The best use of generative AI for office workers so far could be relieving a massive productivity drain: meeting overload

 If you hate meetings, you might want your company to embrace AI technologies.

In March, Microsoft released new research based on a survey of 1,300 users of Copilot, the company's generative AI assistant. The users, who were based mostly in North America and Europe, reported that one of the biggest benefits of using the AI tool was that it made it possible for them to spend less time in meetings.

Thirty-seven percent of workers who used the tool for 10 or more weeks said they used it to attend fewer meetings, compared to 22% who used it between seven and 10 weeks and 18% who used it between three and six weeks.

In a blog post, Microsoft wrote that helping employees catch up on missed meetings was among the "easy wins" for workers and businesses looking to boost productivity with AI. For example, workers who missed a meeting could read an AI-produced summary of the event. In theory, this would get them up to speed without requiring them to watch or listen to an entire meeting replay — or chase down colleagues to catch them up.

Saving time on meetings was among the reasons the average Copilot user saved 14 minutes a day, equivalent to five hours a month or one-in-a-half workweeks a year.

"Tell your people not to worry about taking notes or listening to the recording, and instead ask AI to recap the key points," Microsoft wrote in its blog post. "Executives can use it to summarize long documents or drawn-out email chains."

Many Americans think meetings can take a toll on their productivity. In a survey of 1,000 US knowledge workers conducted in December 2023 and January by the software company Atlassian, in partnership with Wakefield Research, 73% of respondents said their meeting slate makes it difficult to get their work done. The survey results of US respondents were provided to Business Insider.

Seventy-nine percent of respondents said they'd be more productive at their jobs if they could spend less time in meetings. What's more, 50% of respondents said they have to work overtime at least a few days a week due to meeting overload. Most respondents said their meetings took twice as long as they needed to.

While AI is already saving some workers time, many businesses are still figuring out exactly how these technologies can add value. Microsoft's research suggests that using AI tools to chip away at meeting time could be the low-hanging fruit for some new adopters.

AI productivity boosts can save companies money — but the benefits could take time

Spending too much time in meetings isn't just frustrating for many employees, the impact on productivity can have a significant effect on a company's bottom line. A 2022 study by the software firm and Steven Rogelberg, a professor of organizational science at the University of North Carolina in Charlotte, found that the average company "wasted" about $25,000 per employee by scheduling them for unnecessary meetings.

"Organizations invest a significant amount of money in their employees, and thus, in the meetings they attend," Rogelberg wrote. "There is potential for massive cost-savings…by reducing unnecessary meeting attendance."

Meetings summaries aren't the only way AI tools are helping workers save time. A survey conducted by HubSpot in 2023 of 648 sales professionals found that some were saving over two hours a day by using AI for scheduling meetings, note-taking, and data entry.

A Slack survey of over 10,000 global desk workers conducted in January found that 24% had tried using AI tools on the job. Around 80% of these users said these tools had boosted their productivity: Writing assistance, automating workflows, and summarizing content were among the top ways the respondents said AI tools added value.

Despite AI's potential to boost productivity, seeing the benefits can take time. Microsoft's research found that using its Copilot tool for 11 weeks was the "breakthrough moment" at which a majority of users reported improvement across four areas: productivity, work enjoyment, work-life balance, and the ability to attend fewer meetings.

The learning curve that can come with AI tools is why some companies are providing employees with more training resources and encouraging them to experiment with these technologies.

To be sure, the impact of AI adoption on workers will likely be a mixed bag. For example, one-quarter of global CEOs surveyed by the consulting firm PwC between last October and November said they planned to "reduce employee headcount by at least 5% in 2024 due to generative AI."

Post a Comment

Previous Post Next Post