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AI Anxiety: Managing the Change of New Technology at Work

mental health Jun 27, 2024
AI Anxiety: Managing the Change of New Technology at Work


As artificial intelligence (AI) and emerging technologies continue to shape the workforce, employers should consider the implications of rapid change on employee mental health. According to the Institute for Work & Health, approximately 30% of Canadian companies have already adopted AI to enhance efficiency, improve accuracy, foster innovation, reduce costs, and address worker shortages.1 While AI has many advantages to offer businesses, research is showing that it can be the cause of significant psychological distress among employees as they face job insecurities in an uncertain market. As with any organizational change, employers should support employees throughout new implementation processes and consider ways to reduce the negative impact on mental health.


The Effects of AI on Employee Mental Health

The use of AI can be a source of stress at work when integrated quickly without support, training, or clear communication. When introduced to new technology, employees may experience “technostress,” feelings of overwhelm and anxiety about how to use technology. Learning how to use a new tool or system can put strain on the whole team as they work to adopt it. For employees who are used to doing things a certain way, the fear of the unknown can heighten anxiety and resistance to change, making the transition even more challenging.

The American Psychological Association (APA) reports in their 2023 Work in America Survey that another source of stress amid AI integration is the concern for job security and the potential for AI to replace human roles. Two out of five workers (38%) share this concern, and about half of these workers (51%) reported that this worry negatively impacts their mental health, reporting higher rates of burnout than workers without these concerns.2 Feelings reported to be associated with this burnout included irritability and anger towards customers and coworkers, lack of motivation, a desire for isolation, feelings of emotional exhaustion, and feelings of being ineffective.

The race to keep up with machines can leave employees feeling like they are falling behind or that their work is underappreciated. Moreso than other employees, those who are worried about AI report feeling that they do not matter to their employers or coworkers, that their work is not valued, and that they are micromanaged.2 Other technologies, such as monitoring and tracking software, can increase these negative feelings and instill distrust between employee and employer. 

APA’s research shows that younger workers, marginalized employees, and those with lower levels of education appear to be more susceptible to the worry over AI replacing their jobs.


AI Opportunities to Improve Health in the Workplace

While the integration of AI in the workplace can create complicated feelings for employees, it can also offer new opportunities to improve health and support job success. A report led by the Institute for Work & Health identifies at least two ways for this technology to improve overall health and safety: 1) to predict, diagnose, and address potential workplace risks or safety incidents, and 2) to improve job design to automate the most physically and psychologically strenuous tasks.3

In high-risk workplace settings, AI can not only identify safety hazards, but ensure compliance with personal protective equipment. It can also be used to detect changes in employee physical and mental health in real-time, providing immediate support to promote wellness. Emerging technology such as chatbots, voice analysis software, and other wellness tracking software has the potential to help employees and employers understand the roots of stress, as well as develop strategies to improve overall happiness in the workplace.

Research shows that, rather than replacing humans, AI can serve the purpose of augmenting human work to reduce the load placed on employees. Redistributing the most repetitive and mundane job duties to machines allows employees to focus on more complex and engaging tasks. This can improve efficiency and productivity, and it also has the power to enhance job satisfaction and reduce burnout. While new technologies are being integrated, it is important for businesses to consider the human impact and how employees can benefit from the advancements.


How to Support Employees through Technology Changes

At this time, we do not know the full impact of technology on the role of human workers. Economists predict that while some jobs will be fully automated in the future, other jobs, roles that require specialized skills, will be created.3 Faced with this uncertain future, with employees feeling a loss of control over their employment, employers should be thoughtful about their approach to AI integration. During the process of change, leaders should address employee concerns, provide education, and foster a positive transition. Here are strategies leaders can implement:

  1. Communicate about the changes. Transparency is key. Initiate open dialogues explaining the reasons behind the technology shift, its benefits, and how it aligns with the company’s goals. Communicate the timeline of implementation, encourage questions and feedback, and foster a sense of involvement to reduce uncertainty.
  2. Offer comprehensive training. Create training sessions tailored to different skill levels and abilities within the team. Provide hands-on experiences, workshops, online resources, coaching, or even peer support networks to ensure everyone feels confident using the new technology.
  3. Acknowledge challenges and successes. Recognize that adapting to new technology might be challenging for some employees. Empathize with their concerns and frustrations, offer reassurance, celebrate small victories, and create an environment where mistakes are seen as learning opportunities.
  4. Solicit feedback and adapt. Continuously seek input from employees about their experiences with the new technology. Use this input to refine training programs, address any issues, and make necessary adjustments. This demonstrates that their opinions are valued and encourages active participation in the transition process.
  5. Encourage skills building. Promote a culture of continuous learning beyond the initial transition phase. Invest in employees’ skills development by providing access to further educational resources or certifications that align with the new organizational advancements.
  6. Be patient and pace the changes. Patience is key in allowing employees to adapt without feeling overwhelmed. Implement new tools gradually in manageable phases to give your team time to learn and ask questions. Be supportive during the learning curve!
  7. Create trust around technology. Emphasize the value your employees bring by communicating how AI will support and enhance their roles, not replace them. Be transparent about how technology and employee information is being used and its benefits. Creating this open dialogue will help foster a sense of security and appreciation that can make the integration process smoother.


How Can Gowan Consulting Help?

Our team can support objective assessment of a role’s work demands and a worker’s ability to stay at work. An Occupational Therapist can provide practical tools, strategies, and coaching to support an employee in maintaining productivity, getting the right intervention and resources, and managing distress related to change. Make a referral for success coaching or an accommodation assessment for an employee with mental health concerns.

We also provide training to managers and employees on ways to support themselves and others in the workplace. Manager Mental Health Training can help your team support employees who are struggling with disability or distress in the workplace. Contact Gowan Consulting to learn more about how we can deliver one of our programs to you. 



[1] Institute for Work & Health. “AI and the Health, Safety and Wellbeing of Workers.” Presentation. 2024.

[2] American Psychological Association. 2023 Work in America Survey.

[3] Jetha ABakhtari HRosella LC, et al. Artificial intelligence and the work–health interface: a research agenda for a technologically transforming world of workAm J Ind Med202366815-830doi:10.1002/ajim.23517