How AI is Changing the Workplace and Office Culture

January 27, 2020


Robots, AI, machine learning, deep learning, self-writing or self-modifying software has been gaining a lot of attention lately in the media. Unfortunately, a lot of this attention is negative. Hollywood filmmakers with their apocalyptic movies involving AI and robots are not helping matters.

The truth is that AI is just another tool and how you choose to use the tool is all that matters. As far as business professionals and administrative assistants are concerned, AI can be very helpful in running day-to-day tasks, especially administrative duties. Therefore, it is imperative for assistants to set aside any biases or fears and embrace this inevitable future.

New technology has always been accompanied by fear. Fear of something is usually because of a lack of knowledge. The attitude towards AI is no different. Whether used for simple administrative duties or advanced weapons systems, AI is naturally going to get more suspicion, owing to its massive and game-changing potential. 

AI comes in many shapes and forms, and deciding on which AI tool to go with is one of the “tricks” you will need to master. However, before we go too far into the weeds, the first thing you need to understand is: What is AI or Artificial Intelligence, and what is the big deal?

Why Admins Shouldn’t be Afraid of AI

The inventor of AI, John McCarthy, describes it as the science of creating an intelligent machine. Intelligence in this context means the ability to perform tasks humans are capable of doing. AI is able to perform cognitive functions, solve problems and of course, learn.

Some examples in your day-to-day life may be equipment you can talk to in order to perform certain tasks, such as finding an address or turning the air conditioning on. As time goes by and AI tech improves, AI will be able to do many of the mundane tasks you take for granted.

This is fundamentally the reason behind the fears of many people, including assistants tasked with administrative duties. However, office culture is changing, and tasks are changing, too. Administrative duties carried out today are not the same as 50 or even 10 years ago.

As expectations change, so do the roles of each member of any administrative team, including assistants. You can already see this change in many businesses as assistants are saddled with more responsibilities. The natural consequence of AI technology is that most assistants will move on from previous basic responsibilities and be freed up to take on more significant roles and manage other projects. This is going to advance the profession.

Apart from freeing up assistants from more mundane administrative duties, they will also have the opportunity to learn new skills. In fact, in the next few years, the main thing that is going to change for executive assistants and administrative professionals will be the kinds of skills required to do the job, not the disappearance of the job.

In the not too distant future, the skills required in order to be marketable as an admin assistant will change. Having said that, the following are some steps you can take to stay relevant in the workforce of the future.

Stay Current

Even in the past, people and businesses had to stay current regarding social and technological trends. This does not change. When the typewriter came along, people didn't stop writing. If you have an IT department in your company, talk to them and ask them how to stay current with technology.

The current leading players in the AI game are Apple and Google. Keep up with what they are doing in this field. Also, social media has become an integral part of doing business today. Find and join a forum of like-minded groups and keep in touch. This is an excellent way to find out about new technologies and how to use them for administrative duties. Implementing new technology is a vital part of running a business.

AI May Have High IQ but Low EQ

A big part of doing administrative duties is dealing with a lot of people on an hour-to-hour basis. This requires people skills such as reading other people's emotions and moods and responding to them appropriately. As Google’s Hal Varian puts it, “Most jobs are much more complex than people realize." He goes on to say that automation eliminates “dull, tedious and repetitive tasks not the task itself."

AI is currently nowhere near capable of eliminating all admin tasks. Voice recognition technology is capable of recognizing fluctuations in a person’s voice, but it is still very much in its infancy. Ultimately, true AI capable of taking over most tasks is very difficult, because researchers still don’t fully understand how the human brain functions. Therefore, mimicking it is going to take a long time. The days when robots will be walking around the office and doing most administrative duties is still a long time away.

Don’t Discard it, Embrace It

Some of the byproducts of AI are machine learning and deep learning. In a world where there is so much data for you to deal with, it will not be humanly possible for you to sift through it and make informed decisions. This is where machine learning and deep learning comes into help with administrative duties.

Let machine learning and deep learning go through all the data by taking into account all the variables and come back with the info you need.

You already live in a world of chatbots and self-driving cars. Its time to think of AI as a two-pronged tool, in that  it can take care of some of the old, redudant tasks and open up new opportunities.

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American Society of Administrative Professionals

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