What will the workday of the future look like? How will it be shaped by ethical artificial intelligence, and will bosses be replaced with algorithmic management? These issues and more are studied in EWIDE, the newest profiling area for research at the University of Jyväskylä. EWIDE stands for Emergent Work in the Digital Era. This profiling area integrates business and economics, communication, and information technology research into a unique and effective set.

In 2021, an ordinary workday may go like this: Expert work at home, an online meeting with a colleague on the other side of the world and a quick reply via chat to your boss. Just before lunch, a nearby restaurant is advertised in social media and with a couple of clicks you have already paid for a meal that is instantly on the way to you by bicycle delivery. In the afternoon, a quick drive to the other side of the city, using an app for an on-call transportation service. Did this sound familiar? A couple of decades ago, this description would have been considered mere fiction. It’s worth considering what kind of workdays we might have in 2041. What will people be doing then, why and under whose leadership? What happens to human interaction?

Artificial intelligence is a good colleague but a poor leader

EWIDE, the new research -oriented profiling area at JYU being coordinated by Jyväskylä University School of Business and Economics (JSBE), provides a multidisciplinary platform for high-quality research on the future of work.

EWIDE stands for Emergent Work in the Digital Era. It includes three focus areas: management, communication, and ethical artificial Intelligence.

“This is a far-reaching research topic, one that won’t become obsolete or disappear as a phenomenon,” says director of EWIDE Professor Heikki Karjaluoto from JSBE. “These issues will be studied for the next several decades.”

The principal investigators of EWIDE include Senior Lecturer Tommi Auvinen from JSBE, Professor Anu Sivunen from the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, and Professor Pekka Abrahamsson from the Faculty of Information Technology.

In the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, and especially in the Department of Language and Communication Studies, a focal research area deals with interaction in working life. According to Professor Sivunen, their research already covers many themes concerning work in the future.

“These include research on the interaction of multilocal teams as well as language and communication research related to platform work and other new forms of work. Another emerging field deals with interaction with different technologies, such as chatbots, in a work context.”

Human interaction will not disappearing completely, however, even if computer language is increasingly involved in various interactions and even in the management of companies and human resources.

“The role of self-learning AI solutions will change and alter management and decision-making practices in organisations,” Auvinen says. “Nevertheless, humans still need another to say ‘job well done,’ although technically this information could be delivered by an autonomous algorithm system virtually in real time. In the current form, managerial jobs could not by any means be outsourced to any AI systems.”

Profiling of research is based on a strategy

The profiling area is based on prior research, and it involves a number of experienced researchers. The themes are multidisciplinary and long-term by nature – they will offer plenty to explore for many years in the future.

Research into the transition of working life is no exception, explains Head of Research Development Timo Taskinen.

Taskinen says that the strategic focal areas of the University of Jyväskylä include sustainable business, and one practical aspect of it pertains to changes in working life also in the near future:

“It is of primary importance how research responds both to the advantages and to the possible disadvantages, such as ethical problems, of digitalisation. This bears influence in terms of wellbeing in our working life now and in the future.”

Establishing a new profiling area is not a simple task. Each area must undergo a rigorous and multistage screening process.

A proposed profiling area is first prepared in faculties, after which cross-disciplinary applicants are evaluated in the University’s Science Council, which drafts its proposal to the Rectorate. The senior management of the university then chooses a few candidates to be proposed to the funder, the Academy of Finland.

EWIDE is one of the five profiling areas of JYU that were granted Academy funding for the years 2021-2026.

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