Can the use of AI help move workers to 4-day work week?

Roughly 1 in 4 Canadians could move to 32-hour week without any loss in productivity, says report

Can the use of AI help move workers to 4-day work week?

The use of artificial intelligence could make working a shortened work week a possibility for most Canadians, according to a recent report.

More than 90 per cent of the Canadian workforce could have their working hours reduced by 10 per cent with the adoption of large language models (LLM) in the workplace by 2034, report Work Time Reduction Centre of Excellence (WTRCoE) and U.K. research group Autonomy.

LLM is the technology used for AI applications such as ChatGPT, Yahoo Finance noted in its news story, citing the research.

The report “captures the potential for AI and advancements in new technologies to lead to not just a more productive economy, but one that offers people a greater quality of life,” Joe O’Connor, CEO of WTRCoE, tells Yahoo Finance Canada.

Four in 10 executives predict that AI will deliver gains of more than 30 per cent in productivity, according to a previous Mercer report. Ottawa is investing $2.4 billion to support the use of AI in Canada.

Around a quarter of Canadians could move to a four-day work week “without any loss in productivity in sectors with a higher potential for AI augmentation,” Yahoo Finance reports.

Ontario, British Columbia, Quebec, Alberta, and Nova Scotia have the highest proportion of workers who could work four-day weeks, finds the WTRCoE and Autonomy report titled GPT-4(Day Week).

This applies across different industries, says O’Connor.

“If you take healthcare, it’s often a sector that people look at and they say, it couldn't happen,” he says. “But in most healthcare sectors and services globally, there is a significant volume of work which is administrative which is about managing the kind of scheduling and the arrangements of care where actually AI tools and technologies could make a real difference.”

Four-day work week resulted in employee burnout going down by 17 per cent, mental health improving by 17 per cent and work-life balance improving by 35 per cent, according to a previous report.

And more than half (51 per cent) of HR leaders globally have already implemented a four-day work week (nine per cent) or are considering it (42 per cent), according to a previous report.

However, eight in 10 Canadians have at least one concern with the concept of a shortened work week, according to a previous study.

Employers’ choices around AI

With these possible gains, it “becomes a choice” for employers. O’Connor said. 

“Do we bank all of those productivity gains against the bottom line or against cost savings such as job reductions or do we design a model societally and economically where that benefit is shared and distributed more equitably between corporations and the workforce?”

More than four in 10 managers in the United States are hoping that they can replace their employees with AI, according to a previous report.

Here’s how employers and governments can protect workers in the age of AI, according to a report from Harvard Law School’s Center for Labor and a Just Economy (CLJE):

  1. Mandate an AI Impact Monitor elected in every workplace where AI is being used to monitor, track, surveil, or assess workers.
  2. Create sectoral commissions, consisting of representatives of labor and management, that would negotiate baseline AI safety standards for all firms in the sector.
  3. Mandate access to a human being when an algorithm makes a status-altering decision such as firing.
  4. Ban employers from using AI to advocate against collective bargaining rights including a ban on employers from embedding messages about workers’ exercise of their collective bargaining or concerted activity rights in any AIdriven interface that workers are required to use to accomplish work tasks.
  5. Require meaningful transparency and access to information about the technologies being used to monitor, manage, and surveil workers.
  6. Require the NLRB to develop meaningful penalties that will deter employers from abusing surveillance technologies.
  7. Require companies to provide a safe, digital communications channel.
  8. Update definition of “safe and healthy workplace” to include the right to be free from the harm caused by AI.
  9. Appropriately classify workers so that gig workers can access their rights to redress grievances, organize as needed, and seek protection under current labor law and any AI-specifi c protections.

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