First of all, is “work” as we know that concept, “broken”? In their “Work Trend Index Annual Report” published in May 2023, Microsoft strongly suggested that the concept of “work” very well could be a broken concept that needs to be stitched back together with AI tools like Microsoft Copilot and other similar work-specific AI technologies.
According to Microsoft, “organizations that embrace AI will unleash creativity and unlock productivity for everyone—ushering in a new wave of productivity, growth, and value creation.”
Indeed, Microsoft expects their new product Microsoft copilot will do just that. The company created the product specifically because they want to revolutionize the concept of work, and make it more manageable for workers, so as to increase productivity, growth and value for companies.
As pointed out by Microsoft, “people are struggling to shoulder the weight of it all, while business leaders feel pressure to increase productivity amid economic uncertainty.”
AI, aka Artificial intelligence, is expected to assist workers with keeping pace with the demands of work—including but not limited to increasing their productivity rates, maximizing their communication skills, and helping them to quickly and efficiently sort through and synthesize tons of data.
According to the experts, AI will “fix” the whole idea of work. But what is it about work that needs fixing? Why does Microsoft seem to think that work, as a concept, is “broken”? Apparently, work as we know it may be undergoing some tensions. It may not necessarily be broken into a million bits, but workers are overwhelmed, and they are having a hard time with their work, and they are using outdated tools to get their jobs done.
Many workers just cannot keep up and are getting left behind. Could it be that the problem is not the work but in fact is the workers? Could it be that it is the employees to a large extent that need to be “fixed”? After all, it is they who are suffering fatigue. It is they who are overwhelmed by the demand of their jobs and their work, including keeping up with all the meetings, information gathering, and just keeping up with their other colleagues as well as the boss’ demands and expectations. Work has largely remained unchanged. Hasn’t it?
So, what is really the problem? And is AI really the solution? Maybe the problem is a little bit of both. Maybe “work” and “workers” need to adapt to changes in technology, as well as personal and societal evolution.
A lot of the focus is on the “pace” of work, apparently. There is a lot more work that must be achieved in a lot less time than in the past and workers could be overburdened with more things going on in their personal lives as well. The tasks may be largely unchanged, but there are a lot more of it, and a lot less time to get it all done. This, of course, is coupled with increased demands in our personal lives.
Is AI really the answer to this conundrum? Microsoft seems to think so. Microsoft has pointed out that, “the pace of work has increased exponentially—along with the crush of data, information, and always-on communications.” This suggests that workers need some scaffolding to get it all done. This makes sense because unlike in bygone years, workers today are exposed to a tremendous amount of information and data that simply was not available before the technological advances that have now brought us to the brink of actually using artificial intelligence to up our games. All of this additional information and data need to be sorted out, but workers are simply not equipped to keep pace with it all without assistance.
Sure, an employer can always hire more people but if employers can cut costs by simply adding AI to the equation, why would they chose to increase their salary expenses rather than adapt and use AI tools, like Microsoft copilot, to increase work productivity?
According to the article cited above, “not only did 3 in 4 people tell us they would be comfortable using AI for administrative tasks (76%), but most people also said they would be comfortable using it for analytical (79%) and even creative work (73%). People are also looking for AI to assist with finding the right information and answers they need (86%), summarizing their meetings and action items (80%), and planning their day (77%).”
The team at Microsoft seems to believe that AI will not only unlock creativity in most employees, but will help in immeasurable other ways such as in administrative, analytical and ministerial contexts. Imagine workers looking to AI to complete basic tasks such as planning their day!
Microsoft chairman and CEO Satya Nadella said in the article that “this new generation of AI will remove the drudgery of work and unleash creativity.” Exactly how will AI “unleash creativity”? For one thing, according to Nadella, AI will help to “build aptitude” and “alleviate digital debt,” and all this will “empower employees.” Clearly, empowered employees are more productive employees. AI helps to empower employees by allowing them to keep pace with informational, data and technological challenges at work. It also helps them to plan more interesting and creative days which, in turn, might even lead to an improvement of their lives outside of work.
In addition to unleashing creativity, Microsoft researchers seem to expect AI to also unleash work productivity and growth as well. It should not come as a big surprise that employees who are more creative and who feel more in control of the tasks at hand, will be more productive. This increased productivity is an opportunity for growth for the companies these employees work for. And where companies experience increased productivity and growth, their “value” is also sure to increase.