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A Balancing Act - How AI is Shaping the Future of Work and Rest

Ai generated image of AI in the workplace
Ai generated image of AI in the workplace

As artificial intelligence (AI) continues to transform the workplace, our roles are evolving, taking away repetitive work and pushing us to rely more on higher cognitive functions like decision-making and creativity. But amidst this shift, one critical element is often overlooked: the importance of rest.

With the rise of artificial intelligence, we're facing an onslaught of information like never before. AI is crunching numbers, analysing data, and making decisions at lightning speed. And while that's great for productivity, it's also putting immense pressure on us to keep up. We're expected to process more information, make faster decisions, and work at a relentless pace pushing us to our limits – leading to overwork, overload, and burnout.

In April 2023, Christopher Pissarides a Nobel Prize winning economist, made headlines when he stated that AI could enable people to devote less time to work and more time to leisure activities. Although many are not convinced this is possible, we should take it upon our selfs to learn from the last revolution - the digital revolution. This gives us an indication of the level of change we are to see in the way we work with the fourth industrial revolution.

Before the digital revolution you'd sit down with pen and paper, carefully composing your thoughts before sealing the envelope and sending it off into the world. Post would come once a day and responses days later. Then came email – the instant messenger of the digital age. Suddenly, we were bombarded with messages 24/7, with no escape from the constant ping of notifications. And just like that, our work-life balance went out the window. In this digital age we have seen burnout, stress and the amount of work to do skyrocket. The pace for many became unsustainable.

“The easier our labour becomes, the more of it we can do, and the more of it we’ll be expected to do,” writes Charlie Warzel in his Atlantic piece about AI’s impact on workers.

As Yehuda Baruch, professor of Management at University of Southampton Business School stated in an interview with the BBC, AI “is an accelerator button that we can push, and companies can just keep pushing it.”

Indeed, new technology often leads to new norms and heightened expectations. But there are also countervailing pressures to consider. Expectations to do more with less. How do we counteract this and shape the future?

Creating the Future of Work

Sustainable working practices will be key to a thriving workplace. We need employees who are creative, engaged, and motivated. Employees that can tap into their higher cognitive functions and creativity– not burnt out and ready to jump ship. And that's where we need to focus our efforts.

So, what can we do to combat the relentless pace of the AI revolution? Embracing rest and downtime will be key to keeping up with the workplace changes that are evolving.

Work cultures that value rest

Workplace culture plays a pivotal role in influencing the impact of technology in the future of the workplace. The way employees, leaders, and the overall environment interact with and adapt can significantly shape its effects.

Crafting cultures that understand and value the importance of rest will be key. We will begin to see this backed up with strong data as wareables become more accurate and focus in on rest, sleep and stress in relation to performance. Prioritising activities that embedd rest valuing cutlures into the workplace will set organisations up on a path to success. With the right approach to incorporating generative AI into work, employers can ensure people are set up to experience AI as an advantage —and not a plague waiting to happen.

Rest at work

With the increased information overload naps help us process and make sense of all the information we have been exposed to. When we sleep our brains process information and connect dots in ways we are not able to when awake. A rest during the working day can allow you to recover from the strain you have put on your brain so far that day and get your brain ready for the rest of the day. It's not just about taking a break – it's about recharging our batteries and coming back refreshed and ready to tackle whatever the day throws at us. Naps are one of the best performance enhancers we have.

4-day work weeks and flexible working

Imagine having an extra day off to spend with family, pursue hobbies, or just relax and recharge. It's not just a pipe dream – it's a practical solution to the relentless pace of modern work life. 4 day work week trials are finding employees experienced less stress, the number of sick days fell by a third and attrition dropped by 57 percent. Flexible working arrangements will allow employees to manage the rest the need when they need it.

As AI reshapes the future of work, the need for rest becomes more urgent than ever. By recognising the importance of downtime and implementing strategies to promote employee well-being, businesses can navigate the complexities of the next revolution and ensure a more balanced and fulfilling work experience for all and better business outcomes.


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