Workplace strategies for employee mental health

While the full integration of AI into the workplace remains on the horizon, its impact on employee mental health is already being felt. As businesses consider how best to use new AI tools, they must also consider how to proactively address the anxiety, stress and uncertainty caused by growing fears of AI automation.

Just consider a recent survey by the American Psychological Association, which found that nearly two in five workers worry that AI could make their jobs obsolete. Additionally, these respondents were significantly more likely to report that their work had a negative impact on their mental health – 51 percent compared to just 29 percent for those not worried about AI.

This relationship encompasses a range of negative work-related feelings and impacts. These workers are also more likely to report poor mental health, feelings of stress and emotional exhaustion, low motivation and productivity, and the belief that they do not matter to their employer. It’s no surprise, then, that nearly half of those worried about AI also intend to look for a new job in the next year. These impacts are also more common among more vulnerable workers, including people of color and people with a high school diploma or less.

Given these alarming numbers, employers cannot afford to wait and see about AI. In fact, even if an organization has no plans to adopt AI, the very prospect and public conversation about this topic is likely already affecting employees.

Organizations need to get ahead of the speculation with proactive communication and strategy about what AI means theirs Workplace. Ultimately, like any technology, the impact of new AI tools depends on their application – with the potential to make workplaces more engaging, creative and enjoyable. Additionally, there are direct applications of AI for mental health, such as mental health screening, and in neuroscience research to tap into and find patterns in the vast amount of data needed in brain science.

Here’s what employers can do to ease anxiety about AI:

Communicate proactively about AI plans. According to a new study by UKG, over half (54%) of employees have no idea how their companies use AI, while 78% of C-suite executives say their company uses AI today. Note that AI is not a monolith; there are many applications that can have little impact on employees (like AI in spam filters) or positive impact (like AI built into the tools they already use). When organizations share these applications, it makes AI less worrisome and more normal. Roughly 75% of employees said they would be more excited about AI with more company transparency.

Train employees to use AI tools and involve them in planning. Many AI tools are likely to augment rather than replace aspects of a worker’s responsibilities. However, they may need training on how best to use these tools. A recent OECD report on AI, which surveyed both employers and workers, found that training and consultation with workers is associated with better outcomes for employees.

Explore AI tools for mental health and education. AI can provide important benefits for mental wellbeing in the workplace. AI-powered assistants can communicate with employees, detect signs of mental distress and suggest potential resources while respecting privacy. AI-powered platforms can also help employees access mental health resources, including training on the importance of mental health management or cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) techniques.

It is critical to consider mental health when planning new AI tools, especially for maintaining trust, well-being and retention among employees. With a strategy that communicates, educates and prioritizes mental health, AI can better augment the workforce and the future of work.

We will all also benefit from accelerating science to lead to better and more evidence-based treatments and diagnostic tools for mental illness.

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