Workforce productivity is declining.
Whether you’re a Fortune 500 CEO or a solo entrepreneur, productivity is the fuel that keeps your business engine running. Technology advancements have historically led to considerable leaps in productivity, but in recent years we’ve seen a meaningful decline in per-capita and aggregate workforce productivity. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, at the end of 2022 US productivity was down 4.1% on an annualized basis; the most significant decline since the government started keeping track of this number in 1948.
For many, this decline in productivity feels contradictory. After all, a plethora of productivity-focused apps and tools now exist, as well as a global library filled with copious amounts of research, thought leadership and “how-to” guides for making yourself or your company more productive. So why is productivity in decline? In short, because the workforce has succumbed to the ennui of demotivating administrative tasks that now consume a material portion of their careers.
Employees are inundated with administrative tasks.
According to a recent study published by Goldman Sachs, professionals in office jobs now spend an average of 30% of their time doing administrative tasks. To put it in perspective, that’s over 14 working weeks per year or eight years of your working life focused on low value work. Other studies support this, finding that in a given week employees can spend an average of 10 hours reading/writing email, nine hours searching for and compiling internal and external information, five hours scheduling and preparing for meetings, and four hours navigating productivity apps and browser tabs across that plethora of tools mentioned above.
In most instances, this burdened time is demotivating and detracts from the higher-judgment skills that an employee was originally hired to utilize. This administrative burden didn’t arrive overnight; it has been building for years and it was exacerbated by remote work as companies looked to find rapid solutions during a challenging time.
The current trajectory is unsustainable, and incremental relief won’t address the root cause. To re-accelerate productivity, we need to meaningfully relieve the admin burden by removing this work.
Artificial intelligence will treat the cause, and it will transform productivity.
What if every employee could access their own personal assistant that could autonomously take over their administrative tasks? You could simply ask it to book your next 1:1 or team meeting, prepare an agenda, find and book a flight, compile a summary of internal documents, order your lunch, or submit your expenses. What if this assistant could operate with the reliability of a human assistant, there was no training required, it could learn your personal preferences, and the cost was so nominal that it paid for itself with the time savings it achieved?
Five years ago, this would have sounded like science fiction. Today, it’s real science. Thanks to the profound leaps in generative and conversational AI, these ‘task’ assistants will be available to the masses very soon and their progress is now mainstream. Known as ‘AI agents’, AI assistants will transform the way we work, by freeing up a significant portion of our time to focus on higher-judgment tasks and activities. They will take the drudgery out of work by taking over administrative tasks – significantly bolstering productivity and hopefully diminishing the ennui employees now feel.
According to Goldman Sachs’ AI research, 46% of admin tasks can be automated using AI. To make that tangible; seven working weeks per year can be given back to every professional employee with AI.
The transition to task assistants is already underway, and it will accelerate.
So how will this assisted revolution play out? We envision a multi-step graduation over the next 3-5 years as AI assistants become increasingly reliable and cover a broader range of task-focused skills. In 2024, we’ll see a proliferation of ‘information’ assistants (i.e. chatbots and co-pilots) focused on synthesizing and summarizing large volumes of information. They will permeate across verticals and become embedded in countless user experiences, helping users navigate information in the moment more seamlessly across digital channels. These co-pilots will return strong initial time savings, particularly for searching and compiling information
By the end of 2024 or early 2025, we’ll see the rise of multi-agent AI that will be able to do chaining, create work plans, and complete actions on our behalf. In other words, “task” AI assistants will be able to get things done for you just like a human assistant. Increasingly complex task-focused skills will emerge for consumers and businesses, with the associated time savings accumulating rapidly. As more entrants – big tech and startups – begin to invest in task assistants, we anticipate the field will grow rapidly giving users a broad selection of options and increasing skills.
What once seemed like science fiction is now real science, and it is coming soon. AI assistants are the future of human-computer interaction; they will transform the way we work and give considerable productive time back to the workforce. How much more productive could your company be if every employee was given 7 weeks of time back to focus on their core job?