The pandemic changed how people work. It introduced remote jobs and flexible hours to millions of people — perks they didn’t want to relinquish when returning to the office. Another major change is coming to the workforce — artificial intelligence (AI).
It turns out that AI in the workplace isn’t like the sci-fi movies — robots won’t be taking every job and running the company. However, AI promises opportunities for humans to work more efficiently and creatively, anytime and anywhere. While AI is not eliminating work, it could revolutionize it.
Here’s how AI is building a foundation for more flexible work hours across industries.
What’s the Big Deal About Flexible Work Hours?
The number of people primarily working at home in the U.S. tripled from under 10 million in 2019 to over 27.6 million in 2021. Many got used to remote work schedules. Millions continue to work remotely, whether full or part time, while others bristled when they were called back into the office.
The pandemic proved flexible working schedules are a major draw for employees in various industries. People appreciate the convenience of working from home and their employers’ trust their employers in allowing them to do so.
Flexible schedules are about more than just working remotely. Workers also appreciate shorter work or flexible hours so they can sleep in or get an early start to the day. These benefits positively impact more than an employee’s work-life balance — they improve company productivity, too. Remote workers are more engaged, leading to 21% higher profitability for their workplace.
Flexible work hours can be a major benefit for job seekers. Businesses looking to attract new talent can implement flexible schedules to increase the resumes they receive from potential hires.
While flexible hours, shorter weeks and remote work arrangements are almost universally attractive to employees, some employers are apprehensive. That’s where AI can help.
What Does AI Have to Do with Work Flexibility?
AI is gaining traction across the board. More companies are using it to automate tasks, analyze data and help inform business decisions. Remote work isn’t the only thing that can improve efficiency — using generative AI may improve a company’s productivity by up to 40%. As the technology grows and develops, so do potential applications.
AI can also play a big role in shaping work schedules. This tech isn’t going to eliminate people from the workforce entirely — AI handles repetitive tasks and huge sets of data, but it still can’t match the intelligence and intuition of the human touch. However, it does free employees up to focus on more important tasks.
Workers spending more time on complex, taxing projects than mundane tasks are more engaged and productive. They might also burn out faster. Flexible work hours address both these results. It rewards engaged workers who complete their responsibilities quickly and helps them avoid burnout.
5 Ways AI Can Benefit Flexible Work Schedules
It’s clear that AI and flexible work schedules are the future of the workforce, but what does it look like when you combine them in practice? Here are five ways AI allows for flexible work hours in any industry.
1. Improves Collaboration
One of the biggest advantages of AI is its ability to enhance collaboration between team members. Endless digital tools are available to businesses, from data collection and analysis software to document sharing and more. AI can help integrate them for a smoother, more productive coworking experience.
Flexible hours go hand in hand with team collaboration. It’s even easier to work together when everyone uses the same AI-integrated software, whether you’re down the hall or across the world. Employees in other time zones can set their own hours to ensure they’re available for team meetings or project deadlines.
2. Simplifies Email Management
Everyone who works in or out of an office knows email can be a major time killer. You might receive over a hundred messages in a couple of hours. Forget about the time it takes to reply — just sorting through what’s valuable and what can go straight to your junk folder can wipe out a whole chunk of your day.
Email management software powered by AI saves time and brainpower. Smart filters can automatically sort emails as they arrive based on importance or urgency. Employees who only work four days a week or reduced hours can dedicate more time to essential tasks instead of dallying in their inboxes.
3. Trains New Employees
AI offers new opportunities for training and onboarding employees as they get started at the company. Smart programs are flexible to the new worker’s needs, catering to their learning style while introducing them to the company’s procedures and expectations.
Using AI to help train new employees benefits those with flexible schedules. The new hire can start training anytime — they don’t have to wait for a team member to train them. Likewise, current employees have more time to focus on their own work instead of teaching new people the ropes.
4. Handles Time Tracking
Time tracking is an essential part of remote work. Employers must find ways to track employees’ hours while working at home or setting their own schedules. Businesses can employ AI to help plan a daily schedule, keep track of productivity and breaks, and stay on task.
5. Provides IT Assistance
IT departments face significant demands on time and resources as more business occurs online than ever. AI-powered IT assistance can help by automatically checking for errors or security breaches in a system and diagnosing the issue. AI software can even offer fixes or alert human IT employees to a problem that requires additional support.
These systems relieve some of the burden on overworked IT employees. They also offer faster solutions for workers who may face technical issues. Employees can get answers faster instead of waiting for assistance, allowing them to complete tasks on their own schedule in less time.
The SuN Takeaway
There’s no denying the U.S. workforce has undergone significant changes over the last several years. With the rise in popularity of remote work and flexible hours — along with constantly developing AI technologies — companies should adapt to these changes to ensure a thriving future.