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The workplace is a constantly changing environment. A typical employee’s work has changed quite a bit from just a few years ago. But if you ask many in the tech industry, they’ll say the most fundamental changes are still ahead of us, thanks to the potential of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. 

Those converging technologies ultimately promise to improve value creation by alleviating employees’ workloads, especially by reducing the need to spend time on administrative tasks that dig away at employee productivity. Businesses are fast embracing ways to put their people to work addressing larger strategic issues.

But in what ways will AI impact how we collaborate with our colleagues — both human and machine? What impacts are closer on the horizon than we think, and what barriers exist that are currently slowing adoption? Here are a few examples of how AI and machine learning are changing our workplaces this year.

Addressing Collaboration Overload

Notification overload is a big problem, not only in today’s workplace but in modern day culture in general. With cellphones, email, social media and more, people are connected 24/7 — before, during and after work. That level of connection and constant pinging can often leave employees feeling overwhelmed and burnt out. In fact, in a recent US survey carried out by Branded Research Inc. and cited in a press release from reMarkable, 75 percent of respondents noted that their focus and productivity are hurt by notifications. 

With artificial intelligence, there is potential to solve this interruption problem. For instance, employees can program their alerts to occur at specific times of the day, providing them with stretches of time during which they can focus on one project at a time and, in turn, deliver better results.

Related Article: Information Overload Comes in 3 Flavors: Here's How to Combat It

Expediting Access to Information

Speaking of better results, AI and machine learning give businesses the ability to streamline analytical processes. For instance, these technologies can instantaneously connect employees with data that they may have previously spent hours searching for and weeding through.

Consider this scenario: You and your team are preparing a presentation for an important meeting scheduled for the following day, and you need to analyze and package up the sales results for the new product the company released last quarter. However, the clock has already struck 4 p.m. and there are pages of documents to sort through. With AI and machine learning, you could potentially turn to a chatbot and have it provide you with key data points for review. This could save you time, help you to better analyze the results and ensure that you are prepared for the meeting.

Related Article: The Intelligent Workplace Couldn't Come at a Better Time

Realizing AI's Potential

While AI and machine learning have abundant potential, we have yet to see many organizations take full advantage of that potential, and that failure to act is a threefold issue.

First, companies often fail to demonstrate to their employees how AI and machine learning will benefit them in their day-to-day work. Employees also frequently have exaggerated visions of the impact that AI will have on their lives — most notably, many worry that AI will become intelligent enough to take over their jobs. Such factors can result in a skewed understanding of what the company can achieve with AI.

Second, many of the early applications of AI and machine learning have been in back-office functions. For instance, a company may use predictive analytics to detect and forecast industry momentum, helping it to better analyze its potential next moves in the market. However, because employees aren’t attuned to this behind-the-scenes intelligence, they are often unaware of the benefits of this level of automated analysis. As a result, it can be difficult for IT departments to get employees to embrace new AI-driven tools, especially since we humans are generally wary of change.

Third, a great deal of the AI and machine learning technology in today’s market is still in the nuts-and-bolts development phase. Therefore, it can be difficult for executives to justify organizational investment in said technologies. As these technologies become more advanced and widespread, it will become easier to justify investments in them. However, for employees who want to be seen as early adopters, showcasing specific advantages early on will be key.

Related Article: Separating the Digital Assistant Hype From the Reality

What’s Realistic This Year?

AI and machine learning are already impacting collaboration in a positive way. However, there are still various pain points for companies to overcome in order to successfully deploy these technologies throughout their work environments.

In general, AI and machine learning technologies are only as intelligent as their surrounding developmental and organizational environments. Ensuring that systems are collecting clean data that will help organizations streamline long-term processes is key. In order to successfully implement new technology into their operations, organizations must prepare leaders to drive the cause — analyzing where the technology can best assist overall business functions and convincing employees of the benefits that it will bring to their workdays.

The future is here. It’s up to us to determine not just how much we want to leverage AI to realize our full potential, but how soon.