How will artificial intelligence change work and affect wellbeing at work?


Despite wild visions, artificial intelligence (AI) will not make humans entirely redundant. It will, however, change the way we work.

With smart technologies, many tasks can be automated but very few jobs can be entirely replaced. Leadership and the view it takes of human beings will largely determine whether humans perform more demanding and versatile tasks or whether work becomes more fragmented and less meaningful.

Automation could be used for routine tasks such as putting together a report, but some people find such tasks a welcome break from more demanding work. From the wellbeing perspective, it is crucial to engage employees in the transformation.

Generally speaking, it is good to allow time for change. Artificial intelligence challenges competence development and learning in terms of both technology and new practices. Multi-professional teams brainstorm, design and implement new services. Important skills in future workplaces include lifelong learning and the ability to work with change; moving into the right direction one step at a time.

Identifying the strengths of man and machine through trial and error

Machine outperforms man in tasks such as fast computing. Machine is also able to simultaneously process and read enormous amounts of data, and repeat tasks reliably without errors. Areas where humans are superior include creativity, social intelligence, self-knowledge and the ability to see the big picture.

Practices exploiting the best qualities of man and machine do not materialise out of thin air; instead, we need determined development of work and competences.

Smart methods of tapping into the opportunities provided by emerging technologies are hard to introduce all at once. Experiments that provide information on what works and what doesn’t will be increasingly important. Creating a participatory culture of experimentation helps to involve everyone in the evolution of work and technology. In addition, succeeding in projects completed together generates shared pride.

The Finnish welfare society is built on a high level of expertise and high productivity of labour. That is why Finland and Finnish organisations need a proactive strategy for developing work and competence in the current technological revolution.

Practical AI projects stem from competence development

The Finnish Institute of Occupational Health has invested in artificial intelligence and in related competence development. Last autumn, we applied the methods of service design to create an artificial intelligence training programme for our personnel. All employees were offered the opportunity to participate in the training programme, and about half of them did. A large number of employees, regardless of their background or role, are indeed interested in AI.

The training programme involved creating a shared language and an understanding of artificial intelligence and its potential uses. We then expanded into brainstorming and practical implementation of AI projects. The teams consisted of people with a diverse set of skills and competences, which resulted in lively discussions and a multitude of ideas and helped get the projects quickly off the ground.

Based on the positive feedback received from the training programme, we created a new service: The Work, AI and Human online training course. It is intended to help workplaces develop and expand AI competence within their organisations. It also helps to establish a common language for AI-related discussions, and to build the necessary capabilities for participation in AI projects. During the training programme, participants will discuss potential uses of AI in their job role and learn ways of increasing their own wellbeing in the increasingly digital workplace.

There is a wealth of information available on AI-related technologies, techniques and machines. Meanwhile, the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health has a great deal of information on humans, the transformation of work, and the impact of digitalisation on work and employee wellbeing. We want to emphasise this perspective in workplaces, and include it in public debate.

About the authors

Tuomo Alasoini

Tuomo Alasoini

Research Professor, Finnish Institute of Occupational Health

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Tiina Heusala

Tiina Heusala

Head of Development, Finnish Institute of Occupational Health

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