Lack Of Clarity On AI Regulation Hindering UK Projects

Understanding the New European Union AI Law

Freshworks research highlights enterprise concern that lack of clarity around AI regulation, is holding back AI adoption

Customer engagement specialist Freshworks has offered insight into some of the issues currently facing enterprises seeking to integrate artificial intelligence (AI) within their business.

In its 2024 AI Workplace Report, which surveyed over 7,000 senior decision makers and managers in 12 countries, Freshworks found that despite 65 percent of business leaders in the UK trusting AI to bring value to their workplace, more than a third (35 percent) feel that a lack of clarity around regulation is the biggest obstacle they face to adopting AI.

It comes as increasing numbers of enterprises get to grip with the use of AI-enhanced tools in the workplace. A previous Freshworks report last year had suggested that AI was a possible solution for under pressure IT departments that are struggling to manage a huge increase in software applications.

worker office desk
Image credit: Lisa Fotios/Pexels

AI regulatory clarity

The 2024 Freshworks study however found that UK business leaders estimate that using AI helps reduce their workloads by 3 hours and 7 minutes in an average working week, with 11 percent claiming AI saves them more than 9 hours a week.

Despite this, more than a third (37 percent) of UK business leaders admitted they currently have no plans to integrate AI into the workplace – with 8 percent even admitting they do not know if they currently used the tools.

This finding is backed up by separate research last year that found that AI was now used by majority of organisations, but most staff are unaware of it.

Meanwhile the Freshworks AI Workplace study found that a significant number of senior decision makers and managers across the UK, have confirmed that unclear AI regulation was the main obstacle holding them back from adopting AI tools, with the UK more concerned about regulatory clarity than any other region in the world.

Indeed, business leaders in the UK were also the least likely to expect an instant return from AI, instead expecting a timeline of between 1 to 2 years before AI software would have enough business impact to prove it’s worth, suggesting UK business leaders expect a longer-term approach to AI tools.

AI challenges

The Freshworks report also highlighted a number of challenges for businesses integrating AI within their organisation.

For example the report highlighted that UK business leaders are also the most concerned about security and lack of testing with AI.

Despite this, nearly two thirds (65 percent) of respondents either completely or mostly trusted AI to bring value to the business and 70 percent said they would trust AI even more if human review of its outputs was mandatory – echoing global sentiments.

Despite concerns about AI bias, 4 in 10 (44 percent) business leaders in the UK actually trusted in AI’s ability to remove human bias.

Another finding from the Freshworks survey was the many uses for AI-enhanced tools. For example UK respondents shared that they mainly use AI-enhanced software applications for writing or creating content (43 percent), data analysis (39 percent) and researching/brainstorming (35 percent).

The survey also found that 44 percent of respondents feel their work is easier to complete with AI enhanced tools, with 42 percent suggesting they get more work done and over a third (37 percent) claiming they are excited to use the new technology.

“This report exemplifies that AI is delivering tremendous productivity gains at enterprise scale,” said Freshworks Chief Product Officer, Prakash Ramamurthy. “Knowledge workers are also seeing strong productivity gains at work, which in turn is sparking strong employee interest in mastering AI skills.”

Prakash Ramamurthy, Freshworks Chief Product Officer.
Image credit Freshworks

“Make no mistake, the AI era is firmly delivering on its promise to free up employees for higher-level work and showcasing compelling returns on AI,” said Ramamurthy. “Leaders across industries perceive AI as a transformative technology capable of delivering significant business impact, from enhanced decision-making and increased operational efficiencies to personalized customer experiences and innovative product development.”

But like other studies, the Freshworks report also highlighted a skills shortage as well as job concerns about the technology.

Despite nearly half (49 percent) of business leaders and managers in the UK considering themselves knowledgeable or experts on AI – but a lack of skills within teams was cited as one of the biggest obstacles to AI adoption by a fifth of respondents (23 percent).

Nearly half (46 percent) of UK business leaders fear that AI will end up replacing a large amount of the workforce in their field – a sentiment shared by global counterparts.

Two thirds (66 percent) admitted they are looking for ways to grow their AI skill set to stay as marketable as possible.

Despite these concerns, respondents understand the value people bring to the workplace. The majority (70.5 percent) of UK respondents feel AI will never be able to completely replace human workers.

AI’s impact

There is no doubt that AI in the workplace is here to stay, and the Freshworks survey gathered feedback on the actual impact of AI in the workplace.

The report found increased quality of work (89 percent), productivity gains (88 percent), reduced need for other software (82 percent), and improved customer engagement (80 percent) were ranked the most important measures of AI’s business impact.

Indeed, four out 10 (40 percent) believe AI software is already providing a better return on investment than other software their business had implemented.