Blog and news
April 27, 2021

March of the Robots or March with the Robots? How Technology Can Help Create Good Work

The Institute for the Future of Work launches a project in partnership with the Carnegie Trust and the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development to develop best practice guidance for businesses as they introduce technology to advance good work.

COVID-19 has brought new incentives and demands to use workplace technologies. With people transitioning to working from home and local businesses pivoting to selling online, technology is being adopted at a faster pace than we have previously seen. Here at IFOW, we have been exploring the implications of mass technology adoption for good work and wellbeing. 

The evidence so far suggests that while workers welcome the increased flexibility which often comes with working from home, for example, they are concerned about the intensity of work, surveillance and increasingly blurred boundaries. Today's Health and Wellbeing survey from the CIPD shows that 77% employers report people working from home when unwell. Wellbeing scores are the lowest they’ve been and Prospect’s polling has found that 35% of remote workers said their work-related mental health had worsened during the pandemic. Our own research has found that young workers, newcomers and carers face particular hurdles. So how do we ensure that the adoption of technology helps create rather than destroy ‘good work’ and why is this important?

Protecting good work is not just important for individual workers. Zooming out to the national level, IFOW’s Good Work Monitor shows that the availability of good work is related not only to more resilient economies, but to better health and wellbeing outcomes.

Technology can undermine good work if it is not introduced in a ‘human-centred’ way, with awareness of its potential impacts on work quality. This will need preemptive assessment and adjustment to address adverse impacts, as our Mind The Gap report sets out. But if it is well-managed, and thoughtfully introduced, technology has real potential to improve work quality, as well as remove dull and dangerous tasks as our Future of Work Commission and Carnegie's Good Work for Wellbeing highlight. 

New analysis from IFOW shows that more workers anticipate changes to their role, but optimism about the impact of technology on their work is significantly less than it was 3 years ago. This suggests that we’re at a critical juncture, with the adoption of technology beginning to shape business models far beyond the gig economy, impacting the nature of work and work quality in every sector and region of the UK. We need to act now to tackle the challenges posed by this, ensuring technology is directed to create better work, as well as more work.

For these reasons we are launching a new project in partnership with the Carnegie Trust, and the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development. Over the course of 2021 we will be working with a range of HR leaders, unions and business experts to develop best practice guidance for businesses as they introduce technology to advance good work. 

We’re excited that this project will be taking a ‘principles’ led approach to facing the opportunities and challenges of technology adoption, modelled by our Good Work Charter. This approach is designed to help decision-makers work in partnership to think through impacts of their decisions on people across the life-cycle of technology use. The Charter also invites an aspirational, dynamic approach in which standards are regularly reviewed and improved - and people are kept right at the centre of fast-paced changes to the world of work. 

If you are interested in getting involved with this project, please don’t hesitate to contact us at team@ifow.org

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IFOW

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