With Microsoft forging ahead with its GPT-4-powered Copilot AI solution and integrating it across its enterprise productivity suite, it’s no surprise that the company’s 2023 Work Trend Index focused on AI and how it can help organizations be more efficient rather than replace employees.
The company’s Work Trend Index, an annual study of corporate work habits and how technology can help solve issues, analyzes trillions of aggregated productivity signals in Microsoft 365, along with labor market trends on LinkedIn, with past issues focusing on pandemic-era themes such as videoconferencing, distributed work and burnout.
With ChatGPT and generative AI capturing the attention of Microsoft and dozens of other enterprise tech firms, Microsoft used this year’s report to paint a picture of how AI can help solve today’s workplace issues, with burnout at the top.
What Microsoft’s Work Trend Index says about digital debt and burnout
The Redmond, Wash. tech giant’s Work Trend Index devotes an entire section of the report to worker burnout and how we just can’t keep up with the amount of work, data, emails, meetings and notifications.
According to the report, 64% of workers say they are struggling with having enough time and energy to do their jobs, and those same people are 3.5x more likely to also struggle with innovation and strategic thinking.
In addition, 60% of leaders are seeing those impacts play out, expressing concern with the lack of innovation or breakthrough ideas.
With organizations still adopting hybrid work models, the balance of work hours are spent communicating, leading to 68% of people saying they don’t have enough uninterrupted focus time during their workday.
Microsoft’s Work Trend Index includes collaboration patterns across Microsoft 365 from a rolling 28-day period ending in March, excluding weekends, that found that time spent in Teams Meetings, Teams Chat and email outweighs time spent in productivity apps such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote by a margin of 57% to 43%.
What the 2023 Microsoft’s Work Trend Index says about AI’s capabilities
Microsoft opens this section of the report attempting to quell fears of AI replacing jobs, despite the fact that some organizations have openly said that they plan to replace jobs with AI, including IBM, which is eyeing about 7,800 jobs that can be replaced with AI. To that end, Microsoft’s Work Trend Index finds that 49% of people are worried that AI will replace their jobs.
However, Microsoft has positioned its Copilot tool as an AI assistant designed to help workers do their jobs rather than replace them, which makes sense when considering that 70% of workers told Microsoft that they would delegate as much work as possible to AI to help lessen their workloads.
Further, 76% would use AI for administrative tasks, 79% would use it for analytical, and 73% would use it for creative. In addition, users also want AI as a virtual assistant, with 86% saying they would leverage AI to help them find the right information, 80% would use it to summarize meetings and action items, and 77% would use it to plan their day.
Per Microsoft’s research, increasing employee productivity was the most popular answer to how AI in the workplace can benefit an organization at 31%, while reducing headcount was just 16%, the least popular response.
Other popular answers include helping employees with repetitive tasks, increasing employee wellbeing, eliminating time spent on low-value activities, enhancing employee capabilities, accelerating pace of work and several others.
Similarly, workers want tools that can help save them time, work smarter, and end information overload, per Microsoft’s annual study.
What Microsoft’s Work Trend Index says about necessary AI skills
Despite the clear desire for AI to help make workers more productive and stress-free, it’s not a simple plug and play, as Microsoft posits that workers will need to develop AI aptitude to realize the full benefits of the technology.wq
According to Microsoft’s research, users will need to understand when it is appropriate to leverage AI, evaluate accuracy and fairness of content generated by AI, and ask the right questions.
More than 80% of leaders told Microsoft that employees will need additional skills to be prepared for the growth of AI, and they’ll need to start doing so today, as there are 33 times as many LinkedIn posts mentioning topics such as generative AI and GPT than there were a year ago.
What Microsoft says organizations should do about AI
For productivity issues, Microsoft suggests organizations should identify productivity issues, rethink the workday as AI helps free up time, and encourage users to leverage AI-powered meeting recaps.
When it comes to actually leveraging AI, Microsoft recommends that business leaders proceed responsibly when rolling out AI tools, targeting low-hanging fruit first.
Similarly, organizations will need to educate employees on AI and help them embrace a new way of working, the company says.
Read Microsoft’s 2023 Work Trend Index for more information.
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