How Much Is Too Much Automation in the Workplace? How AI Could Be Hurting Your Employees As organizations continue to invest more and more in artificial intelligence (AI), how will this impact employees well-being and office diversity practices?
- Studies reveal that 38% of American workers are concerned about AI taking over their jobs, leading to increased stress and anxiety.
- AI monitoring in the workplace is raising concerns about mental health, privacy and fairness, with many employees feeling distrustful of employer surveillance practices.
- A significant gap in corporate AI policies indicates a need for better integration strategies to support employees' adaptation to new technologies.
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Artificial intelligence (AI) is taking over the workplace, and employees are still not sure how their companies are using automation tools to boost their productivity or augment specific tasks of their jobs.
The reality, however, is that many companies have given their all or nothing for artificial intelligence without considering the near and long-term impact these tools will have on employees' mental well-being. Now the results are in, and it's not looking very good.
Several studies have found that employees are feeling more stressed or anxious since their companies have introduced several new AI-focused projects to assist with overall workplace productivity.
All of this for an extra boost in the quarterly bottom line.
How artificial intelligence is impacting employees' well-being
What many thought would become the breakthrough moment of the century is now looking more and more taboo for some workers trying to avoid the topic of artificial intelligence in the workplace.
One recent study published by the American Psychological Association (APA found that roughly 4 in 10 (38%) American workers are worried that artificial intelligence will partially or completely take over their job duties, leaving them obsolete.
All of this tracking hasn't fared well with employees either. In the same APA report, around a third (32%) of employees that know their boss is tracking their activity reported their mental health being "fair" or "poor."
In a different APA study, more than half of employees said they are aware that their boss or manager is using some form of AI to monitor their activity while on the clock.
This isn't to mention the countless number of employees feeling overwhelmed with all the new learning and training they have to undergo to effectively apply artificial intelligence in the workplace or their day-to-day activities. Fears of being replaced by machines, computers monitoring their activity and the absence of AI workplace policies are only adding more confusion to the office talk.
Yet, despite all of this chatter going around, a survey by The Conference Board found that 1 in 10 employers are now using generative AI tools daily. However, only 23% said that their company had an AI policy in development and 26% said their organization already had something in place.
A fear of becoming obsolete
All over the world, employees are becoming more fearful of artificial intelligence taking their place in the office. In fact, a study by the Pew Research Center found that roughly 19% of U.S. workers were in jobs most exposed to the possibility of being automated by AI.
While it's still unclear how many jobs might be slashed in the coming years, because it's cheaper and more effective to employ machines, some suggest that artificial intelligence has already contributed to roughly 4,000 layoffs in May this year.
While employees fear that they might be replaced in the coming years, or even more worrisome, in a couple of months at the rate at which artificial technology is developing, many are also concerned over whether they will find a good paying job elsewhere.
Concerns regarding job fulfillment and work-life balance are all now being questioned as the workplace becomes increasingly automated and the labor market more competitive.
Lack of privacy and security
It's no secret that companies are leveraging artificial intelligence to track and monitor employee performance and their day-to-day activity while on the clock.
While some companies have used this technology to allow their teams to have more efficient and transparent workplace practices, allowing them increased exposure to project progress, and the ability to resolve inefficiencies more effectively — some employers have gone the other route, instead.
Those employees who know their bosses and managers are tracking their activity have felt that they are often being inappropriately watched; in fact, 81% of employees felt this way.
Employees are feeling that they are not being trusted by their employers or team members, leading to decreased morale and engagement. Additionally, this only adds to workers' personal distress and leaves a sour taste in their mouths realizing that their activity is closely being captured by their employers.
On top of this lack of privacy, many employees often feel that a potential data breach could only further expose more of their personal information to bad actors. Weak cybersecurity infrastructure and a lack of proper security training are often known to be some of the biggest reasons for data breaches in the workplace.
A continuity of underlying workplace discrimination
Other issues with automation and artificial intelligence tools in the office are the potential risks these tools pose for workplace diversity and inclusion practices. Hiring algorithms used to train AI models are often responsible for the design choices made during a company's hiring process and for selecting appropriate candidates for open positions.
However, many people feel that these algorithms used in the hiring and candidate selection process can influence a company's wider diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) standards.
Already, there have been multiple examples of artificial intelligence being host to cultural and gender bias, only selecting employees based on their race, gender, and age and not necessarily taking into consideration their qualifications or experience.
Effectively training AI-hiring algorithms to de-bias itself and remove discriminatory actions takes time, often reversing the work employers have already done in recent years to create more equitable workplace policies.
What's more, these systems are only learning from the data companies can feed them. Let's say a company is predominantly male, the system will read that as "Hey, we don't really hire women around here."
Not even companies such as Amazon couldn't de-bias its hiring algorithms back in 2018, despite having access to the necessary resources and skills.
Where do employers draw the line?
Well, that's exactly the question many are wondering about. Companies will continue to invest in artificial intelligence, and employees will have to deal with what comes afterward. Finding a balance would require employers to take more actionable steps to effectively integrate AI within the workplace, allowing employees to grow alongside it, instead of being fearful thereof.