A new study shows that people who work alongside robots may suffer from burnout due to concerns that their jobs will be replaced by automation.
Researchers have found that workers in the United States and parts of Asia feel insecure about their jobs because of robots, even in industries where robots are not used.
They conducted six studies and analyzed data from participants in the United States, Singapore, India and Taiwan, and found that working with industrial robots was associated with increased reports of burnout.
It has also been linked to higher rates of rudeness in the workplace, according to one study that looked at 118 engineers employed by an Indian car manufacturer.
The researchers behind the study, which is Published in the Journal of Applied PsychologyBut he said fears of a job loss for the robot were in many cases unfounded.
“Some economists hypothesize that robots are likely to take on blue-collar jobs faster than white-collar jobs,” said lead researcher Kai Chi Yam, associate professor of management at the National University of Singapore.
“However, robots don’t seem to take on these many jobs yet, at least not in the US, so a lot of these concerns are somewhat subjective.”
Replacement fears cause fatigue
The researchers conducted six studies in total to reach their conclusions.
The study conducted at the Indian car manufacturer involved engineers who answered daily surveys, and the study found an important relationship between the use of robots and job insecurity.
Job insecurity has been closely linked to both burnout and rudeness at work.
Another study tested whether the prevalence of bots in a specific geographic area could predict how well people would try to protect their jobs by searching for jobs on popular job sites.
They conducted this test across 185 US metropolitan areas, using capital-wide data originally collected by the International Federation of Robotics (IFR), and then organized and publicly shared by the Brookings Institution, a US research group.
They hypothesized that the association between the increasing number of bots and increased use of job search sites would mean increased job insecurity.
The results showed a strong association between areas with a higher density of robots and a later increased interest in job search sites, “People are likely to be more insecure about losing their jobs.”
Unemployment rates were not higher in those areas.
Another test involved 343 parents of students at the National University of Singapore who were randomly assigned to three groups.
One group read an article on the use of robots in business, the second group read a general article on robots, and the third group read an unrelated article.
Participants were then surveyed about their fears of job insecurity, with the first group reporting significantly higher levels of job insecurity than the other two groups.
However, the researchers report that assertiveness exercises have been successful in alleviating concerns about robot replacement.
An online experiment with 400 participants encouraged people to think positively about themselves and their human characteristics, and to write about the values that were important to them.
“Most people overestimate the capabilities of robots and underestimate their own capabilities,” Yam said.
“Media reports about new technologies such as robots and algorithms tend to be of a shocking nature, so people may develop an irrational fear about them,” he added.
Some economists are optimistic that the rise of worker robots will create new jobs and roles for humans, while the World Economic Forum (WEF) estimates that at the current rate of change, as many as 85 million jobs could be replaced by 2025.
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