An unhealthy, dangerous or otherwise toxic workspace is known to deter workers from innovation and damage a company's reputation. Entrepreneurs have a responsibility to ensure that working environments keep employees safe, satisfied and positive so they can remain productive and innovative on the job. With the focus on workplace health management programs, along with the emergence of AI technologies, it's crucial to understand how these disruptive tools will affect the health -- mental, social and physical -- of workers across various sectors. AI is promising to change the way workplaces operate, but will it be a force for good or disrupt workplace culture in negative ways? With the expectation that AI will create a $190.6 billion market by 2025, it could be a tool used to provide healthier, more productive, and accessible work environments for all employees.
The modern workplace has already embraced advanced technology with smart devices, paperless workplaces, cloud services and wearable tech that tracks employee productivity. Research collected by flexible workspace specialist Instant Offices shows office workers believe tech integration improves working conditions, efficiency and communication with co-workers. Wearable tech is becoming a part of everyday life, with more and more people relying on devices like smart watches and fitness trackers to help them make more informed lifestyle decisions. In fact, the international market for wearables reached a new high in 2017 with 16.9 per cent growth year on year. Fitbit, Jawbone and Bellabeat have become household names and forward-thinking employers have been keeping a close eye on the rising trend of wearable tech.
For some, it will soon be a year since the last time they set foot in an office. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to sweep through countries, it is sometimes hard to remember that days were once punctuated by a daily commute, water cooler chats and afterwork drinks. But although the timeline is still unclear, offices will inevitably re-open in the future – leaving many wondering what kind of a workspace they will be stepping into on the day that they get to dust off their office shoes. Analysis firm CCS Insights predicts that in 2022 more than half of all office-based employees will still work mainly remotely. Whether you are team WFH, or increasingly desperate to return to the comfort of an office desk, one thing is for certain: with half of the workforce at home, at least on a semi-permanent basis, workspaces will no longer be designed to accommodate floods of employees coming in every morning for another nine-to-five shift.
Automation and AI are often perceived by companies that leverage them as an important source of labor productivity. Many workers in such companies, however, tend to see the adoption of these and other technologies as putting their jobs in jeopardy or creating more stressful workplaces. Recent research highlights the dichotomy. While increased robot use contributed approximately 0.4 percentage points to annual labor productivity growth in major developed countries from 1980 to 2014, every additional robot per thousand workers that was deployed in the same period reduced the employment-to-population ratio by about 0.2–0.3 While information and communications technology in the same period and same countries contributed to one-third of total economic growth, technology diffusion in enterprises has contributed in likely the same proportion to increased worker stress.
As businesses across every industry continue to undergo major digital transformation, employees working in these environments are feeling increasingly unsettled. In fact, the Future Risk Report from the British Safety Council suggests that emerging technologies, such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) or robots, will place increased pressure on employees, due to work insecurity and a drive for greater efficiency. At the same time, this influx of technology is exposing all of us to an unprecedented flood of information and emails that we feel compelled to read and respond to at all hours. The type of work, skills required and working locations are ever-changing, and this'anywhere, anytime' workplace can have a negative impact on productivity. Used in the right way however, AI and automation can reduce repetitive, tedious work tasks to create headspace for workers to focus on more innovative and creative work and improve their experience of the workplace.