Survey Reveals: Implementation of New Technologies such as AI and Wearables in the Workplace Adversely Affects Employee Well-Being

Amidst the surge of new AI technologies and the proliferation of innovations by companies like Microsoft integrating these technologies into various aspects of the workplace, it’s essential to recognise that other forms of technology are also being deployed to enhance productivity and profitability. However, a recent survey conducted by the Institute for the Future of Work sheds light on the fact that not all technological advancements positively impact the well-being of employees who are required to utilise these cutting-edge systems.

The survey, encompassing over 6,000 participants across the U.K., examined four distinct categories of technology: digital IT or communication systems such as laptops and smartphones, wearable and remote sensing technology including fitness trackers, GPS devices, and CCTV cameras, software employing artificial intelligence and machine learning, and automated machinery and robotics. Predictably, the survey revealed that the use of conventional devices like PCs, printers, tablets, and smartphones contributed to an enhanced sense of well-being among employees. Interestingly, this was the sole category with a positive correlation, while all other types of technology were associated with a detriment to employee well-being.

The report refrains from delving into the specific reasons behind these findings but does highlight that “newer and more advanced technologies were correlated with reduced well-being” compared to older IT equipment. Traditional digital systems like computers have been ingrained in workplaces for decades, and even smartphones and tablets have become familiar tools over the years. Conversely, newer technologies may evoke discomfort among employees due to factors such as unfamiliarity, concerns about mastering new systems, and apprehensions regarding potential job displacement by automated systems like AI assistants or robots.

The study’s findings align with recent sentiments surrounding AI technology, as evidenced by a U.S. survey indicating Gen-Z employees’ apprehensions about utilizing AI systems. A significant portion expressed feelings of guilt and concerns about compromised critical thinking associated with AI usage. While AI undeniably enhances productivity, its transformative potential instils unease in certain users. The debate regarding AI’s impact on job security remains ongoing, with initiatives like a start up endeavouring to create the “universal employee” further intensifying discussions.

Concerns about the threat posed by robots or automated machinery to job roles, particularly those in low-skill positions, are also echoed in the survey. Given the rapid advancements in robotics, including human-like creations such as Figure’s 01 robot, these apprehensions carry substantial weight.

Notably, the survey underscores employees’ aversion to systems capable of monitoring their activities during work hours, such as GPS or fitness tracking. While earlier studies touted wearables like fitness trackers as tools for improving efficiency and preventing injuries, recent findings suggest that companies utilising tracking technologies experience higher employee turnover rates, potentially stemming from issues of trust and privacy.

Another noteworthy insight from the Institute for the Future of Work survey emphasises the significance of prioritising employee well-being and rights within company HR philosophies. Companies adopting such approaches exhibited a positive correlation with workers’ quality of life, underscoring the importance of fostering a supportive work environment alongside technological advancements aimed at enhancing productivity.