AI research from the Workforce Lab at Slack
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New Slack research shows accelerating AI use and quantifies the “work of work”

By the team at Slack27th February 2024

Quick take: Use of AI tools in the workplace rose 24% in the last quarter according to the latest research by the Workforce Lab from Slack, a Salesforce company. The survey also quantifies the average amount of time that desk workers spend on low-value tasks.

Key learnings include: 

  • AI use in the workplace accelerated 24% in the past quarter, with 1 in 4 desk workers reporting they have tried AI tools for work as of January 2024, compared with 1 in 5 as of September 2023.
  • Around 80% of those using AI say that this technology is already improving their productivity. And yet, desk worker perceptions remain mixed, with 42% saying they’re excited for AI and automation to handle tasks from their current job, 31% neutral and 27% concerned. 
  • Nearly all executives feel pressure to integrate AI tools into their organization, with half of all executives saying they feel a high degree of urgency to incorporate AI tools. 
  • Desk workers at companies that have issued guidelines for how AI can be used are nearly six times more likely to have experimented with AI tools, compared with desk workers whose companies have no guidelines around AI usage. 
  • Desk workers report spending 41% of their time on tasks that are “low value, repetitive or lack meaningful contribution to their core job functions.” This shows a clear opportunity for AI and automation tools to help desk workers refocus their energy away from the “work of work” and toward more high-value activities. 

At the dawn of our new AI era, how are desk workers feeling about how AI will change the way we work? Who is using AI and automation tools today and how are these tools affecting workplace productivity?

In its latest survey of more than 10,000 desk workers around the globe, the Workforce Lab from Slack, a Salesforce company, answers these questions and quantifies new trends in AI use at work. The survey finds that workplace adoption of AI tools accelerated 24% over the previous quarter, with 1 in 4 desk workers reporting they have tried AI tools for work as of January 2024, compared with 1 in 5 as of September 2023. And 1 in 3 desk workers have used automation tools in their job.

Of those who have used AI and automation tools for work, around 80% say that this technology is already improving their productivity. The top tasks where desk workers are seeing the most value from AI today are for writing assistance, automating workflows and summarizing content. Summaries replaced research as a top value add in respondents’ current work since Slack’s September 2023 survey. 

Workforce Lab AI at work survey response - productivity - February 2024

Many desk workers are enthusiastic about AI’s potential to improve their on-the-job effectiveness, with 42% saying they are excited about the idea of AI handling tasks from their current job. At the same time, 27% say that they are concerned about these tools handling common workplace tasks, and an additional 31% are in wait-and-see mode, saying their feelings are neutral. 

Want to accelerate AI adoption? Start by issuing guidelines for use

A majority (81%) of executives feel some urgency to incorporate generative AI into their organizations, with 50% of leaders reporting a high degree of urgency. 

And yet, in our survey of more than 10,000 global desk workers, close to half of all respondents (43%) say they’ve received no guidance from their leaders or organization on how to use AI tools at work. 

Lack of instruction may be preventing employees from experimenting with AI. Desk workers at companies that have defined AI guidelines are nearly six times more likely to have tried AI tools, compared with desk workers whose companies have no guidelines around AI usage. Even workers at companies whose usage guidelines limit the use of AI are more likely to have experimented with AI tools compared with workers at companies who have no guidelines around AI usage. 

Workforce Lab AI data February 2024

“The vast majority of people who are using AI and automation are already starting to experience productivity gains,” says Christina Janzer, the senior vice president of research and analytics at Slack and head of Slack’s Workforce Lab. “But the data indicates that failing to provide guidance or instruction on AI may be inhibiting your employees from giving it a try. If you’re looking to ready your workforce for the AI revolution, you can start by providing guidelines for how AI can be used at work.”

The executive perspective: common hopes and concerns

The top benefits that executives are most looking forward to from integrating AI into business operations are: 

  • Increased efficiency and productivity of employees (38% of respondents) 
  • Data-driven decision-making (35%) 
  • Innovation of products and services (34%) 
  • Cost reductions (33%) 
  • Increased focus on strategy over rote tasks (27%) 
  • Enhanced customer experience (18%) 

So what is stopping executives from fully embracing AI? Two concerns rise to the top: Data security and privacy, with more than 2 in 5 executives citing this as a significant concern, followed by distrust in the accuracy and reliability of AI output. 

Executives’ top concerns about incorporating AI into business operations are:   

  • Data security and privacy (44% of respondents)
  • AI reliability and accuracy (36%)
  • Lack of expertise and skill gap among staff (25%)
  • Ethical and compliance issues (17%)
  • Customer trust and acceptance (17%)
  • Cost of implementation and maintenance (16%)

A clear opportunity: Using AI and automation to reduce the “work of work”

On average, desk workers report spending 41% of their time at work on tasks that are “low value, repetitive or lack meaningful contribution to their core job functions.” And the more time desk workers spend on low-value work, the more excitement they express for AI and automation to handle tasks from their current job. 

Workforce Lab AI at work survey response - low value tasks - February 2024

“We all have tasks to complete that aren’t part of our job description but are necessary to keep things running smoothly. It’s the ‘work of work,’” says Janzer. “But if the average desk worker is spending two full days each week on this ‘work of work,’ that’s a problem — and an opportunity. In this pivotal moment, implementing AI and automation tools that are trusted, intuitive and embedded in the flow of work is key to recalibrating energy at work toward the activities that will move the needle.” 

Appendix: AI fast facts

Workforce Lab AI Fast Facts Feb 24
Slack Workforce Lab Fast Facts Appendix Feb 24

 

More information

Learn more about how Salesforce is empowering companies with Einstein Copilot, the conversational AI assistant for CRM.

Methodology

This Slack research surveyed 10,281 workers in the U.S., Australia, France, Germany, Japan and the U.K. between January 10 and January 29, 2024. The survey was administered by Qualtrics and did not target Slack or Salesforce employees or customers. Respondents were all desk workers, defined as employed full-time (30 or more hours per week) and either having one of the roles listed below or saying they “work with data, analyze information or think creatively”: executive management (e.g. president/partner, CEO, CFO, C-suite), senior management (e.g. executive VP, senior VP), middle management (e.g. department/group manager, VP), junior management (e.g. manager, team leader), senior staff (i.e. non-management), skilled office worker (e.g. analyst, graphic designer). For brevity, we refer to the survey population as “desk-based” or “desk workers.”

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