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Workers want more AI to get rid of their office busywork, says Microsoft survey

Almost everyone wants AI to automate mundane tasks.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer
Image: Getty Images

As AI assistants such as ChatGPT continue to cause a sensation, a survey by Microsoft of over 3,000 people has found that the vast majority of workers want more help from artificial intelligence to automate mundane daily tasks.   

Microsoft's WorkLabs survey attempts to size up worker and employee expectations at a time of economic uncertainty, rapid technological change, and emerging expectations about hybrid work. It surveyed 2,700 workers and 1,800 business decision makers in the US, UK, and Japan. 

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The research found that 89% of people feel "more fulfilled" when they have access to AI tools "because they can spend time on work that truly matters". But 30% of employees surveyed said they don't have access to AI tools. Of those with access to AI tools, 54% said AI features help with problem-solving tasks, and 89% hope they can use AI for more tasks and activities. 

The findings fit with Microsoft's own strategy for AI and tools such as ChatGPT. The tech giant recently made a big investment in OpenAI, the company behind ChatGPT, and has said it will deploy OpenAI's models across its consumer and enterprise products, and "introduce new categories of digital experiences built on OpenAI's technology".

The findings come as educators decide whether and how to regulate ChatGPT and other AIs amid fears that students could use the technology to write home assignments and cheat in exams. Widespread use could undermine the most efficient and trusted methods for testing a student's knowledge. New York City Department of Education banned ChatGPT for both staff and students due to concerns over the accuracy of the technology's output and fears it may harm student learning. 

But a professor at Wharton, University of Pennsylvania found ChatGPT could formulate clever questions suitable for an MBA exam and liked its potential to reduce his need to reformulate similar questions every year. ChatGPT also passed the equivalent of a typical MBA exam. 

Researchers have also found that ChatGPT is adept at fixing software bugs, but have questioned whether the mental cost to verify ChatGPT outweighs the advantages it brings. StackOverflow banned ChatGPT because its plausible-looking but wrong answers overwhelmed site content moderators.     

Microsoft's survey also found that 77% of workers wish they had more access to low-code or no-code tools, again because these tools might help their organization to automate repetitive or menial tasks, reduce costs, improve analytical capabilities, better manage data, and foster innovation.

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The survey found about two-third of respondents worked from home or only part-time in the office. The research also found a disconnect between managers implementing digital transformation projects and employees who use technology. Some 61% of employees said they felt like they were an integral part of digital transformation, while 70% said company policies limit their ability to explore or implement digital solutions of their own. 

"The saying is that technology is easy and people are hard," says Nicole Forsgren, a partner at Microsoft Research. People, essentially, are the most important part of an organization, but they're also the most complex: "If you remove all agency from people, if they can't contribute, if they can't make any decisions, it can be really discouraging."

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