In 2020 people worldwide moved to working remotely because of the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, collaborative tools like video conferencing, email and chat have become critical, as they allow employees to perform their jobs from home. However, the human element of work has been much more difficult for workforces to navigate, bringing mental health and burnout challenges to the forefront.
To support current remote workforce challenges, organizations are turning to emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and chatbots, an area that we’ve been researching for 3 years, in partnership with Workforce Intelligence, through our annual AI@Work survey.
Over the years, we’ve discovered a growing openness to new technology supporting how people work. In this year’s study, we dove deeper and focused on how technology can be used to support employees in a stressful work environment, where they may be addressing mental health challenges or burnout. The use cases we uncovered are wide-ranging and offer a compelling look at the future of work.
Here’s what we’ve learned:
- Conversations with chatbots: In 2019, respondents showed a preference to speak to a robot instead of their manager. This year, that number has grown, with 68% of people saying they prefer to talk to a robot instead of their manager about stress and anxiety at work. In the context of a global pandemic where stress and anxiety are at an all-time high, employees are adopting new ways of support such as digital counselors. While robots may not fully replace the caring words and physical interaction with a human being, they do offer a sense of privacy that can support an employee in a judgment-free zone.
- Deliver quick answers and information: 88% of respondents say that they want AI to help them at work, with the leading use case concerning the quick discovery of the latest answers and information. In a time where individual employees are facing unexpected constraints on their ways of working, AI can help fill the gaps for information searches that might take hours, reducing stress in a busy workday for both the employee and their HR colleagues. Better yet, digital assistants adapt to the questions answered to deliver the information needed faster over time.
- Automate administrative tasks: For many, a typical work week includes a laundry list of administrative tasks, from entering time-off requests to expense reports. All of these can be distractions from the creative and strategic work that helps keep people engaged and productive. Automating administrative tasks is a welcome improvement at work and helps avoid the tedium that leads to burnout, with over 50 percent of our respondents open to AI support as a part of business success.
- Recommend new skills at work: While many workers have unfortunately been laid off or furloughed during the COVID-19 pandemic, others have found themselves needing to learn new skills. AI tools can help identify what training is needed based on an employee’s existing skillset and job role, providing learning paths so they can transition to a new role the moment it’s needed. The availability of new skills shows employees that they are valued, leading to an increase in employee engagement.
COVID-19 and present circumstances have not been ideal for many, but they have presented a unique opportunity for workplaces to evolve and offer not just work resources, but also mental health assistance. Hopefully, as these tools evolve, they will create a more welcoming and inclusive workplace for everyone.
Integrate technology in your workplace
It’s a tough time for all of us, wherever we work. Explore how emerging technology, like Oracle AI and Digital Assistant, can help your organization achieve success while improving the mental well-being of your people. Download our new AI@Work study today to learn more.
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