Harness the Power of AI Assistants to Tackle ‘Digital Debt’ Responsibly

Harness the Power of AI Assistants to Tackle 'Digital Debt' Responsibly

Australia is considering implementing a “right to disconnect” policy, which would give employees the right to refuse after-hours contact from their employers. With the constant availability of employees through smartphones and portable devices, concerns about work-life balance are valid on both sides. While artificial intelligence (AI) assistants are seen as a potential solution to this issue, they may not be the perfect answer.

Microsoft introduced the term “digital debt” to describe the overwhelming amount of communication and coordination tasks that contribute minimally to workplace productivity. A survey conducted by Microsoft revealed that 57% of the average workday is spent on communications, and 68% of respondents struggle to find uninterrupted time to focus. The origins of digital debt can be traced back to the “productivity paradox” of the late 20th century, where increasing technology investments led to decreasing workplace productivity.

AI assistants, such as Microsoft Copilot, are being positioned as a solution to digital debt. These assistants can handle tasks like summarizing emails, drafting responses, and scheduling meetings. However, early user feedback on AI assistants has been lackluster. They require human supervision to avoid errors and misrepresentations, creating an additional layer of work for employees.

There are also ethical concerns surrounding AI assistants. The lack of transparency and governance demonstrated by big tech AI providers raises questions about their reliability. Additionally, the dynamic nature of AI poses risks, such as producing politically sensitive or inappropriate content.

While AI assistants have the potential to alleviate digital debt and promote work-life balance, there are challenges that need to be addressed. These include organizational readiness, AI literacy skills, governance, accountability, peer review, and cost-effective subscriptions. It is crucial to approach AI investment responsibly to ensure sustainable returns in terms of productivity and work-life balance.

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