With Brexit, the pandemic, war, and the cost-of-living crisis still impacting Europe and the wider world, it’s fair to say that we’ve been working in relatively uncertain times. Add into the mix flexible work arrangements and rapidly changing social trends – there are many factors at play which influence productivity for both teams and individuals.
New innovations in AI have put the ‘productivity puzzle’ very much in the spotlight. A recent UK-based study by Slack has found that there is a focus on performative tasks over work that drives real impact. Although specific to the UK, the results have raised universal questions about our relationship with engagement and productivity. Could the solution be found in embracing AI?
What Do the Stats Say?
Slack surveyed 2,000 UK-based desk workers. Here are the key headlines:
- AI tools: 21% said their company is currently using AI tools to improve productivity (compared with 75% in India, 35% in Singapore, 29% in Germany, and 23% in France).
- Productivity: 37% said that productivity is measured on visibility (i.e. hours in the office or online).
- Motivation: 38% said that their top barrier to productivity is staying motivated.
What Do the Experts Say?
A panel of industry experts shared their insights at World Tour London.
Having the right tools at your disposal is key to the success of any task – unsurprisingly, almost half (47%) of those surveyed said that utilizing AI tools would help to boost their productivity.
This suggests that there is a real appetite for AI usage in the UK, despite relatively low adoption. In fact, 59% offered that they can achieve more with less time and resources, and 42% said that they can focus on tasks that have more impact.
“UK productivity has long been a challenge. With AI and automation, organizations can start piecing together the productivity puzzle by streamlining the mundane tasks that drain days of value. The majority of UK desk workers (83%) say having the right tech to collaborate would boost productivity. By deploying a productivity platform with AI and automations built-in, executives can increase impact, empower employees to deliver on the work that matters to them, and create a clear return for their businesses.”– Chris Mills – Head of Customer Success, Slack
When it comes to productivity in UK offices, there seems to be a disconnect between perception and reality. For 37% of the workers surveyed, productivity is still measured in terms of visibility – we’ve come a long way from the old ‘bums on seats’ mentality, but there appears to be a lingering assumption that presence equals engagement.
With approximately “one third of the average day lost to performative work that doesn’t contribute to company goals”, there is certainly a way to go. Realigning our daily sense of productivity with ‘big picture’ goals and strategies is a key part of the puzzle. Ultimately, this comes down to clear, open communication and shared objectives.
“AI is an emerging opportunity for a lot of businesses and teams. We need to keep lines of communication open as we start deploying these tools so that we can listen to feedback, refine approaches and keep improving efficiency. Keeping an open mind and embracing flexibility (and shifting strategies if needed) will be key as we all start integrating AI into our working lives.”– Tom Bennett – Senior Director, Workplace Technology at Checkout.com
What does real motivation look like? There is an intrinsic link between engagement and productivity – in fact, one should drive the other, with employees far more likely to achieve if they feel connected to their day-to-day work (and the tools that support them).
By streamlining mundane tasks, AI should give time, control, and dignity back to teams. This includes the capacity to make insightful, data-driven decisions that drive productivity.
“AI is redefining how we work. But we have to build work cultures underpinned by psychological safety so that employees use AI to their advantage, instead of worrying that AI will replace them. That’s why employees should be humble and vulnerable about their weaknesses and strengths so that businesses can train and upskill them; showing employees how to use AI to support productivity by freeing them to focus on the work that matters most.”– Dr Alexandra Dobra-Kiel – Behave
As always, it’s essential to equip teams with the right tools, but just as important is helping teams to see and understand the benefits. It is leadership teams’ responsibility to embed AI in the company culture.
So, is the ‘productivity puzzle’ a UK or a universal problem to solve? Slack’s recent study certainly indicates a widespread challenge on UK shores, but the global conversation is one that will continue to evolve with every new innovation.
A combination of tactics is required to take full advantage of AI as a tool for boosting real, impact-driven productivity. What’s clear is that a culture shift is required, with leadership teams paving the way.
While it’s important to arm teams with the right tools, mindset is perhaps the biggest hurdle to overcome. Ultimately, people should be at the center of the AI conversation; a positive company culture that places people at its center is the best way to adopt and harness the power of AI.
Check out Slack’s State of Work 2023 study to learn more.