI is able to do this is by alleviating repetitive tasks from employees’ workload. It also improves efficiency. Mistakes tend to happen in the workplace when humans are either bored, so unable to focus, or burned out. AI is the opposite and thrives on the structure and repetitive nature of these kinds of tasks. By giving us time, and removing some of the less rewarding aspects of our workload, we have time to explore our creativity.

Imagine what you could do with 40% more time to think outside the box. 

The key thing is that while computers are increasingly complex, they still have limitations. This is especially true when it comes to adaptation and creativity. The bits that humans are really good at, basically. 

Artificial intelligence’s focus is not to take humans out of the workplace. It’s here to give us more time to be human in the workplace.

In fact, by automating tasks, the truly “human” aspects of work become that much more valuable. 

Flexibility and Connectivity

In 2020, the issue of connectivity became increasingly apparent. Our ability to spend time in person was, for large portions of the year, simply not a viable option. This inability to spend time with each other demonstrated the importance of human interaction in the workplace. Soon, everyone was dreaming of ‘just’ a quick catch-up over a coffee. 

Our inability to see each other physically didn’t stop us from finding ways to connect. While many of us knew of tools like Skype and Zoom, they had never been primary methods of communication. It was a small minority who used either as part of their daily work schedule. Using new technology still bought old problems with it though. Namely, juggling calendars. 

AI came to the rescue. With the dawn of a new remote working age now in full swing, software like x.ai uses AI to access everyone’s calendars and “automatically coordinate the best time to meet with your guests.” Over a month, that’s a surprising number of hours saved trading calendars, especially with larger team meetings. 

Tools like otter.ai can then use artificial intelligence to take live-notes during meetings. By acting as a virtual PA, Otter gives us the ability to be truly present in meetings. Conversations can stay organic, allowing for a creative flow of ideas, without the awkward need to constantly stop meetings to take notes.

Solutions Not Problems

One of the most valuable ways AI has begun to support us, is to create a more accessible workspace. Software like Skype has implemented near real-time translation for captioning during meetings. For those who are hard of hearing it makes meetings now much easier to follow. Lip-reading is an incredibly difficult skill and can lead to concentration fatigue. Being able to offer live captioning makes meetings a more welcoming environment – especially when those meetings are virtual. 

Another way AI is improving accessibility is in developing a more international workplace. AI scheduling works with time-zones making it easy to find times to connect. Live translation makes it easier to then actually share ideas. Translators will always be a vital tool in international business but live translation offers spontaneity. Without needing to schedule weeks in advance, it’s easy to connect with brilliant people across the globe. 

The concept of using technology to boost productivity in the workplace is not a new one. Each era has seen a new technology that has revolutionized the working environment. The industrial revolution saw the rise of machinery, and our current time is seeing the rise of machine learning. It wasn’t all that long ago, spreadsheets needed to be written by hand. Imagine the pressure of making a single mistake. For many, this unnecessary stress would only lead to more mistakes. There was no way to undo or tweak your formulas let alone create a pivot table. 

The adoption of artificial intelligence is still on the low-end today. Forbes estimates only 23% of businesses have incorporated it into their processes. This is changing, and rapidly. The artificial intelligence industry is set to grow by 50% year on year, for the next five years. By 2025, using AI isn’t going to be seen as much different to using a spreadsheet on your computer. A vital tool that helps us complete our work, and increasingly, one we can’t remember working without. 

Artificial intelligence in the workplace is a growing inevitability. Now is the perfect time to start planning for how AI is going to impact your work. The changes it could bring to your routine, and importantly, how it may just create a more enjoyable, human work environment.

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