Summaries of original articles

EXSUM: Using intelligent automation to reduce work-related stress

Which workplace stressors can be offset with automation? Stressor analysis, statistics and effects of the pandemic-mapped to tech answers.

This is an Executive Summary (“EXSUM”) of a full-length free-to-read article on Rehumanising the workplace: Using intelligent automation to reduce work-related stress.

High-performing organisations are often also in high-stress environments. Success is built by overcoming stressful situations and although a certain level of dosed stress can be a significant motivational factor, continuous exposure to high-stress levels is proven to seriously reduce the operational effectiveness of individuals and entire organisations.

A 2020 study by the UK Government’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE) on statistics of work-related stress, anxiety, and depression in Great Britain portrays a radically worsened picture of the stress levels in the UK workforce. In 2019/20 stress, depression or anxiety accounted for 51% of all work-related ill health cases and 55% of all working days lost due to work-related ill health.

Can automation really be the answer?

A recent Verint report suggests that evolving technologies such as automation and artificial intelligence (AI) can significantly reduce workplace stress. Based on the study, a handful of companies that have adopted these new techniques now enjoy low-stress workplaces. Specifically, 72% of workers who experience low-stress levels at work, attribute their access to tools and technology to increased productivity, while almost two-thirds (64%) agree that automation technology helps reduce both workload and stress.

Work-related stress factors

While researching occupational stress, I came across this well-rounded list of stress factors. I then accompanied these with mitigating actions on how responsible automation can be leveraged to offset them and to some extent and where possible.

I hope you take these only as ideas of what might be possible, and that it triggers deeper thinking on how automation can effectively be used to reduce workplace stress.

  • Task design – Workload, overload and underload, pace, variety, the meaningfulness of work.
  • Role in the organization – Role conflict with conflicting job demands, too many roles, multiple supervisors/managers.
  • Career development – Under/over-promotion job security/insecurity, fear of redundancy either from the economy, or a lack of tasks or work to do.
  • Relationships at work (Interpersonal) – Conflicts or lack of support from supervisors and co-workers.
  • Organizational structure/ climate/ management style – Participation or non-participation in decision-making.
  • Work-Life Balance – Role/responsibility conflicts, family exposed to work-related hazards. 
  • Workplace Conditions/ Concerns – Exposure to unpleasant conditions e.g., crowding, smells, etc.

To read about mitigating actions and buy-in mechanisms for each of the stressors, read the full article.

In this article, we looked into workplace stressors and discussed how we can mitigate them to an extent with the responsible use of automation. If we take a step back for an overarching look at the buy-in mechanisms proposed, we can see that what comes into focus is human interaction and making employees feel heard and involved. This is what will drive the use of automation, which will in turn, if done right, help reduce stress. We can effectively rehumanise the workspace by responsibly using automation to tackle work-related stress.

By Aleksandar Đorđević

I am an automation professional and enthusiast, living and working in London.
Helping organisations use automation safely, effectively, and responsibly is what I enjoy doing. I promote responsibly using technology to rehumanise the future.