Most US workers want to see more AI and robots in the office

Although workers want robots in the workplace to give them more time to do their primary job duties, almost all still want the human touch in the office.

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Currently, workers spend only 44 percent of their time on their primary duties, mainly because email, meetings, and non-essential tasks take up the bulk of their working week.

Cloud-based enterprise work management solutions provider Workfront released a report showing that US workers are largely optimistic about the impact automation will have in the workplace.

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Its annual State of Enterprise Work report aims to capture how work is currently being done and what challenges office workers see in the present.

Workfront surveyed 2001 US residents who worked for companies with over 500 employees. These employees worked on computers and collaborated on projects. It wanted to record how workers see current workplace trends playing out in the near future.

The report highlighted three major themes:

  • Wasteful practices and tools, namely email and meetings, continue to thwart worker productivity. Poorly used meetings and email topped the list of things that prevent knowledge workers from getting work done. US workers have an average of 199 unopened emails in their inboxes at any given time. This indicates that email has reached the limits of its effectiveness as a work management tool.
  • Flexibility is on the rise. The report shows that 79 percent of knowledge workers now have the ability to use flexible working. Companies are seeing the benefits of allowing their team members to work outside the office and outside standard business hours. The average knowledge worker now works from home for eight hours every week.
  • Automation is the future. Four out of five knowledge workers see automation as a chance to rethink work in new and exciting ways. Sixty-nine percent believe work automation will give them back time to perform their primary job duties better. The only uncertainty is in how much of work will ultimately be done by machines and how much will still require the human touch

So, while the overwhelming view on automation was positive, one in three (34 percent) feared that "men and women in my line of work will be competing with robots, machines, and/or artificial intelligence." Eighty-six percent of respondents agreed with the sentiment that "the use of automation in the workplace will let us think of work in new and innovative ways," whilst 82 percent expressed excitement at the chance "to learn new things as the workforce moves toward more automation."

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Alex Shootman, president and CEO of Workfront, said: "Popular culture may depict automation in dystopian terms, but the reality is that the majority of workers are optimistic about automation because they understand how it helps them focus on high-value tasks at work.:

Although automation seems like it is poised to take over our lives at home and work, there is hope. More than half or respondents (52 percent) agreed that "no matter how sophisticated artificial intelligence becomes, there will always be the need for the human touch in the workplace."

Even though humans might be just fixing the machines in the fully automated office.

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