World of Work

14 September 2018

World of Work

AI and the office of the future

Experts at Henley Business School have announced that the majority of the graduate workforce in the UK will be working with AI on a daily basis by 2030, with technology such as ‘AI assistants’ expected to be commonplace in the next decade.

Brand new research released at our annual World of Work 2030 conference, found that a third (35%) of UK workers are excited about the prospect of their own personal AI assistant. With the average worker currently spending 3.5 hours a week on admin tasks, ‘AI assistants’ could give workers back 12 working days a year (over two working weeks) by taking on these activities and freeing up time for more business-impactful tasks.

Naeema Pasha, Director of Henley Careers, says:

“Excitingly, careers in the UK are becoming increasingly dynamic and fluid, however this holds as many challenges as it does possibilities. For example, as the introduction of Artificial Intelligence into the workplace gives workers more time away from time-intensive admin tasks, business leaders will need to begin thinking about how their employees can use this ‘extra time’ to carry out more creative tasks and participate in meaningful training schemes to help develop a more fulfilled workforce. Additionally, business leaders need to embrace AI technology in the correct way and begin to implement AI training for their staff for it to be a success for everyone.”

Despite the potential benefits of AI technology to British workers, our research has identified a major gap in people’s understanding of how AI works and how they can integrate it into their day-to-day working lives. Although the majority of the workforce (63%) aren’t concerned about the security of their job through the introduction of AI, nearly half of them (46%) admitted that they still don’t know what AI can do, with a fifth (23%) of workers calling out for employers to carry out more AI training.

The research also revealed that even in the face of AI’s imminent arrival into the workplace, a shocking three quarters (74%) of business leaders confessed that they are not currently preparing their employees with the skills needed to work alongside AI in the future.

With the integration of AI technology predicted to dramatically change the world of work over the next 10 years, our leading academics have released tips on how business leaders can upskill their workers to ensure they reap the benefits of AI and prepare their employees for the ‘fourth industrial revolution’ by 2030.

Professor Bernd Vogel, Founding Director of the Henley Centre for Leadership, offers his advice:

1. Redefine leadership and work principles: Organisations need to embrace the fact that through the introduction of AI in the workplace, one of their future challenges will be leading a ‘hybrid workforce’ i.e. people-machine ecosystems. To stay ahead of the curve, businesses need to prepare managers on how to guide these new hybrid workforces by identifying a set of company-specific leadership and work principles. These principles would help define how humans will work alongside AI ‘colleagues’ and manage the intersect between the two.
2. Prepare: AI is already on our doorstep, so if business leaders haven’t already begun preparing their staff for an AI-integrated office, they should do today. Business leaders need to reach out to employees who feel under-prepared and offer either on-the-job or curriculum-based learning to ensure they are ready to work with AI.
3. Define accountability: AI technology allows robots to carry out jobs that require human intelligence, for example decision-making tasks. As businesses continue to employ AI technology to carry out more complex tasks more regularly, businesses leaders will need to define early on who is accountable in people-robot-AI systems where decisions are made by AI – is it the robot or is the human responsible?”

Helen Tupper, Commercial Marketing Director at Microsoft, says:

“One of the most important things a company can do is to start to educate their managers with the skills they’ll need to operate successfully in 2030. For example, those in managerial roles will have much more data at their fingertips as they begin to work alongside AI technology, so how they make decisions will be very different. Business leaders need to invest in training that will enable managers to do this efficiently, such as data interpretation, design thinking and accelerated decision-making. These are the skills managers should be developing and working on now.”

Our research found that those working in healthcare were among the most excited to welcome AI (a third), however they were also the most unprepared, with just 5% already working with some form of AI technology and one in five calling for more training to prepare them for the arrival of AI.

Brits working in creative sectors such as arts, media and marketing identified themselves as the most worried about how AI will affect their job (over half of workers). Interestingly, this was the group that claimed to know the most about AI capabilities.

However, at our WOW2030 conference, thought leaders from across the world of business shared insights in to why these workers should be embracing AI, rather than fearing it.

Dr Raj Persaud FRCPsych, Consultant Psychiatrist, says:

“Although computers can now beat the best human chess player, there is no modern robot that can reliably beat someone at football, or tennis. The implication of which is that humans’ edge over machines could lie in the domain of fine motor skills – leading to a dramatic inversion on job prestige with a return to artisanal, manual skills commanding a premium. Similarly, robots may never be able to demonstrate emotional intelligence, the ability to inspire, empathise and create, as well as humans - meaning that people who use these skills at work may not see an encroachment of AI on their job.”

Mark Tritton, Emerging Technologies Practice Lead at Hewlett Packard Enterprise Pointnext, says:

“We’re already using emerging technology such as AI to help businesses automate day-to-day tasks. As this becomes more common, business leaders will be able to empower their workforce to carry out broader and more creative work with time saved through automation.”

At the annual WOW2030 conference, leading Henley academics and business thought leaders also identified the physical improvements the advancements of AI technology will make to the traditional office of the future, from improving mood to monitoring employees’ health.

Today, we have revealed an artist’s impression of ‘The Office of 2030’ based on predictions from industry experts around how AI and technology will change the shape of working environments in the future.


A) AI assistants: Helpful AI software will carry out day-to-day tasks, such as booking meeting rooms, responding to emails and answering simple enquiries.

B) Smart furniture and tech to boost wellbeing: Expect ‘smart chairs’ that monitor posture and advise workers when to take a break. Wearable tech will keep workers up to date with extensive vital statistics and information on their productivity levels.

C) AI regulated environments: AI will be able to improve our working environment, monitoring and adjusting air quality, light and temperature to ensure optimum working conditions. Offices will also continue to bring more greenery into work spaces.

D) Desk of the future: in 2030 desk phones as we know them will be obsolete, replaced by voice-activated tech and headsets. Physical keyboards will be absent, with projection keypads in their place. Screens and software will be dramatically more intuitive.

E) Collaboration screens: As human jobs become more creative, large collaborative touchscreens that allow multi-person and remote participation will become commonplace.

F) Adaptable floorplans: with remote working the norm in 2030, office spaces will be multi-functional and need to flex and change regularly. Modular furniture will be much more common.

G) Robot co-workers: Robot colleagues will be established members of the workforce in the offices of 2030, from drones that deliver packages, to robot assistants that can take meeting notes.

H) VR meeting rooms: VR technology will allow colleagues across the globe to attend meetings in VR meeting spaces.

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