New investment in research into AI in Swedish workplaces

3 februari 2023

Person sitting by a computer

The project will study what actually engages people in their work and how this feeling is linked to digitisation.

While automation, robots and artificial intelligence (AI) are increasingly used in Swedish workplaces, there is a lack of knowledge concerning how this affects the human work environment. Insurance company Afa Försäkring is investing SEK 38 million in nine research and development projects, two of which are being led by Professor Åsa Cajander of Uppsala University’s Department of Information Technology.

The first of these is Work Engagement with Automation, Robotisation and AI, which is being run by Cajander and her colleague Jessica Lindblom. They have received a grant of SEK 5.1 million to study how the use of automation, robots and AI affect people’s engagement in their jobs. The project will take a closer look at three sectors in which AI is used: IT, agriculture and the metal industry.

Work engagement is the positive state in which one is fully present and engaged in one’s job. It is closely linked to motivation, productivity and job satisfaction.

“We are facing a crisis in work engagement among employees. According to an alarming Gallup poll, negative feelings about one’s work reached new heights in 2020 and this is a trend that shows no sign of turning. The project will study what actually engages people in their work and how this feeling is linked to digitisation. Armed with this knowledge, the project can be a point of departure for turning the trend and reengaging people in their jobs,” says Cajander.

New technologies in airports

The second project to receive funding is The Impact of Automation, Robotisation and AI on the Work Environment of Airport Ground Crew. Åsa Cajander will receive a further SEK 4 million to study how new technologies affect the work environment of ground crew such as luggage handlers, engineers and tanker drivers working at airports.

The project is being conducted in collaboration with TYA, the occupational and work environment board of the Swedish transport sector. It is expected to contribute new knowledge to prevent future work environment problems arising for airport personnel, including recommendations for the introduction of new technologies and training initiatives.

“The aviation industry has been badly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and is facing major staffing problems. This has led to increased focus on the work environment in the interests of creating attractive workplaces where people will want to work. Various technical, operational and organisational solutions have the potential to increase profitability and meet some of the challenges facing the industry. These solutions include automated vehicles for airports and digital devices for scanning baggage,” says Cajander.

Both projects will involve researchers conducting field studies, interviews and surveys in workplaces.