AI will be commonplace in the working lives of staff very soon

Experts at Henley Business School have announced that the majority of the graduate workforce in the UK will be working with artificial intelligence on a daily basis by 2030, with technology such as ‘AI assistants’ expected to be commonplace in the next decade. New research released at the Henley annual World of Work 2030 conference, claims that a third (35 percent) of UK workers are excited about the prospect of their own personal AI assistant. With the average worker currently spending 3.5 hours a week on admin tasks, assistants’ could give workers back 12 working days a year (over two working weeks) by taking on these activities and freeing up time for more productive tasks.

Despite the potential benefits of the technology to workers, the research claims to identify a major gap in people’s understanding of how AI works and how they can integrate it into their day-to-day working lives. Although the majority of the workforce (63 percent) aren’t concerned about the security of their job through the introduction of AI, nearly half of them (46 percent) admitted that they still don’t know what AI can do, with a fifth (23 percent) of workers calling out for employers to carry out more training.

The research also revealed that even in the face of AI’s imminent arrival into the workplace, three quarters (74 percent) of business leaders confessed that they are not currently preparing their employees with the skills needed to work alongside digital assistants in the future.

With the integration of the technology predicted to dramatically change the world of work over the next 10 years, our leading academics have released tips on how business leaders can upskill their workers to ensure they reap the benefits of AI and prepare their employees for the ‘fourth industrial revolution’ by 2030.

Professor Bernd Vogel, Founding Director of the Henley Centre for Leadership, offers his advice:

1. Redefine leadership and work principles: Organisations need to embrace the fact that through the introduction of AI in the workplace, one of their future challenges will be leading a ‘hybrid workforce’ i.e. people-machine ecosystems. To stay ahead of the curve, businesses need to prepare managers on how to guide these new hybrid workforces by identifying a set of company-specific leadership and work principles. These principles would help define how humans will work alongside AI ‘colleagues’ and manage the intersect between the two.

2. Prepare: AI is already on our doorstep, so if business leaders haven’t already begun preparing their staff for an AI-integrated office, they should do today. Business leaders need to reach out to employees who feel under-prepared and offer either on-the-job or curriculum-based learning to ensure they are ready to work with AI.

3. Define accountability: AI technology allows robots to carry out jobs that require human intelligence, for example decision-making tasks. As businesses continue to employ AI technology to carry out more complex tasks more regularly, businesses leaders will need to define early on who is accountable in people-robot-AI systems where decisions are made by AI – is it the robot or is the human responsible?”

Brits working in creative sectors such as arts, media and marketing identified themselves as the most worried about how the new technology will affect their job (over half of workers). Interestingly, this was the group that claimed to know the most about its capabilities.

At the annual WOW2030 conference, leading Henley academics and business thought leaders also identified the physical improvements the advancements of AI technology will make to the office of the future, from improving mood to monitoring employees’ health.

The School has produced an artist’s impression of ‘The Office of 2030’ based on predictions from industry experts around how AI and technology will change the shape of working environments in the future.

A) AI assistants: Helpful AI software will carry out day-to-day tasks, such as booking meeting rooms, responding to emails and answering simple enquiries.

B) Smart furniture and tech to boost wellbeing: Expect ‘smart chairs’ that monitor posture and advise workers when to take a break. Wearable tech will keep workers up to date with extensive vital statistics and information on their productivity levels.

C) AI regulated environments: AI will be able to improve our working environment, monitoring and adjusting air quality, light and temperature to ensure optimum working conditions. Offices will also continue to bring more greenery into work spaces.

D) Desk of the future: in 2030 desk phones as we know them will be obsolete, replaced by voice-activated tech and headsets. Physical keyboards will be absent, with projection keypads in their place. Screens and software will be dramatically more intuitive.

E) Collaboration screens: As human jobs become more creative, large collaborative touchscreens that allow multi-person and remote participation will become commonplace.

F) Adaptable floorplans: with remote working the norm in 2030, office spaces will be multi-functional and need to flex and change regularly. Modular furniture will be much more common.

G) Robot co-workers: Robot colleagues will be established members of the workforce in the offices of 2030, from drones that deliver packages, to robot assistants that can take meeting notes.

H) VR meeting rooms: VR technology will allow colleagues across the globe to attend meetings in VR meeting spaces.