Robot rivalry: Automation in the workplace can decrease employee satisfaction

TURKU, Finland — A new study suggests that employees find their work more meaningful when they get to accomplish routine tasks themselves. Previous studies show that such tasks could be more efficient with the use of automated technologies, however, researchers from Åbo Akademi University find that employees enjoy those tasks and would prefer to do them — rather than handing them off to a machine.

With great strides in robotics and AI, many companies have considered using digital applications to carry out such tasks. For example, in Finland within the next 20 years, estimates show that automation will take care of up to 35 percent of structured work tasks. This number is likely to increase up to 60 percent for companies all over the world.

“Our values guide many of the selections we make during our lives, including career or occupational choices and the type of competencies we value. That’s why it is important to understand how the changes brought to work by novel technologies affect future work and if work will correspond to what we today view as meaningful,” says doctoral student and project researcher Johnny Långstedt in a university release.

Having less to do leads to less satisfaction

The study reveals a correlation between the values in certain occupations and the ability to make certain tasks automated. As more work becomes automated, creative and social tasks would replace such work. However, not all occupations would need such tasks carried out. This would possibly result in many employees feeling unsatisfactory and not as committed to the job.

“Up to date, we have mostly talked about how nice it is that routine work is being reduced. But what about those who enjoy such work? This is the first study aimed at understanding the ways our values are linked to the work we are expected to carry out in the future,” Långstedt concludes.

This findings appear in the journal Labour & Industry: a journal of the social and economic relations of work.