Loneliness, insomnia, and a heavy after-work drinking habit—these are the unexpected consequences discovered by a recent study on the impact of working with artificial intelligence (AI) systems. While AI offers numerous benefits, it seems that prolonged exposure to these technological marvels can take a toll on the well-being of employees.
According to the study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, the rapid advancement of AI systems is reshaping the work environment, bringing both advantages and uncharted dangers. Lead researcher Pok Man Tang, an assistant professor of management at the University of Georgia, highlights the innate social nature of humans and suggests that isolating work with AI systems may have far-reaching negative consequences on employees’ personal lives.
While working with AI systems does offer certain benefits, such as increased helpfulness towards colleagues, the study uncovers a noteworthy correlation between AI exposure and adverse effects. The researchers found that individuals with high levels of attachment anxiety, characterized by feelings of insecurity and worry about social connections, reported experiencing higher levels of loneliness, insomnia, and an inclination to consume more alcohol after work.
To explore these associations further, the study conducted experiments in various settings. In one instance, 166 engineers at a Taiwanese biomedical company, who frequently engaged with AI systems, were surveyed about their well-being. The results revealed that those with more extensive interactions with AI systems were likelier to feel lonely, suffer from insomnia, and indulge in increased alcohol consumption after work. Interestingly, despite these challenges, these individuals also exhibited pro-social behaviors towards their coworkers.
The findings were consistent with another experiment involving 126 real estate consultants in Indonesia. Half of the participants were instructed to refrain from using AI systems for three days, while the other half were encouraged to maximize their usage. The results mirrored those of the previous experiment, demonstrating a similar pattern of effects, except that the frequency of AI use did not correlate with post-work drinking habits.
An online experiment conducted with 214 workers in the United States and 294 employees at a Malaysian tech company provided additional support for these findings.
To mitigate the potential negative impacts of working with AI systems, Tang suggests incorporating social features into AI technology, such as the use of a human voice to simulate more natural interactions.
Furthermore, employers could consider limiting the amount of time employees spend working with AI systems and create opportunities for socialization among coworkers. Tang also proposes implementing mindfulness programs and other positive interventions to alleviate feelings of loneliness. Taking proactive measures now is crucial, given the expanding role of AI, in order to protect the well-being of individuals working with these systems.