As the world continues to embrace artificial intelligence, a recent study from Oxford University highlights a pressing concern: the risk of job loss for home-based or remote workers due to the rise of AI.

The study suggests that those who work from home are at a higher risk of being replaced by AI technologies compared to their office-based counterparts. This adds a new layer of complexity to the ongoing debate about the future of work, remote employment, and the ethical implications of AI in the labour market.

With millions of people worldwide having transitioned to remote work due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the findings raise urgent questions about job security in an increasingly automated world.

“It now looks like AI may be able to replace human labour in many virtual settings, meaning that if a task can be done remotely, it can also be potentially automated”.

Professor Frey

Oxford University scholars, Professors Carl-Benedikt Frey and Michael Osborne, caution in a preliminary study that jobs which can be performed remotely, or from home, are the most susceptible to automation through artificial intelligence. The researchers argue that tasks that do not require a physical presence in the office are the simplest to automate.

The results from this study could cause employees resisting to transition back to in-person work to reconsider their stance. Various corporations, including Disney, Facebook, Lloyds and Goldman Sachs, have been pushing for staff to return to office settings, encountering some pushback in the process.

With over a decade of research on AI, Professors Frey and Osborn had earlier forecasted in 2013 that automation could jeopardise hundreds of millions of jobs worldwide. They estimated that as many as 47% of all job roles in the United States could be at risk due to automation.

Professor Frey noted that although today’s AI technologies are remarkable, they are still prone to generating inaccuracies, commonly referred to as “hallucinations”.

The professors both pointed out that widespread implementation of AI bots in professional settings would encounter “diminishing returns”, mainly due to the high operational costs associated with maintaining the computational power these models require.

While AI technologies like ChatGPT are impressive, they are not without limitations, such as the tendency to produce inaccuracies. The researchers believe that, in the short term, these bots are more likely to augment creative jobs rather than replace them entirely. However, the cost of implementing and maintaining these advanced AI systems could lead to diminishing returns for business.

Given these complexities, employees and employers may need to reassess their strategies. For workers, especially those in remote roles, the research suggests a need for upskilling or reskilling to stay relevant. For business, the push for a return to the office might gain new momentum, but it must be balanced against the potential productivity gains that AI can bring to creative fields.

The study serves as a crucial reminder that as we navigate digital transformation, proactive steps must be taken to ensure that the workforce is prepared for the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead in an increasingly uncertain and automated world.