Skip to main content

Spending days with a robot can significantly lower job satisfaction and meaningfulness

Published on 31.8.2022
Tampere University
Kämmenellä pieni robotti.It is up to humans to decide whether robotisation will reduce jobs to routine monitoring or whether it will be used to support occupational well-being. (Photograph: Jonne Renvall/Tampere University).
Are you planning robotisation? A new study shows that organisations should make a serious effort to robotise operations in a way that does not leave employees in repetitive routine traps.

In their recent research article Job well robotized! Maintaining task-diversity and well-being in managing technological changes, social scientists working at Tampere University found that only 25% of people who are working with robots feel like robots have freed them to do more interesting tasks. This is unfortunate because the findings also show that delegating work to robots in a meaningful way correlates with higher job satisfaction and perceived meaningfulness of work.

The degree of working with robots stands out relative to occupational well-being in robotised work. Extensive daily robot use can lower employees’ job satisfaction and the perceived meaningfulness of work unless the diversity of work is simultaneously maintained. These findings are particularly relevant now that new industries are being robotised and work is being reorganised by or despite the mechanistic principles of robotic logic and pace.

Data from the quality of work life survey collected by Statistics Finland showed that job satisfaction and perceived meaningfulness of work are at a lower level in robotised organisations. As its major finding, the study produces a clear message about how robotisation should be managed in a way that does not degenerate jobs into total repetitiveness. As Tuuli Turja, the first author, summarises: “From the perspective of occupational well-being, jobs can be considered well robotised when work is reorganised in a way the enables maintaining the diversity of tasks”.

Robotising service work entails much more than measures of productivity. How robots fit everyday work, individual well-being, and the social environment especially in service jobs is something we need to know. This is crucial to acknowledge particularly by industries that are already struggling to attract qualified professionals. Poorly managed technological changes do not motivate people to stay in or apply for jobs in an organisation where robots decrease rather than enhance opportunities. Furthermore, in certain sectors such as healthcare, this goes beyond single organisations and is a question of workforce availability in the entire sector.

“We cannot afford to go Fordist with service work robotisation”, Turja points out. People are looking for motivating and satisfying work that brings them feelings of meaningfulness. In the worst-case scenario, robotising means boring tasks and routine traps, but in the best-case scenario, robotising creates opportunities for greater autonomy and life-long learning at work.

The study was conducted in co-operation the Finnish Work Environment Fund, Trade Union for the Public and Welfare Sectors (JHL), Industrial Union, Finnish Union of Practical Nurses (SuPer) and Technology Industries.

Research article

Turja, T., Särkikoski, T., Koistinen, P., Krutova, O., & Melin, H. (2022). Job well robotized! Maintaining task-diversity and well-being in managing technological changes. European Management Journal.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.emj.2022.08.002

(Open Acces publication)

Further information

Tuuli Turja
Postdoctoral Research Fellow
tuuli.turja [at] tuni.fi
tel. +358 50 318 7765