Tech fears | Is AI having a dramatically negative impact on worker quality of life?

Is AI having a dramatically negative impact on worker quality of life?

Research conducted by the Institute for Work thinktank has found that technologies such as AI, robots and trackers have a vastly negative impact on the quality of life of the workforce.

The study, based on a survey of over 6,000 professionals, analysed the effects of various technologies that are either emerging, or rife in the modern workplace.

According to the findings, exposure to certain technologies, including AI-based software, surveillance devices such as trackers and robotics, is associated with a decline in health and wellbeing among workers.

In contrast, the use of more established information and communication technologies (ICTs), such as laptops, tablets and instant messaging, had a more positive effect on wellbeing.

Dr. Magdalena Soffia, the Lead author of the study, emphasised that it's not necessarily the technologies themselves that are the problem, but rather the way in which they are adopted and implemented in the workplace.

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“We don’t want to claim that there is some sort of determinism in what technology causes, in terms of wellbeing,” she said, as reported by The Guardian.

“We say it really depends on the context; on lots of structural factors, on environmental conditions, how it is designed and how it is deployed. So, lots of human decisions.”

Factors such as job insecurity, workload intensification, and loss of autonomy were identified as potential contributors to decreased wellbeing among workers.

The study's findings come at a time of increasing concern about the impact of automation and AI on the future of work.

Economists have speculated that millions of jobs worldwide could be automated out of existence by 2030, with many more roles undergoing radical transformation.

Mary Towers, the TUC’s Lead on AI, expressed concern about the findings, warning that without robust regulation, AI could make the world of work ‘oppressive and unhealthy’ for many individuals.

Despite some optimism about the potential benefits of AI, such as offloading mundane tasks and boosting creativity, anxiety about its impact on jobs remains high. While some argue that AI may create new roles, others believe it will primarily be used to cut labour costs.

In contrast however, Deloitte's 2024 Global Human Capital Trends Report suggests that workers may be less fearful of AI than previously thought. Only 28% of workers worry about technology threatening their jobs, with 70% open to offloading work to AI to free up time and boost creativity.

Dan Helfrich, CEO of Deloitte Consulting, believes that AI will lead to an increased emphasis on "human" skills such as creativity and empathy in the labour market.

However, concerns persist about the potential negative effects of AI on worker wellbeing and job security.

In an interview with Fast Company, Helfrich emphasised the importance of adapting to the age of AI and ensuring that workers are equipped with the necessary skills to thrive in a changing labour market, as well as getting the messaging around its use correct.

“The lesson learned for forward-thinking organisations is, lean into the opportunity and excitement piece, and you’ll capture more employee loyalty, employee retention, etc.”

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