CBU Nursing Professor Examines Impact of Technology on Workplace Health and Wellness

Dr. Virginia Gunn, Assistant Professor in Cape Breton University’s School of Nursing, is part of an international research team examining what happens in the workplace when activities and tasks usually completed by human managers are assumed by machines. She joins a principal investigator from Sweden, along with co-investigators from Australia, Finland, Spain and the United States.

The six-year project, Algorithmic management at work – challenges, opportunities and strategies for occupational safety and health and wellbeing, received $3 million in funding from the Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare. This work builds on Dr. Gunn’s previous research exploring employee health in relation to non-standard and low-quality employment. In the age of artificial intelligence and advances in technology, she is eager to consider related impacts on worker health and wellness.

“We will focus on economic sectors in which managers have been partially replaced, such as in warehousing or transport, where managers are still present, but the workers also receive automated instructions through headsets, screens or GPS devices,” Dr. Gunn explains. “While we know this type of management may increase efficiencies and relieve managers of some responsibilities, it is not yet clear how it may affect workers’ health and the overall work setting.”

Dr. Gunn is a Registered Nurse, with expertise in public health and cross-disciplinary academic and research training in health and social sciences, including a Collaborative Doctoral Specialization in Global Health from the University of Toronto. Dr. Gunn has participated in several large projects investigating the impact of employment on worker health throughout her career. Her work has extended beyond that of researcher and health practitioner, often also serving as project manager. Dr. Gunn has led the development of initiatives to support health system improvements and increase the use of evidence. These experiences fostered her research focus on health and wellness and the connection to people’s employment experiences. She sees this project as a great opportunity to gain knowledge to support workers in Nova Scotia’s diverse economic sectors.

“I’m excited for the knowledge this research will provide, with opportunities to inform a complex global issue on what constitutes a holistic approach to employee health and wellness in the face of technological changes,” says Dr. Gunn. “A key outcome of this research is the development of evidence-informed tools and strategies that could maximize the potential benefits of algorithmic management while mitigating or cancelling out the negative impacts on employee health and wellbeing.”

Dr. Khaldoun Aldiabat, CBU’s Assistant Dean of Research and Scholarship in Nursing, says Dr. Gunn is building a robust research portfolio to support healthy, thriving communities.

“We are so honoured to see CBU’s School of Nursing playing a role in this international study thanks to Dr. Gunn’s dedication and expertise,” says Dr. Aldiabat. “We will continue to grow and celebrate research and scholarship in the field of nursing, exploring new and innovative ways to align with CBU’s priorities to globalize with a difference, while also contributing to health and prosperity in local communities.”