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How can we reduce burnout in systems where human agents work together with autonomous agents?

Image credit: Photo by Karolina Grabowska: https://www.pexels.com/photo/tired-man-wrapped-in-plastic-film-lying-on-floor-4506210/

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Contrived _voice May 02, 2022
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Due to rising demand, a lot of industries are forced to automate some processes that used to be manually performed. However, not everything can be automated, and making that total shift is expensive. The result is systems where both automation and manual labor work together to achieve a set objective. The problem there is autonomous agents don't tire nor does their rate of work drop over time. This means that human agents end up forced to work at those rates while enduring fatigue.
Background information
Let's take a distribution warehouse as a working model. Pre-automation, someone had to empty cargo trailers while another sorted the goods and stored them. As distribution started, someone would look for the product, and take it for packaging and distribution. At any time when someone had to walk around or look for something, it slowed down the rate of work. This caused a sort of cooldown for the whole process. Also our brains are masters at energy conservation. Since everyone started the workday at the same time and expected it to end at the same time, everyone would fall into similar efficient pacing, regulating total fatigue.
Let's take the same model, Post automation. Someone empties the cargo and places it onto an autonomous system for storage. When the product is needed, the system is requested and delivers it to a human agent who now has to label it for distribution and pass it on to distribution agents. The automation in the middle forces the people working on emptying cargo to speed up their rate of work since the system is always moving the products faster than they can feed it new ones. The sorters and packagers also have to speed themselves up since the system spews out products faster than they can do their job.
The increased pace, Inability to catch up and the constant work speeds is too much and causes the brain to experience work overload and burnout . SImilarly our bodies are forced to endure more strain ,meaning you get more tired for doing the same work-hours as before without added compensation. If the person worked two jobs, the fatigue transfers over to the second job reducing productivity there.
  • Loss of human labor. When your body cant take the work anymore, your only option is to quit the job . Too many people quitting leaves companies at exactly where they started in the first place.
  • The effects of burnout are anxiety, detatchment, listlessness, low concentration, low creativity and constant fatigue . It is easy to see how being in this state could cause slowness at work or worce work related accidents. For workers who are also caretakers, going home in this state means you can't do your best to take care of your loved ones.




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General comments

jnikola2 years ago
The underlying problem of bad process engineering
A cool problem, but it could point out a different underlying problem actually. Implementing automatic autonomous systems where human labor is still needed is not a new thing. But creating systems where the human factor gets exhausted is a very rare example. Usually, processes that are automated and handled by autonomous systems are the most challenging, time-consuming, and demanding ones. Introducing such a system, but leaving the hard part to humans seems contra-intuitive. I would say that systems, where the problem you mentioned exists, are systems that were not carefully planned and require better process engineering.
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