AI use in workplace linked to loneliness and insomnia, study reveals

A recent study has revealed that employees who frequently use artificial intelligence (AI) in their workplace are more likely to experience loneliness, leading to insomnia. The research was conducted in four locations – Taiwan, Indonesia, the US, and Malaysia – and found consistent results across all regions.

Lead researcher Pok Man Tang explained that the rapid advancement in AI systems is reshaping the workplace, offering many benefits but also posing potential dangers, including mental and physical impacts on employees. As humans are social animals, isolating work with AI systems may have damaging effects on employees’ personal lives.

The study tested several hypotheses revolving around the idea that more frequent interaction with AI may lead employees to feel socially disconnected from others, which may increase feelings of loneliness and be linked to insomnia or difficulty sleeping at night and more consumption of alcohol after work.

In Malaysia, data was collected from 294 employees in a technology company, whose work included using AI systems for various business functions. The employees were given a survey and randomly assigned to two groups for three straight days, before being given a survey after those three days to report their interaction frequency with AI and their own after-work alcohol consumption and insomnia.

The research found that employees who frequently use AI systems were more likely to experience loneliness, and it also supported the hypotheses that such loneliness was associated with after-work alcohol consumption and after-work insomnia.

However, the researchers also said the research findings of the four locations do not prove that working with AI systems causes loneliness or other responses, and said the research findings are only correlational or show that there is an association among them.

Based on the research, the researchers said working with AI systems may have some benefits, as it could lead to such employees offering to help their colleagues.

“The researchers found that employees who frequently used AI systems were more likely to offer help to fellow employees, but that response may have been triggered by their loneliness and need for social contact,” the researchers said in the same press statement.

“Furthermore, the studies found that participants with higher levels of attachment anxiety — the tendency to feel insecure and worried about social connections — responded more strongly to working on AI systems with both positive reactions, such as helping others, and negative ones, such as loneliness and insomnia,” they added.

In light of these findings, lead researcher Tang suggested that AI technology developers consider adding social features to AI systems, such as a human voice, to emulate human-like interactions. Tang also recommended that employers limit the frequency of work with AI systems and offer opportunities for employees to socialise.

Tang said AI systems could focus more on tedious and repetitive tasks, while tasks like making decisions as a team or where social connections are important could be carried out by people. “Mindfulness programs and other positive interventions also might help relieve loneliness,” Tang said. “AI will keep expanding, so we need to act now to lessen the potentially damaging effects for people who work with these systems.”

The research paper, titled “No Person Is an Island: Unpacking the Work and After-work Consequences of Interacting with Artificial Intelligence,” was jointly written by Tang, Joel Koopman of the Texas A&M University in the US, Ke Michael Mai and David De Cremer of the National University of Singapore, Jack H. Zhang of Singapore’s Nanyang Business School, Philipp Reynders of the UK’s Cardiff University, as well as Chin Tung Stewart Ng and I-Heng Chen of Taiwan’s National Sun Yat-sen University.

World News

Lee Shuyi

Lee is an expat writer living in Thailand. She specialises in Southeast Asian news for the Thaiger. When she's not writing, Lee enjoys immersing herself in Thai culture and learning Thai.

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