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AI: The Solution to Employee Stress

Work and stress — the two have become synonymous.

You’d be hard-pressed to meet an American worker in today’s business landscape who wasn’t. I get stressed out, so do you, and so do the greats of every industry. Marc Andreessen, co-founder of Netscape, describes stress as an emotional rollercoaster where you flip-flop from a day when “you are euphorically convinced you are going to own the world, to a day in which doom seems only weeks away and you feel completely ruined, and back again.” Elon Musk equates stress to “chewing glass and staring into the abyss.”

The point is, stress is imminent. It doesn’t care where you work or how much money you make, you’re working in the country with the most stressed workers in the world. The global average is around 35 percent, but Americans register at around 55 percent. This really shouldn’t come as a surprise. Today’s dog-eat-dog business landscape breeds companies that believe you can weed out top talent by putting such high pressure on employees that only the most competent will stay. Basically, survival of the fittest.

But stress has sobering consequences. One million people miss work every day, citing stress as the reason. And this doesn’t only affect employees, either. Absenteeism costs companies up to $300 million a year. Being under constant pressure to live up to high performance standards doesn’t separate the overachievers from the underachievers, it slowly corrodes the abilities of your most skilled staff members.

When your employees are too stressed, they pay for it, but so do you. As companies figure out how to run leaner and more efficiently, it’s also important that they continue to implement internal methods to curb increasing stress levels. Appster, for example, will fund their employees’ after-work outings every so often and companies like Google offer in-house mindfulness courses so employees can meditate during the workday. Other tactics like flexible working hours and employee-assistance programs are valuable, but we now have unfettered access to the perks of technology, so why not tap that market too?

Artificial intelligence isn’t the office bad guy; it’s not there to threaten your job security or compromise your privacy. It’s assumed that AI will dehumanize the workplace, but I would argue that it does the opposite. When we use artificial intelligence intentionally, we make the workplace human again.

Automating the mundane and menial

As company’s have begun gradually introducing technology into their operations, we’ve become familiar with how automation can save both time and money. Repetitive and seemingly inconsequential tasks will always be a part of the job, but now employees don’t have to be the ones to support these daily duties — and who isn’t excited about being able to use their brainpower elsewhere?

Many businesses choose to start with chatbots because their benefits are overt and pervasive across every industry. These automated messaging platforms intercept tasks such as filling out documentation and replacing simple customer service requests so employees can focus on what AI can’t automate, like creative strategy and important decision-making. Another great use of automation is Feebi, a chatbot that can field 90 percent of common restaurant questions, like what your hours are or what’s currently on the menu. Your employees don’t need to be bogged down with these incessant, unimportant tasks.

Create their in-office ‘happy place’

Company culture is more than just the relationships between team members, it’s also about the environment you create. Think about it: who wants to come into a cluttered, dirty, bare-walled office every single day? We spend more time at work than we do our own homes, so it’s important to incorporate the same elements in a workspace that you would want to surround yourself with at home — more natural light, vegetation, etc.

There are automated sensors you can build into your workplace that can analyze a certain employee’s mood and assess whether or not adjusting environmental conditions could directly enhance their productivity and happiness levels. There are smart temperature controls that can automatically change the temperature of an employee’s office to their preferred comfort level and there are automated systems that can even water your office plants for you (yes, plants play a vital role in elevating employees’ moods).

Stress-detecting software

Wearables such as Fitbits have been around for quite some time now and are renowned for their ability to accurately track your health and fitness data. So, why not have something similar for the office? AI-enabled tools can monitor an employee’s emotions and behavior and watch for signs of stress, anxiety, and even depression.

Cogito is a platform that can listen to sales and service calls and offer feedback on the interaction. Not only does Cogito guide you with real-time advice on how to improve your calls, but it can also identify stressed customer service agents that could be on the verge of burnout. Affectiva, a ride-sharing service, can do the same for their drivers, assessing facial expressions for emotional cues like anger or anxiety.

Employees are often too afraid to come forward when they are under too much stress because the business landscape has taught them that they are easily replaceable. Leaders are often so preoccupied with their own schedules that they rarely see signs of stress before it’s too late. Don’t let human error support stressful working conditions. Instead, let AI give us our happiness back.

James F. Kenefick is a New York-based entrepreneur, early stage investor, and technology expert. He is the Managing Partner at Azafran Capital Partners and is a Board Member at Yobe, Inc. and BetterWorld Technology. James is also an active, long-standing member of the 
Young President’s Organization (YPO).

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