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Most office workers unafraid of AI

Most office workers view technology in the workplace as a force for good

Two-thirds (68%) of office workers in the UK are unafraid of the spread of advanced technologies like AI in the workplace because they feel their skills will still be necessary, according to research from Adobe.

The research polled 2,000 full-time and part-time office professionals in the UK, and found that most office workers view technology in the workplace as a positive force. The majority (86%) reported that it already improves their working day, helps them to be more productive (85%), and enables them to connect with co-workers (78%).

The tasks that employees most commonly wanted advanced technologies to help with were: reminders of projects or appointments (46%), help with research on a work topic (36%), and searching electronic documents for information (30%).

However, workers were found to be less eager to use them for more strategic tasks. Only 16% of people wanted to use AI for creative suggestions or ideas for writing content, 16% hoped to use AI for feedback on the tone or style of emails or longer-form documents, and 10% sought suggestions from AI on how to grow their network.

The research coincides with an independent review, chaired by the chief executive of Siemens UK Juergen Maier, highlighting the benefits of robotics, 3D printing and artificial intelligence. The report calls for a commission to help businesses adjust to changing technologies; its recommendations will help inform the government's industrial strategy plans.

One of the report's proposals was more targeted support for companies to re-skill workers. Maier said that a huge number of workers will need to be retrained.

Speaking on the BBC's Today programme, he said: "The best thing we can do is make ourselves ready for it in a very proactive way and that means training our people... we need to upskill one million existing workers in the industrial and manufacturing sector... so they can transition from tasks that might be displaced to, for example, managing or programming robots."

The Adobe respondents estimated that 60% of admin-based office tasks will be done by technology in the next 20 years. As a result, the majority (87%) also predicted that their job will change in the next five years. However, only 19% say they feel ‘very equipped' to deal with advanced technology.

Mark Greenaway, head of emerging business EMEA at Adobe, told HR magazine that HR needs to be able to support staff as AI enters the workplace. “Our Future of Work research clearly highlights that UK office workers are open to embracing advanced technology like AI, but don’t feel equipped to do so in some cases,” he said. “As technology advances into the office environment and starts to support with basic admin tasks, workers might feel that technology is encroaching on their role. As a result businesses – and particularly HR professionals – need to support staff with this transition.

“We will all have new opportunities open to us from technology augmentation – such as more time for creative and strategic thinking," he added.