1. Home
  2. tech
  3. news
  4. Fully remote workers are at the highest risk of being replaced by AI, a Stanford professor says

Fully remote workers are at the highest risk of being replaced by AI, a Stanford professor says

Aaron Mok   

Fully remote workers are at the highest risk of being replaced by AI, a Stanford professor says
  • AI could soon replace your job if it's fully remote, according to a Stanford professor.
  • AI can perform tasks like data entry, staffing call centers, HR, and payroll.

Fully remote employees fighting to keep their work from home privileges may soon face a new uphill battle: keeping their jobs safe from AI.

Those who don't work from the office at all are at risk of losing their jobs to the technology, Nicholas Bloom, an economics professor at Stanford University who studies remote employment, said.

"The big way to protect yourself as an individual is be in a role that requires some in-person interaction, even if that's every other month," Bloom told Business Insider. "To meet co-workers, manage, or mentor every other month creates an activity that AI cannot do."

Fully remote workers represent 10% of the American and Northern European workforce, his latest research showed, according to Bloomberg.

In particular, roles that are 100% permanently remote and repetitive are at highest risk of being replaced by AI.

"If you think of data entry, call centers, HR, payroll — this kind of thing that's fully remote — a lot of this may be replaced by AI in five to 10 years," he told Bloomberg.

In better news for humans, though, it may be impractical for robots to physically replace in-person workers.

"If this was a Zoom call, I could almost just about be AI," the professor said, referring to the Bloomberg interview. "If I was in person, the robot that replaces me is vastly clunky and it's just never going to work."

Another positive: AI could potentially make hybrid workers — those required to work from the office a certain number of times a week — more productive, Bloom reportedly said. According to the professor's research, they make up 30% of the American and Northern European workforce.

"AI probably helps you out," Bloom said in reference to workers who go into the office three days a week. "For hybrid workers, I don't see in the near term that it's really a threat. If anything, it's maybe supporting that job."

Debate continues over how much AI will be able to automate parts of the global workforce as generative tools like OpenAI's ChatGPT take the world by storm. The conversational AI chatbot can do things like write code, generate marketing materials, and create lesson plans.

In March, Goldman Sachs published a study that found that AI tools could lead to "significant disruption" in the workforce and impact up to 300 million full-time jobs around the world.

White-collar workers, the study found, are most likely to be affected. Computer hardware engineers, paralegals, accountants, and auditors — some roles which can be done remotely — are just some of the jobs with the highest exposure to AI, according to data from the Pew Research Center.

Jobs that require physical labor and a specialized skillset, like repair services, hospitality, agriculture, and healthcare, per Pew Research, may be safer from AI replacement.

"Physical labor jobs that are safe for the next five or 10 years are things that are in an unpredictable physical environment," Kweilin Ellingrud, a McKinsey Global Institute director, previously told BI.

"If it's in a predictable physical environment, and it's repetitive, then either a robot — likely even before generative AI — or some sort of generative AI can create the automation to do that well."

Popular Right Now