UK workers are warming to generative AI – in the US, not so much

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UK workers are more enthusiastic about generative AI than their US counterparts, according to research from Slack, with Brits seeing a much greater urgency to adopt the technology.

A study from the work communication platform found that six-in-ten UK workers believe there is a high or existential need to incorporate generative AI into their work, compared with just 44% of US workers who feel the same.

As a result, 15% of British workers said it should be implemented in the next 18 months to three years, compared with just 5% of those in the US.

This is a significantly higher proportion than in other countries - 57% in Australia, 55% in Japan, 41% in Germany and just 33% in France.

However, despite their enthusiasm, only 19% of UK employees said they have actually used AI tools at work, the lowest of any country surveyed, alongside the US.


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This, the study suggested, indicates that many workers haven’t yet overcome concerns about accuracy and trust.

Deirdre Byrne, head of UK and Ireland at Slack, said the research underscores the sense of urgency among UK workers to embrace generative AI tools and unlock productivity benefits.

However, Byrne warned that confidence could prove troublesome for some organizations seeking to adopt the technology.

"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,” she said. “Until they have trust in AI solutions, this tension - and the gap between desire and action - will remain."

Conflicting reports on generative AI productivity benefits

A key talking point in Slack’s study centered around the fact that UK workers are less likely to report productivity boosts from generative AI tools compared to international counterparts. 

68% said they’ve experienced productivity improvements, compared with 72% in the US and 76% in Australia.

German workers were the most likely to say that AI is improving their daily productivity, with 81% of workers hailing the technology.

The slower uptake of generative AI tools among UK workers shows that fewer are actually able to experience the benefits of the technology, Slack noted.

Staff wellbeing and productivity

The study also looked at how workers are spending their time, and found that UK workers who log off at the end of the work day register 10% higher productivity scores than those who feel obliged to work after hours. 

Three-quarters of UK workers and 68% of US workers report working between 3pm and 6pm - but only a quarter in the UK and 30% in the US consider these hours highly productive, suggesting the afternoon slump is real.

Almost half of both UK and US workers say they rarely or never take breaks.

And more than two hours a day is the tipping point at which a majority of UK and US workers say they’re spending too much time in meetings.

Byrne said the integration of generative AI tools to improve productivity could play a key role in beating the ‘slump’ affecting workers on both sides of the Atlantic.

"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," she said.

"By integrating AI and automation into day-to-day work, companies can free employees from labor-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."

Emma Woollacott

Emma Woollacott is a freelance journalist writing for publications including the BBC, Private Eye, Forbes, Raconteur and specialist technology titles.