The Effects of AI on Work Productivity and Stress 

There’s no denying it now: artificial intelligence is here to stay. Whether this scares you, excites you, or leaves you completely indifferent, we can no longer escape the fact that humans have created something that can think on its own.

As I’m writing this article, all the instances of AI on the planet are becoming smarter, as they are exposed to new data and new experiences. And let’s face it – most of them have access to infinitely more information than we do, but that does not make them smarter than us (yet).

So, how can AI, the current bane or boon of our existence, impact human productivity and workplace stress? Is it finally the answer to accomplishing more at work? Let’s find out.

The State of Workplace Wellbeing

Depending on the angle from which you choose to approach this, you may decide that a lot or very little progress has been made in workplace wellbeing. While we are certainly very far from the days when humans had to work factory lines from dawn till dusk, we are still exposed to a lot of stress in our everyday work lives. In fact, we have never been more stressed.

The main causes of this stress include:

  • Inability to cope with the demands of the job
  • Inability to impact and control the way you work
  • Lack of support or relevant information
  • Workplace relationships
  • Lack of engagement

Here’s what AI can do to help.

Automate Repetitive Tasks

There are a lot of AI tools that can help you overcome the repetitiveness of certain tasks. Email automation springs to mind first, as the average employee spends 209 minutes a day on email. By automating this menial task, you can save time and reduce the legwork, thereby leaving your employees plenty of time and headspace to focus on more important tasks.

Automation can thus contribute to burnout prevention, as workers are able to direct their mental energies on what matters to them the most, becoming more engaged at work.

Recognise Emotions and Stressors

With the help of wearables, AI can also help uncover workplace stressors. For example, if your heart rate always goes up noticeably when doing a certain task, an AI-based solution can notify you or your company, and you can come up with a solution together.

For example, Cognito has recently built a platform that listens in on customer service conversations and pinpoints agents who are under stress. It uses speech recognition software and analyses speech patterns and talking speed.

Advances are being made in the voice and image recognition spheres as well. AI is soon expected to be able to tell when someone is stressed based on their tone of voice and facial expressions. This will allow companies to provide counselling, time off, and hybrid work schedules. It also enables them to put any other processes in place that will allow employees to better their work-life balance and remain their most productive selves.

Provide Therapy Sessions 

There are AI chatbots out there like Moodkit, Woebot, and Wysa that are able to use natural language processing and sentiment analysis to interpret how you are feeling and provide personalised responses. They are aimed at helping users rethink their own thoughts and thus modify their emotions and behaviors.

While they can never replace a human therapist, they are a great way to access instant help if you need it when a human is not immediately available to chat with.

The importance of therapy in preventing burnout and in lessening workplace stress can’t be stressed enough. By teaching individuals to recognise their stressors and arming them with the tools to deal with them, companies can expect overall employee wellbeing to rise by a long shot.

Adjust the Work Environment

AI can even make the office a more pleasant space, ensuring your mental and physical health are taken care of. They can help you adjust the lighting and airflow and even choose where to place which kinds of plants. Autonomous watering systems like the Arduino Powered Watering System can keep work environments sustainable.

The Gensler Office Workplace Survey notes that these AI-based technologies are essential for determining when workers need to take a break or move into a different space. 

AI sensors can sense staff moods through emotion recognition sensors and adjust the environment as needed. They can turn up the light or mute it, open a window, and play soothing music.

Contribute to Creativity

AI can also be used creatively, and it has managed to come up with some very fun pieces. My favorite example is the use of AI to create dog-related images.

When given the right prompts, AI can give you original images that can enhance your content or online presence.

It can also help you write, do content research for you, help you better understand your audience, and find the right voice that will appeal to them.

Be Careful How You Use AI

While AI can do a lot to help, it’s not going to solve all of your problems. It should, very specifically, never be used to do your job for you. Don’t ask it to write your codes, don’t ask it to write your posts, and don’t try to replace hours of thinking with a short query.

AI brains are nothing like human brains. No matter how much language and information they are exposed to, they can’t replace your unique thought processes. And that’s partly because human thought processes are inseparable from emotions.

So, even when you are feeling under more stress than usual, even when you are not being your most productive self, don’t try to use an artificial brain to do what yours isn’t capable of at the moment. Give yourself time, take the advice we’ll give you in just a minute, and instead of looking for a shortcut, manage how you feel effectively.

Can AI Truly Solve Workplace Stress?

No matter how advanced AI gets, you need to remind yourself that it can’t have the unprecedented impact on your work productivity and stress you may be hoping for.

It can help you save time, and it can make you more efficient and productive.

To truly manage workplace stress, stick to the basics:

  • Sleep better. Choose a king or at least a queen sized mattress that will accommodate your sleep needs. Practice good sleep hygiene, go to bed at roughly the same time every night, and eliminate screens an hour before bedtime.
  • Eat better. Aim to eat a balanced diet, 80% of which should consist of healthy choices. This does not mean you need to eat boring food — just that you should focus most of it on fruits, veggies, and healthy sources of protein.
  • Move more. Find a physical activity you really like and make it a part of your day. Even if you just take a 30-minute walk every day, your stress levels will be reduced. Add to that a dance class, a sport, or a hobby, and you’ll feel much better.

Wrapping Up

While AI can do a lot to reduce our workplace stress, it’s not a silver bullet. We still need to do our due diligence and take care of our human bodies to manage stress levels. Don’t worry about losing your job because AI is getting smarter. We’re definitely not there yet. Instead, see this as an opportunity to embrace AI to work smarter and take care of your wellbeing.

Author: Sarah Kaminski – freelance writer and social media marketer

Photo credit: Pavel Danilyuk

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