Is AI the Key to Reducing the UK’s Working Hours?

On Linkedin recently I have been seeing a lot of people talking about how we can reduce the number of hours that we work, with the idea being that a reduction of hours and more free time will lead to us being happier and healthier and therefore increasing productivity when we are working.

Some of the methods I have seen suggested include things like unlimited paid holiday and flexi-time. Recently at the Labour Party conference, they announced that if elected they would implement a 4 day week. Reducing full-time weekly working hours to just 32 hours.

Many project managers I’m sure would appreciate reducing the number of hours worked, and it will no doubt improve our lives away from work. But at the end of the day, we still need to make sure that we deliver the projects to deadline.

We Are Not Currently Progressing in Our Quest to Reduce Hours

The last major stride forward in reducing work hours came back in the late 70’s when the 37.5 hour week was introduced.

Since then however there hasn’t been any more progress towards reducing the hours we work. The UK average has decreased by 18 minutes in the last decade but the overall average is currently at 42 hours (higher than any other EU country).

The latest PMBR confirms that project professionals are following the same trend. As you can see by the figure below only 21% of our UK based practitioners work 37 hours or less, leaving 79% recording that they work 38 hours or more! As mentioned above this long-hours culture can have a negative effect on both productivity and health. So how can we reduce the workload?

AI and ML the Silver Bullet?

AI (Artificial Intelligence) and ML (Machine Learning) are being positioned by some commentators as the next great leap forward. As this technology improves we will have the burden of labour-intensive processes reduced, freeing up more time to actually deliver projects.

Any project manager looking to reduce their hours (or even just preventing any overtime) should start looking into how AI and ML can help them deliver their projects. We may not be in the position to have every menial and long task automated for us but there tools and software out there that can help offset some of that work to the bots (see our PM software directory for the leading providers).

It’s also worth checking out John McIntyre’s session at a recent PMO Flashmob on Robotic Process Automation (RPA), he demonstrates clearly how you can start to implement RPA into your projects and how it is not as complicated or expensive as you think.

In a world where so many projects are still run and controlled on Excel spreadsheets just taking that first step into the world of AI and ML will help us take projects out of the dark age and into the future.

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