With 2023 dominated by the implications of AI for work and for the world, Lucie Mitchell asks how Generative AI is changing how we work and what the risks are.
It has been just over a year since the launch of ChatGPT, and in that time the AI tool has become a gamechanger in the tech world. It notched up 100 million monthly users in its first two months and is now being used in many ways to help make people’s lives easier. In the workplace, employees are using ChatGPT to streamline tasks and save time.
According to a recent survey by ResumeBuilder.com, one in four workers say that ChatGPT saves them more than 10 hours a week, with the tool most commonly being used for summarising documents, writing emails, and creating content.
“Across industries and job roles, Brits are leveraging ChatGPT to make work easier,” remarks Toby Hough, people & culture director at HiBob. “The natural language processing capabilities enable employees to draft emails, messages, and other content more efficiently.”
The possibilities of using ChatGPT in the workplace are almost endless, adds Al Brown, chief technology officer at BrightHR. “ChatGPT is increasingly becoming a powerful time-saver for employees. AI tools like this can generate text on a wide range of topics making them a very useful tool for employees when it comes to idea generation.”
Peter Wood, three-time tech founder and Chief Technology Officer at Spectrum Search, says that ChatGPT isn’t just about saving time; it’s about enhancing the quality of work. “As someone who has integrated similar AI tools into our operations, I can attest to the significant efficiency boost these tools provide. They allow employees to focus on more complex, creative tasks by taking over repetitive or straightforward tasks. It’s a transformative approach to work, where AI becomes a partner rather than a mere tool.”
ChatGPT can be an extremely useful tool when used appropriately and correctly. However, the extent of its use does depend heavily on the information you put into it, says Brown.
“The more you understand the opportunities and limitations of the platform, the more value you can get out of it. When used properly it can free up employees’ time to focus on tasks that deserve a higher degree of attention and human accuracy. However, it is important to assess which tasks are appropriate for the use of ChatGPT and which are not.”
Users of ChatGPT must also be aware of its limitations, to mitigate any risk.
“A big risk that comes with ChatGPT is the spread of misinformation and potentially harmful content,” comments Brown. “Luckily, ChatGPT has an inbuilt defence against inappropriate requests which does help to mitigate this risk somewhat. However, my advice would be that you must still make sure your employees review and vet content carefully. You can never assume that the answer you receive from ChatGPT is correct and must always fact check.”
Any new technology adoption must be balanced with considerations of privacy, security, and ethical use, adds Wood. “There’s a risk of over-reliance on AI, which might lead to skill atrophy in employees or even potential biases in AI-generated content. Employers must establish clear guidelines on how these tools are used and ensure that they are compliant with existing laws and ethical standards.”
Hough adds: “To address any concerns, businesses can implement clear communication strategies to alleviate employee fears, establish robust data security protocols to prevent confidential information leaks, implement rigorous quality assurance measures, and provide training to ensure responsible and ethical use of ChatGPT to mitigate the risk of plagiarism. Open dialogue, transparent policies, and proactive training can contribute to a smoother
integration of ChatGPT into the workplace.”
So, should employers be at least thinking about harnessing ChatGPT in the workplace to enhance productivity and streamline tasks?
Absolutely, says Wood. “By reducing workloads, these tools not only enhance efficiency but also improve employee satisfaction and mental wellbeing. However, this integration should be strategic and mindful. Employers need to understand the capabilities and limitations of AI tools, ensuring that they complement human skills rather than replace them.”
The key to using AI lies in a strategic and problem-solving approach, advises Hough. “Instead of assuming that businesses are universally seeking to address productivity concerns, it’s crucial to identify specific problems that AI can genuinely solve. The responsible use of AI begins with a clear definition of the business problem at hand. If AI presents a viable and credible solution to that specific problem, then its integration should be approached with responsibility and diligence.”
For Jen Wlodyka, senior operations and culture manager at Distinctly, ChatGPT has proven to be a valuable tool for enhancing productivity and efficiency within their team. “As a digital marketing agency, creativity and authenticity are paramount, so it’s been essential to strike a balance between leveraging the time-saving benefits of ChatGPT whilst preserving quality and credibility,” she says. “Employees have turned to ChatGPT to check content, seek inspiration, summarise articles and aid in research. As ChatGPT’s abilities have advanced, we’re now able to extract text and numerical information from images, which can be a huge time saver.”
However, according to a recent study by BlackBerry, 75% of employers are implementing or considering a ban on ChatGPT at work, due to concerns over the potential risks. Yet this could risk frustration or secrecy amongst employees who view these tools as key to their efficiency and productivity.
“It’s best practice, given that AI is certainly not going away, to introduce an ‘AI in the workplace’ policy,” advises Brown. “It should give consideration to the ethical and legal implications of using such technologies, and clearly outline the roles and responsibilities of all employees when it comes to working with AI systems, including guidelines for data privacy and security.”