The rapid rise of artificial intelligence (AI) is transforming the way we work and collaborate in unprecedented ways.
AI has long been quietly reshaping various industries by eliminating inefficiencies, automating repetitive tasks, and making accurate predictions, such as sales forecasting. This technological advancement shows no sign of slowing down.
In a remarkable development, Microsoft has unveiled a groundbreaking AI tool named Microsoft 365 Copilot, sparking discussions about the future of meetings in the workplace.
This innovative tool, integrated into Microsoft Teams, aims to provide meeting summaries for those who opt out of attending.
The goal is to enhance productivity and reduce the perceived “drudgery” of meetings. However, this latest AI offering has ignited a debate on whether we are becoming overly reliant on technology and the potential consequences for workplace collaboration, teamwork, and interpersonal relationships.
As remote work becomes more prevalent, the once-prized social interactions and water cooler chit-chats in traditional office settings are diminishing. According to reports, four out of every ten remote workers report feeling increasingly isolated. The widespread adoption of tools like Microsoft 365 Copilot may exacerbate this trend.
Thea Watson, Chief Growth Officer at BrightHR, offers her perspective on the role of AI in the evolving workplace:
“AI is undoubtedly a force to be reckoned with in the modern workplace, and its numerous successes span across a wide range of sectors. However, the challenge lies in how we integrate it effectively.
“A recent survey of our clients at BrightHR revealed that one-third of them are currently using AI, with many more planning to adopt it in the near future. Of those who have embraced AI, 40 percent use it for administrative tasks, 35 percent for creative writing, and 22 percent for internal communications.
“There’s no denying that AI can boost creativity and productivity. However, when it comes to allowing AI to attend meetings on behalf of human employees, it is undoubtedly a convenient development for a busy work environment, where conveying essential meeting information can be challenging due to various constraints. But it is essential to be cautious about excessive reliance on this or any other AI tool.
“There is a potential risk that a virtual assistant may not fully comprehend the context and nuances of a meeting, leading to misunderstandings and miscommunication. Moreover, it may not handle unexpected situations or participate in discussions in the same way a human attendee can.
“It is crucial to remember that the workplace is more than just output. It involves collaboration, employee well-being, teamwork, and fostering camaraderie among colleagues to cultivate a healthy company culture. These aspects of the workplace may face strain as more teams work remotely, particularly without the interactive nature of meetings.
AI does not have to be a complete replacement
“In my view, it is wise to view AI as a helpful tool rather than a complete replacement. Moderation is key, so you don’t become overly dependent on it, potentially eroding valuable skills such as socialisation and writing. Maintaining ownership of your work and not letting AI take over is essential. Use AI as a tool, but ensure you remain in control.
“Additionally, it’s essential to recognise that widespread AI adoption comes with substantial risks. Before implementing any AI platform, businesses should conduct a thorough evaluation of the technology to identify potential risks. This includes examining data protection protocols from both data management and security perspectives, while also considering internal security and protection from cyber threats.
“Finally, human input remains vital. Despite remarkable advancements in AI in recent years, inaccuracies persist. It is crucial to be mindful of this and the source of information. AI is excellent for speed, but everything produced by AI should undergo a thorough check by a professional, especially when handling sensitive or legal information.
The human element is indispensable
“While tools like Microsoft 365 Copilot might raise concerns among professionals in administrative roles, the human element remains indispensable. Such AI tools may serve as supplements rather than replacements.”
As technology continues to transform the workplace, the balance between harnessing AI’s power and preserving the human touch remains a critical consideration for companies striving to maintain a thriving and dynamic work environment. The evolving role of AI in meetings and other aspects of work is sure to be a topic of ongoing discussion and exploration in the years to come.
Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview, and host of the HR in Review podcast series. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, and wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at the University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.