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AI Use and Remote Work Have Links to Loneliness—Here's What to Do About It

Recent research suggests that people who use AI tools more at work report greater feelings of loneliness. Remote working has also been linked to loneliness, with 25% of fully remote workers reporting high levels of loneliness versus 21% for hybrid workers and 16% for those fully on-site, according to new Gallup polling.

The consequences of increased loneliness can be significant, with the AI research linking it directly to greater alcohol consumption and insomnia. Other studies have tied loneliness to significantly higher mortality rates.  

With AI use and flexible working being two of the more important workplace trends of our time, what can employers do to counteract any related increases in worker loneliness? Here are some suggestions:

💡 Focus on improving employee engagement overall. Gallup found that engaged employees were 64% less likely to be lonely. “It’s possible that meaningful work absorbs people’s attention to a degree that they don’t feel loneliness—they are simply too occupied doing something that interests them,” writes Gallup’s Ryan Pendell.

💡 Facilitate one-on-one connections between workers. The Donut app, for example, can automatically match up colleagues to have informal get-to-know-you coffees, in person or virtually. Mentoring and reverse-mentoring programs and cohort-based onboarding can create beneficial personal ties across organizations. 

💡 Use regular offsites to strengthen trust and connection. Research shows that offsite meetings—combining a roughly equal mix of social and professional activities—generate a halo of trust and connection that lasts for several months. 

💡 Broadly, signal and model the importance of human connection as work is remote and increasingly done with AI copilots. “The goal should be to foster a culture where social interaction is valued and encouraged, not seen as a distraction from ‘real work,’” write David De Cremer and Joel Koopman, two of the AI and loneliness researchers, in Harvard Business Review.

Deploy AI in ways that reinforce worker autonomy, sense of mastery, and purpose. “Research shows that employees who feel in control and experience a sense of autonomy in pursuing something that is perceived as meaningful has mental health benefits,” write De Cremer and Koopman. Charter’s recent playbook for AI in the workplace has case studies for using AI in ways that involve and empower workers.

©2024, Charter Works, Inc. This article is reprinted with permission from Charter Works, Inc. All rights reserved.


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