Tough day at the office? How about a mandatory photo montage to calm you down, ordered by an AI that's monitoring how close you get to breaking point

Apple TV original series Severance teaser shot for season 2.
(Image credit: Apple TV)

You're stressed out at work, which means, naturally, you wanna throw a stapler off the roof and tell your boss exactly what you think of them. Then you see a calming montage of your family, vacation photos, and an inspirational picture of a cat hanging on a washing line, set to calming music, and the rage quietly fades away. Yes, everything is fine again, back to generating value for the shareholders. All is well.

How weird would that be in your actual day-to-day? Well, it's real, and a bank in the United States is rolling out this sort of system to its customer call centres, as American Banker's Penny Crosman reports.

First Horizon Bank is opting for this system as a way to keep its call centre agents relaxed over long shifts of dealing with the public—I get it, people can be horrible. The bank hopes the system could help deal with burnout among agents.

It all relies on Cisco's AI model for call centres, Webex Contact Center—after all, only AI could make something so intrinsically weird. It requires monitoring of an agent's stress levels through various markers, including responses to customers. Cisco says this information isn't retained. 

Altogether, the system is able to piece together a picture of an agent's day-to-day stress level.

"Different people basically break at different breakpoints," Aruna Ravichandran, SVP and customer officer at Webex by Cisco, says to American Banker.

When an agent is close to their breaking point, the system recognises this and runs—I can't believe this is actually what this is called—a Thrive Reset.

A Thrive Reset is a montage of personal photos, set to music, with inspirational quotes. Thankfully, agents pick their own photos and songs—it might be a little too bleak for an AI to generate some fake family vacation snaps set to Tiny Tim's Tiptoe Through the Tulips

Have you seen the Apple TV original Severance? It's the equivalent of the egg bar social.

At this point in writing this story, I assume this is entirely made up. There's no way it's called a Thrive Reset, I tell myself. Alas, the videos are made by very real 'productivity and health platform', Thrive Global. And yep, Thrive Global integrates with Webex Contact Center. And just to be extra sure, Ravichandran is a real person, too.

AI, explained

OpenAI logo displayed on a phone screen and ChatGPT website displayed on a laptop screen are seen in this illustration photo taken in Krakow, Poland on December 5, 2022.

(Image credit: Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

What is artificial general intelligence?: We dive into the lingo of AI and what the terms actually mean.

And, apparently, the system works. That's the thing I can't really get my head around. It sounds awful, but in a number of trials, First Horizon saw at least double digit reductions in levels of burnout in agents. In other pilot schemes for so-called Thrive Resets, agents preferred this sort of break to just having some free time. Customer satisfaction also increased a couple of percentage points.

Trialled earlier in the year, and with plans to roll out the system even further by March, First Horizon Bank should have the system handing out montages to 3,000 agents by now.

So, if agents are happier and customers are happier, who am I to turn my nose up at this burgeoning AI use case? Nope, sorry, this is all too alternate timeline Corporate America for me. I prefer getting my workplace rage out the traditional way: bottling it up until I can buy a new overpriced item of clothing or gadget to give me a fleeting sense of control over my own life. 

Phew, that's better.

Jacob Ridley
Senior Hardware Editor

Jacob earned his first byline writing for his own tech blog. From there, he graduated to professionally breaking things as hardware writer at PCGamesN, and would go on to run the team as hardware editor. Since then he's joined PC Gamer's top staff as senior hardware editor, where he spends his days reporting on the latest developments in the technology and gaming industries and testing the newest PC components.