‘AI tools like ChatGPT could make toxic productivity worse’

toxic productivity

Dr Rachael Kent has been researching the impact of technology on wellbeing for the last 17 years, tracing the arc of the relationships we have with different devices over that time. Her first book, The Digital Health Self, published in May. 

During the pandemic she began advising employers in how to look after their employees, and create healthy boundaries with tech, from afar. In the aftermath of a global pandemic, her focus has turned to helping companies move to a hybrid working world with their wellbeing related to tech in as healthy a state as possible.

The link between ChatGPT and mental health

Given so many employees are starting to experiment with ChatGPT, we asked Dr Rachael Kent for her thoughts on the relationship between ChatGPT and mental health.

Dr Rachael Kent’s view:

“We live in a culture where there’s pressure to always be productive in some way, and always be available. Not just at work, but also ‘productive’ in our personal and social lives as well, from doing lots of exercise to filling our social diaries with a constant stream of newer and better things.

Covid highlighted this.

I call it ‘toxic productivity’ and it’s one of the things I help companies address. It can lead to burnout, which is so prevalent today. 

AI existed well before ChatGPT – what’s different?

We’re at a turning point now with AI. Yes, AI already existed in daily life before ChatGPT in the form of tools like predictive text and Google Maps but now with these next-generation iterations it’s becoming pervasive and more widely impactful than ever before.

My big concern when it comes to wellbeing, with the growing role of machines in our everyday lives – with technology like ChatGBT – is that they can potentially make this toxic productivity much worse.

How do you feel about the tech in your life?

At this pivotal time, when we still have the learnings from a global pandemic relatively fresh in our minds, we all need to take time to reflect on how the different technology in our lives is making us feel. We need to think more critically about the tools we’re using, their purpose and why we are using them and what technology we need to live our lives fully.

Take ChatGBPT. Is it making you feel the pressure to produce more content more quickly? To keep up with your colleague who is using it? Or is it genuinely making you feel more efficient and accomplished? Is it helping you extend your capabilities?

Is this tech affecting our sense of agency and worth?

One of the threats we need to watch out for is the potential it has to be detrimental to our sense of agency and self-worth. For instance, what is it doing to our skill sets? Is it diminishing them or building them? Is it encouraging us to hone our skills or lose them? Is ChatGPT’s intersection with our own skillset a healthy, balanced relationship? Or could an over-reliance lead to losing confidence in our own inherent skills?

This blurring between professional roles and technology is an area responsible employers are interested in and actively addressing. What I’m doing with some of my clients is drawing up ethical guidelines and boundaries to ensure my clients live well with technology.

Our reliance on tech has increased post-pandemic and, combine that with the increasing normalisation of using tech in the home for work, has blurred boundaries further. Employers need to help employees in balancing labour and leisure, supporting them at this important time, when more game-changing tools like ChatGPT will shortly become part of our personal, and professional, lives in ways we haven’t even imagined yet.”

Join our growing network of employers
Receive Make A Difference News straight to your inbox

You might also like:


Sign up to receive Make A Difference's fortnightly round up of features, news, reports, case studies, practical tools and more for employers who want to make a difference to work culture, mental health and wellbeing.