AI & Hybrid Work Are Friends!

I got a very friendly reminder this week, from an assistant I did not know I had hired. My assistant said – I had not spoken to a team member in a while and I must. My assistant also asked me to submit my report, so the team could work on it further. Very helpfully drafted my report too!! With our entire team working remote, the newest team-member was helping us collaborate better. Our newest team member is Artificial Intelligence (AI) and it is getting to be more and more useful. Hybrid work increased the presence of AI in our lives. It is because AI & Hybrid work are friends! Let’s explore this friendship between AI, Hybrid work and the resulting collaboration, in this edition of The OWL on #HybridWork.

Problems with collaboration

Collaboration is a key ingredient which makes good teams great. For true collaboration to become possible, teams will need to work from a space of trust, & transparency. Team members should be able to pass the baton between them, seamlessly.

  • Sometimes the best of team’s struggle to do this. It shows up when a team member goes on leave. No one has the full context of all tasks and documents. Productivity dips a scramble ensues.
  • Other times, in not-so-great teams – Information is withheld for various reasons. Reasons ranging from – establishing relevance, retaining control and sometimes poor planning and lack of empathy.
  • Another factor that gets in the way of the transparency and trust required for collaboration among teams- is offline conversations & decisions. Yes, at times this style of working between co-located team members excludes others in the team. The team is left wondering, scrambling and filling in the blanks.

Collaboration and Hybrid Work

Surprisingly, when teams moved to Remote or Hybrid ways of working – they had to be more transparent with their work. This way of working was made necessary by the fact that everyone was distributed. Data and decisions were transmitted digitally. Calls happened through technology more than in-person. There existed a digital trail, which was easily shared between team members. Thereby enhancing transparency and trust.

It also led to the addition of another team member on most teams. A digital team member – AI and it is getting better each day. The fact that work moved online/was digital helped AI greatly in getting better. Lets find out how..

Hybrid work and AI are friends

The development of conversational AI has benefited greatly from Hybrid work. This is for two reasons

  1. Complete Context
  2. Larger data sets to study.
1. Complete context:

Remote work meant that all information was transmitted digitally. Even conversations. Therefore, AI had no missing pieces to contend with. It was able to take in the full context of work.

2. Larger data sets to train itself:

It is well known that AI needs massive data sets to be able to learn. It often acts as a constraint in its development. With Hybrid work, AI had access to massive amounts of data sets, solving a key constraint.

Now AI returns the favour for Hybrid work:

With conversational AI getting smarter. Remember the auto-complete we now take for granted and dismiss most often? It is now time for AI to return the favour to make Hybrid and remote work more effective.

Hybrid work has necessitated that work becomes even more modular. It is allowing for asynchronous working and tapping into talent from around the world. One such talent that is emerging is AI. Here are a few examples:

Why is this important?

This evolution of AI and its inclusion is the workforce will be important to lift the stagnating productivity of humans. Data shows that productivity improvements have remained muted for 3-4 decades now.

AI today seems to be expanding in its ability to take on different ends of the work spectrum. From simple email responses, customer service to even consulting!

The only thing to keep in mind, is that this new digital team mate of ours (AI) is in its apprentice years. It has a long way to go before it can live up to its potential. The co-pilot metaphor by Microsoft or Pair programmer by GitHub seems a little more reasonable today. Than to think we can turn over the reins to AI. Not just yet, if ever.

So, what should we do?

Here are a few suggestions to prepare for the inclusion of AI in your workforce:

1) Go out of your way to create ways of working that enhance transparency. Open sharing and digital trails of all the work done will aid trust and collaboration. This will help both the humans in your team and AI.


2) Look at your task list currently and identify what can be better done by AI. Start assigning tasks to AI. This will help you and the team get comfortable with having an AI as a team-member.

Artificial intelligence and job losses

Will this productivity increase mean loss of jobs for humans? There will be more jobs created than lost due to AI, albeit in different fields. Nitin Kamath, CEO of Zerodha also weighed in saying introduction of AI will not mean firing of redundant staff.

I was asked by the Moneycontrol team to weigh in on the AI and jobs debate too. Here is my quick response to them on how artificial intelligence will change the nature of the jobs and free us up to do more meaningful and better work

AI alone will not take away the jobs of humans. But humans who work with AI, will take away the jobs of humans working alone. It is time to get curious and comfortable with AI as a team-member.

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