Work-life balance is more than just a buzzword – and thought leader Christian Lanng aims to eradicate the tension so many feel as they shuttle between the office and home.
The Harvard Business Review reported, “Despite the resounding evidence that working long hours can be harmful to both employees and employers, many professionals still struggle to overcome their assumptions – and their deeply ingrained habits – around work hours. What does it take to free yourself from these unhealthy patterns and reach a more sustainable, rewarding work-life balance?”
Christian Lanng and his company Beyond Work just may have the answer. And it comes from an improbable ally – artificial intelligence. “We want to get rid of the tedious work,” says Lanng. “There’s a lot of work that just doesn’t add value to anyone. I think it’s a good thing to automate.
“What if we could actually interact with software as if we were both humans and say, ‘Hey, I want to create this’ or ‘I have this goal I want to achieve,’ and then the software does the work? I think that’s really for us is at the core of why we want to go Beyond Work.”
Christian Lanng: ‘It Makes Most People Miserable’
The Beyond Work platform changes the way work gets done by providing an interface between human users and AI software. It’s based on the idea that enterprise software often fails to deliver on its promises to make life better for its users. Says Lanng, “Having spent a good deal of my life on enterprise software and implementing enterprise software into large companies, it became obvious over the last decade that most enterprise software doesn’t make life better for the people who use it. In fact, it makes most people miserable.
“With Beyond Work, we saw an opportunity to use AI and especially the next generation of AI tools out there, large language models, to try to make work both better and more productive, meaning both the workplace and the worker wins in how they work.”
Laang views Beyond Work as a chance to use AI in new ways, primarily through tools like LLMs. Its developers include former members of Uber and Tradeshift. Beyond Work is undergoing trials with Fortune 500 companies, and it’s already raised $2.5 million in funding from investors that include the E14 fund and Moonfire Ventures.
Christian Lanng has a long history of launching startups. He admits, ” I suffered quite severe burnout myself. I think a lot of that came just also from doing work that in many ways when you really think about it is without purpose. It’s just stuff that honestly doesn’t really serve a whole lot of points other than it’s sort of you’ve got to do it.
“I think for me, that was a big inspiration when I was thinking about what we wanted to do Beyond Work.”
Lanng also believes that administrative positions are typically held by workers in their forties and older, who will retire in the near future – and Generation Z and younger workers aren’t interested in spending their time in a back office typing the same commands onto a keyboard all day. AI will need to pick up this slack, resulting in staffers with more meaningful, productive jobs. This process will include amplifying the positive aspects of AI and reducing its negative ones, resulting in a victory for both workers and employers.
Bucking the Current AI Controversy
Part of Beyond Work’s mission is to eliminate unnecessary or tedious jobs – and that’s currently controversial. Some workers fret that their jobs are being targeted, placing their income at risk. While the positive aspects of this transition generally outweigh its negative aspects, organizations still need to manage perceptions about the “AI revolution” and stress the positive outcomes.
“As humans, we are social beings,” Lanng explains. “I think if we could maybe stop creating jobs where we have to act like robots, maybe put more humans in jobs where we can be humans, I think that would be really great for everyone. That’s at the heart of our mission for Beyond Work.”
More Human Benefits from AI
Many industries are subject to regulatory compliance, like the financial sector. Accounting includes daily work related to compliance, which is crucial for avoiding substantial civil and criminal penalties. However, it traditionally involves humans spending a good deal of time copying and pasting numbers, which isn’t the best use of their capabilities. “I’m not sure that having humans sit and be calculators or copy/paste into calculators is the best use of humanity’s brainpower,” Christian Lanng muses. “I think that’s where we can make a difference.”
Lanng believes it’s necessary to align work with curiosity and joy, allowing workers to discover and learn more. Young children often laugh when they learn something new, which causes the brain to release endorphins. Says Lanng, “I think the goal here for us is to say, ‘Well, can we maybe try to align humanity’s curiosity in learning and stuff?'”
Laang also believes that using AI to free people from mundane tasks could be instrumental in solving many of the existential crises that exist right now. “With AI, we have a lot of potential,” he says. “We talk about all the crises we have had right now. Like health crises like COVID, we have sustainability, we have climate, we have food, we have all of these. Within all of those, amplification of human creativity and amplification of ability to test ideas is the single most promising solution. Again there, AI is the only tool right now that can do that for us.”