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Australian employees raise concerns over use of Gen AI at work
Wed, 21st Feb 2024

New research by Veritas Technologies highlights a significant gap in workplace guidance around the use of generative AI, revealing that uncertainties are causing divisions among Australian employees and increasing the risk of sensitive data exposure.

The report outlined that over two-thirds (68%) of Australians are already using generative AI tools at work, such as ChatGPT and Bard. Worryingly, it included risky behaviour like inputting sensitive data, such as customer details, employee information and company financials. Around a quarter (24%) of office workers admitted to this practice.

While some workers utilise these tools, over one in five (21%) indicated they do not use generative AI and think that co-workers should face pay reductions for using them at work, hinting at distrust and divisions within the workforce. This lack of trust is reflected in the fact that 47% recognised that using generative AI at work could lead to leaks of sensitive information, 44% worried it might generate incorrect or inaccurate information, and 43% cited potential compliance risks.

In the current climate of distrust and suspicion surrounding AI use, the research revealed that Australians are more likely to seek assistance from their in-person connections for work-related matters over AI tools. Most would consult colleagues (70%) or line managers (68%), while others would turn to personal contacts (33%) before considering resources like ChatGPT or Bard (27%).

Given this ambiguity and the associated risks of using AI tools, an overwhelming 93% of employees believe that guidelines and policies on generative AI use are significant, even though only 32% of employers currently provide any mandatory usage instructions.

However, just 40% of Australian workers anticipate their roles could be replaced by AI within the next three years due to perceived AI security weaknesses. This comes despite the report revealing that some employees are already using AI to input potentially sensitive information.

Pete Murray, the Managing Director of ANZ at Veritas, said, "When employers don't provide guidance on how to use generative AI appropriately at work, it can create a Wild West of AI cowboys where some employees are using generative AI in risky ways. To resolve this, employers should be proactively issuing effective generative AI guidelines and policies, to set expectations and boundaries on what is acceptable and what isn't."

While 51% of office workers use generative AI tools at least weekly, 32% do not use them at all. Interestingly, despite all technological advancements, when asked for their top three sources of information at work, Australian workers were still most likely to turn to their colleagues (70%), their line managers (68%), or even Google (59%). This discrepancy is partnered with Australians preferring to ask their personal family or friends (33%) about work-related information rather than a generative AI tool.

Three-quarters (76%) of Australian employees want their employers to provide guidelines, policies or training on using generative AI. Their main reasons were so employees know how to use the tools in an appropriate way (72%), reduce risk (45%) and create a fair environment in the workplace (25%). Murray concluded: "The message is clear: design, implement and clearly communicate guidelines and policies on the appropriate use of generative AI."