Can AI bring balance to the Indian professionals in distress?


Today is World Mental Health Day. LinkedIn, the world’s largest online professional network, has released key survey data from April to September 2020 to highlight how pandemic stress and remote work burnout have adversely impacted the mental health of professionals in India. Findings show that 2 in 5 (39%) professionals are experiencing increased stress or anxiety due to COVID-19, and as the pandemic took hold only 1 in 5 professionals were offered more time off for well-being. The economic repercussions of the ongoing pandemic have made Indian professionals vulnerable to job uncertainty, financial instability, and bleak company outlook, while continuing to work remotely in social isolation.


Artificial Intelligence is one of the many tools that can be used to either bridge the inequalities or create more opportunities. As India begins to return to work, 50% of professionals still express concerns about the risk of exposure to those who don’t take safety precautions seriously. More than 1 in 3 professionals are also worried about workplace sanitation (36%), exposure to large groups of people in meetings or in public (34%), and uncertain workplace safety guidelines (34%), which further compounds their distress towards an uncertain future of work. Experts say, the ongoing stress around the 3 R’s — Remote work, Return to work, and Risk of exposure — are adversely impacting the mental health of Indian professionals. Companies in India are beginning to bolster their mental health programmes to support their employees in such times.


Secondly, many business leaders, HR leaders, and influential voices on LinkedIn have spoken up about mental health on the platform. Several companies are also enrolling in awareness and outreach programs to understand how they can help employees take care of their mental health in these times of distress.


The recent event on AI, (RAISE 2020) has turned the possibility of AI adoption into an imminent reality. The event focused on the use of automation was one of the trends that were accelerated by the pandemic. The adoption of Artificial Intelligence (AI) is not limited to businesses, but economies have also turned their focus on building up their AI capabilities as a means to augment growth. Developed economies like the US, China and EU countries are already in the race. Now, India too is set to join them. In the last couple of years, the Government of India established a Task Force on Artificial Intelligence and mandated the NITI Aayog to prepare a National strategy on AI with a view to leverage AI for inclusive growth. However, AI adoption remained at a nascent stage in India.


The report titled “Rewire for Growth” by Accenture estimates that AI has the potential to add 957 billion dollars to India’s economy in 2035. As the post-Covid economy begins to rebuild itself, AI will present an opportunity to leapfrog by opening up newer sources of value and growth, beyond the physical limitations of capital and labour. The skill-biased technological changes in the past have been assumed to be the cause for rising wage inequality. Contrary to this assumption, technological advancements have proven to be beneficial for everyone in the long-run. The mobile phone and the internet are two examples of such technological advancements whose cost went down enough to reach the larger population. The continued innovation by businesses made it possible to lower the cost of these entities that were once considered a luxury, and India was able to usher a digital revolution.