AI’s role in workplace of future: Double-edged sword

By Thea Watson

Law360 Canada (November 2, 2023, 9:46 AM EDT) --
Thea Watson
Thea Watson
The rapid advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) have drastically transformed the modern workplace. Unknown to most, AI’s silent presence in the workplace has streamlined operations, enhanced efficiency and escalated productivity. From driving customer interactions to predicting sales and automating mundane tasks, the realm of AI continues to expand.

The meeting could’ve been an email

It’s common for employees to bemoan seemingly “unnecessary” meetings, and they may soon be able to skip them without missing out on what was discussed.

One of the latest buzzes in the tech world is Microsoft’s new AI tool. Termed as “Microsoft 365 Copilot,” this innovation is designed to summarize Teams meetings, eliminating the need for one’s physical attendance. While this is a potential game-changer in productivity and reducing the drudgery of endless meetings, one might wonder if such technological strides come at the expense of genuine human connection.

As the dynamics of workplace interaction shift, especially with the rise in remote working since the global pandemic, there’s an increasing concern about the diminishing social interactions and the resultant loneliness among employees.

AI’s integration in numerous sectors shows its importance and effectiveness, but as with all tools, it’s important to consider all aspects carefully before embracing and fully utilizing it.

According to a recent survey by BrightHR, a significant number of our clients are already diving into the AI revolution, with 40 per cent employing it for administrative tasks, 35 per cent for creative writing, and 22 per cent  for internal communications.

Risks, rewards of AI in workplace

There’s no denying AI’s potential, especially in conveying information from meetings when attendance is impossible. However, we must guard against over-reliance. A virtual assistant may lack the capacity to grasp meeting subtleties, participate in, or handle unexpected scenarios which could lead to miscommunication and misunderstandings.

The workplace’s existence extends beyond mere output. Aspects like collaboration, employee well-being and camaraderie form the core of a company’s culture. When these aspects of workplace culture are strained because teams are working remotely, throwing in AI-attended meetings will only cause a deeper rift.

With the increased challenge of remote work connectivity, we advise a balanced approach: Leverage AI, but ensure its role is that of an assistant, not a replacement. It’s crucial to retain skill mastery, whether in social interaction or professional tasks.

It’s also crucial for businesses to thoroughly evaluate AI technology. This involves robust data protection measures and understanding that despite AI’s impressive strides, there remains room for error. Speed is AI’s forte, but its outputs require rigorous vetting, particularly when dealing with sensitive or legal information.

Finally, when it comes to concerns regarding job displacement, particularly in administrative roles, AI tools will likely enhance rather than replace roles. The human touch is irreplaceable.

Thea Watson is chief growth officer at BrightHR.

The opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the author’s firm, its clients, Law360 Canada, LexisNexis Canada, or any of its or their respective affiliates. This article is for general information purposes and is not intended to be and should not be taken as legal advice.   

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