IFOW: Automation impacts workers’ quality of life

Ryan Daws is a senior editor at TechForge Media, with a seasoned background spanning over a decade in tech journalism. His expertise lies in identifying the latest technological trends, dissecting complex topics, and weaving compelling narratives around the most cutting-edge developments. His articles and interviews with leading industry figures have gained him recognition as a key influencer by organisations such as Onalytica. Publications under his stewardship have since gained recognition from leading analyst houses like Forrester for their performance. Find him on X (@gadget_ry) or Mastodon (@gadgetry@techhub.social)

A recent study conducted by the Institute for the Future of Work (IFOW) sheds light on the profound impact of automation technologies on the quality of life of workers.

The study, conducted as part of the Pissarides Review, delved into the effects of exposure to new workplace technologies on the wellbeing of nearly 5,000 UK workers. For the first time, the research utilised the EuroQol EQ-5D-3L, a widely-accepted measure of health-related quality of life and wellbeing.

Historically, studies on wellbeing in the workplace have lacked clarity, often providing general observations on stress and burnout without delving into underlying causes or consequences. Moreover, previous research has narrowly focused on specific types of technology, making it challenging to discern their impact. The IFOW’s latest work aims to address these shortcomings, providing a comprehensive understanding of the relationship between technology exposure and workers’ quality of life.

The rapid adoption of automation technologies and AI systems across various sectors of the UK economy has raised concerns about job displacement. However, the IFOW study highlights a less explored aspect: the influence of these technologies on the overall quality of life of workers.

“This pioneering study shows clearly how new technology can damage workers’ wellbeing—unless employers explicitly ensure it does not,” commented Lord Richard Layard, programme director at the Centre for Economic Performance.

The findings reveal several key insights:

  • Workers’ quality of life shows significant variation based on their exposure to different workplace technologies.
  • Increased interaction with information and communication technologies (ICT) such as laptops, tablets, smartphones, and real-time messaging tools is positively correlated with quality of life.
  • Conversely, frequent interaction with newer workplace technologies like wearables, robotics, AI, and machine learning is associated with a decrease in quality of life.
  • Perceived rights at work and HR strategies prioritising employee wellbeing have a positive correlation with quality of life.

“As new technologies rapidly reach further into our working lives it is vital that we understand how our interactions with them impact our quality of life,” said Professor Sir Christopher Pissarides, who is leading the eponymous review.

Anna Thomas, Co-Founder of IFOW, said the “flagship report” has “significant implications” that will require a “nuanced, joined-up, participatory, and systematic approach to policymaking” around tech, health, and work.

As technology continues to reshape the future of work, understanding its implications for workers’ wellbeing is paramount. The IFOW’s pioneering research serves as a wake-up call for policymakers and businesses alike to prioritise the holistic wellbeing of employees in the era of automation.

You can find a full copy of the IFOW’s report here.

(Photo by Alex Knight on Unsplash)

See also: Meta and LG to forge ‘AI-XR alliance’

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