Published: 30-05-2023 17:08 | Updated: 31-05-2023 11:30

KI research into future working life and elderly wellbeing receives over SEK 91 million

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The Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare (Forte) is allocating over SEK 91 million to KI research on elderly wellbeing and future working life. One of the researchers, who is to receive SEK 24 million, is Associate Professor Carin Håkansta at Karolinska Institutet and Karlstad University, who will be examining how the working environment is affected when some managerial tasks are taken over by algorithms.

Carin Håkansta
Carin Håkansta. Private photo

“What happens when things that were traditionally done by human managers are taken over by machines?” asks Carin Håkansta from KI’s Institute of Environmental Medicine in an article published on the Forte website. “This is what we want to find out.”

The six-year project will study the industries in which managers have been partially supplanted, such as in warehouses, where managers are in place but the workers often receive their instructions through headsets, screens or lamps, or in the transport sector, where instructions are usually given by GPS and on screens.

“We know that this kind of management makes it easier to monitor workers,” says Dr Håkansta. “It also speeds up decision-making, result-feedback and deliveries and makes organisations more efficient. This takes some of the burden off the managers, but what about the workers? This is something there’s less data on.”

Hope to develop measuring instruments

Apart from studying what effect such work environment changes have on worker health and wellbeing, Dr Håkansta and her colleagues hope to develop metrics and measuring instruments to learn more about the field. One goal is also to find tools and strategies to mitigate any risks that arise.

“Research and platform work show that algorithmic management can cause stress, social isolation and traffic risks,” she says. “New legislation is in the pipeline that will hopefully give the platform workers better protection and rights. We’ll be looking into whether the new legislation can also protect workers in other industries.”

Investment in elderly health

The researchers being allocated grants in Forte’s investment in elderly health are Susanne Guidetti, Serhiy Dekhtyar, Lena Dahlberg and Breiffni Leavy, all at the Department of Neurobiology, Care Sciences and Society, Kristina Johnell at the Department of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics and Karin Modig at the Institute of Environmental Medicine.

The money will go towards improving the medical and social care of elderly people in the Swedish welfare system. The research project will end in 2029.

Read more about Forte’s grant package for elderly wellbeing on the Forte website.