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Always for the benefit of the user

The idea that digitalisation is very much a work environment issue and not just a technical one is something that pleases me a lot.

The work environment comes under Sweden’s Work Environment Act. As such, the Act’s guidelines can be used to steer digitalisation in the right direction and ensure that we have a digital work environment that is usable, efficient, and does not expose the user to undue health and safety risks.

I started my first studies into digitalisation as a doctoral candidate in the early 1990s. Back then, our most important case was an issue relating to the national tax administration that had been highlighted by the HR department, which suggested that a lack of usability was a work environment problem. The word ‘digitalisation’ had not come along yet; we talked more about ‘computerisation’. Digital tools had been introduced, but they hadn’t really changed operational processes. In a close collaboration between HR and IT, and with active support from the union side, we managed to boost awareness of the system’s usability and gradually work on systems development in a more user-centric way.

Now, 30 years on, we can see how the digital work environment has come to be of strategic importance in achieving an operation’s goals. Usability and UX, or user experience, are sought-after facets of all systems development. The digital work environment is increasingly regarded as an important aspect of systematic health and safety work. The Swedish Work Environment Authority is increasing its focus also on the digital work environment. The Usability Assessment has been made a Swedish standard by SIS. Our book on digitalisation and the work environment won HR Book of the Year in 2018.

And today, June 17,  as the icing on the cake, I’m proud and delighted to receive the Levi Prize from the Swedish Association of Graduate Engineers. Instituted in 2004, the prize is named after Sweden’s doyen of research into stress, Professor Emeritus Lennart Levi. It is awarded, as I mentioned, by the Swedish Association of Graduate Engineers and aims to highlight the role of engineers in developing a good work environment.

Although the prize is awarded to an individual, the fact that digital work environment is an increasingly well-established concept is of course down to the tireless, diligent efforts of many people. Previous prize winners include Bengt Sandblad, my former tutor at Uppsala University, and Helena Tobiasson, a former doctoral candidate of mine at KTH. Thanks to everyone who has made and continues to make a contribution. Now we take the next step!