A robot as a co-worker?
In some hospitals in the United States, it is now possible to run into funny workers: robots that give out medicines or transport medical material between units. These “employees” can talk, navigate hallways and even use elevators. What is the impact of introducing such “workers” on the organizational structure? How did the other members of the staff reacted to the arrival of their new colleagues?
Bilge Mutlu, from the University of Wisconsin, wanted to learn more and studied the impact of introducing robots in a hospital and how these affected the life of the workers. Results show that the arrival of robots is felt differently from one service to the other.
In oncology for example, workers are facing critical situations and are constantly working in an emergency environment. They have to be adaptable and they often have to stop their task to take a patient to the operating room. The robot, on the other side, is programmed to complete its task on fixed hours. Furthermore, it needs another person to achieve its work (such as loading linen in its tray) and if nobody is there, the work cannot be done. In this unit, the staff sees the robot as an inefficient worker who is not able to react to urgent situations.
On the contrary, in the post-natal unit, critical situations do not occur as often and the workers do not need to multitask that much. A maintenance staff member does not have to transport patients and is always there to load the linen on the robot. In a context where it is easier to program tasks, the relations with the robot are better and the the team sees it as a useful and necessary colleague.
Therefore, to be used in the best way and to be accepted by more workers, the robot should not be designed according to the organization. It should rather be thought according to the working culture and the unit where it will be introduced.
|Author :||Pauline Boinot, M.Sc.|
Mutlu, B. & Forlizzi, J. (2008). Robots in Organizations: The Role of Workflow, Social, and Environmental Factors in Human-Robot Interaction. In Proceedings of the 3rd ACM/IEEE Conference on Human-Robot Interaction (HRI’08), Amsterdam, The Netherlands.