UK companies express greater AI urgency than US - yet uptake remains cautious

One year on from the launch of Chat GPT, new data from Slack based on 10,000 global workers (including 1,000 the UK) reveals that UK companies believe there is greater urgency to adopt Generative AI at work than US companies - yet uptake remains cautious in both markets.

According to the study, 61% of UK workers believe there is a high or existential need to incorporate Generative AI into work compared to just 44% of US workers who feel the same. In fact, globally, UK workers are most likely to say that there is a high or existential need for Generative AI at work - meaning that they are most likely to believe it should be implemented in the next 18 months to 3 years. This is higher than employees in Australia (57%), Japan (55%), US (44%), Germany (41%)  and France (33%).

However, despite expressing an urgent need for roll out, only 19% of UK employees have actually used AI tools at work, the lowest of any country surveyed, alongside the U.S - suggesting this urgency hasn’t overcome concerns about accuracy and trust for many organisations just yet.

Key AI related findings reveal:

  • 15% of UK workers believe there is an existential need for AI at work, meaning they plan to incorporate it in the next 18 months - compared to just 5% of US employees.
  • With less people having used AI, fewer UK workers are likely to say the technology is improving productivity (68%) than in the US (72%) or Australia (76%)
  • Germany is the country most likely to say that AI is improving productivity (81%), despite it’s more relaxed approach to rolling out the technology

Connection Between After-Hours Work and Decreased Productivity Revealed

Other findings from the study explore how workers are spending their days, and how it may be costing individuals and organisations. According to the data, UK workers who log off at the end of the work day register 10% higher productivity scores than those who feel obligated to work after hours, versus 12% higher in the US. However, US workers prefer more ‘focus time’. US respondents said that the ideal amount of focus time to work was just under five hours a day, compared to around four hours for the UK.

Other productivity related findings reveal: 

  • More than two hours a day in meetings is the tipping point at which a majority of UK and US workers say they’re spending “too much time” in meetings
  • 76% of UK workers and 68% of US workers report working in the 3-6pm timeframe, but only 24% in the UK and 30% in the US consider these hours highly productive - suggesting the afternoon slump is real
  • Almost half (45%) of both UK and US workers rarely or never take breaks, despite evidence that suggests that workers are more productive when they do so

Deirdre Byrne, Head of UK & Ireland at Slack comments: “The research underscores the challenge facing many firms when it comes to AI. There is real urgency in wanting to embrace the new technology and recognition of the productivity gains it can deliver. Yet, companies can only adopt it when they have full confidence that the data they are basing decisions upon or the information they are serving customers is fully accurate. Until they have trust in AI solutions, this tension - and the gap between desire and action - will remain.

“Once the trust threshold is reached, it’s not just an AI revolution that we will live through, but a productivity revolution as well. The research shows that productivity is clearly linked to wellbeing. By integrating AI and automation into day-to-day work companies can free employees from labour intensive low-value tasks like researching information or note taking, and empower them to take more regular breaks and log off on time. It’s the companies that use AI smartly to augment employees are the ones that will get ahead in 2024.”