by Otilia Kocsis, Nikos Fakotakis and Konstantinos Moustakas (University of Patras)
SmartWork is a European project addressing a key challenge facing today’s older generation, as they are living and working longer than their predecessors: the design and realisation of age-friendly living and working spaces. SmartWork is building a worker-centric AI system to support active and healthy ageing at work for older office workers. In SmartWork modelling of work ability, defined as the ability of an individual to balance work with other aspects of their life, will account for both the resources of the individual and factors related to work and the environment outside of work.
The ageing population presents a huge challenge for governments worldwide, which are looking for strategies to effectively increase the participation of older workers in the labour force and reduce the rates of early retirement and labour market exit (e.g. retirement age was recently raised to 67 in many EU countries). Despite these efforts, in Europe early retirement rates remain high, with the EU-28 employment rate of 55-64 year olds recorded at only 55.3 % in 2016. The prevalence of chronic health conditions in people aged 50+ is very high, with every second person having hypertension and/or another chronic disease, and multimorbidity rates of 65 % for people aged 65+ . The majority of aging workers who do choose to remain in the workforce, however, indicate that they plan to work past their traditional retirement age, due to the reduced value of their retirement portfolios/income.
“Work ability” has been developed as an important multi-factorial concept that can be used to identify workers at risk of an imbalance between health, personal resources and work demands . An individual’s work ability is determined by his or her perception of the demands at work and their ability to cope with them. The current challenge in using the concept is to establish adequate tools to evaluate and measure work ability continuously, in order to capture the changing and evolving functional and cognitive capacities of the worker in various contexts.
The SmartWork project [L1], which started in 2019 and will finish in 2021, aims at building a worker-centric AI system for work ability sustainability for office workers, which integrates unobtrusive sensing and modelling of the worker’s state with a suite of novel services for context and worker-aware adaptive work support. The monitoring of health, behaviour, cognitive and emotional status of the worker enables the functional and cognitive decline risk assessment. The holistic approach for work ability modelling captures the attitudes and abilities of the ageing worker and enables decision support for personalised interventions for maintenance/improvement of work ability. The evolving work requirements are translated into required abilities and capabilities, and the adaptive work environment supports the older office worker with optimised services for on-the-fly work flexibility coordination, seamless transfer of the work environment between different devices and different environments (e.g. home, office), and on-demand personalised training. The SmartWork services and module (Figure 1) also empower the employer with decision support tools for efficient task completion and work team optimisation. Formal or informal carers are enabled to continuously monitor the overall health status, behavioural attitudes and risks for the people they care for, and adapt health and lifestyle interventions to the evolving worker’s status.
Figure 1: Generic architecture of the SmartWork suite of novel services.
University of Patras (Greece) is joining forces with the Roessingh Research and Development (the Netherlands) and Linköping University (Sweden) to implement the modelling of work ability in SmartWork, which will account for both the resources of the individual and factors related to work and the environment outside of work. The modelling of work ability will consider:
- generic user models (groups of users),
- personalised patient models,
- personalised emotion and stress models of the office worker,
- personalised cognitive models,
- contextual work tasks modelling,
- work motivation and values.
Continuous assessment of the various dimensions of work ability is facilitated through the continuous unobtrusive monitoring of the health, behaviour and emotional status of the office worker (Figure 2). AI tools for prediction and risk assessment will allow for dimension specific decision support and intervention, such as on-the-fly flexible work management, coping with stress at work, on-demand training, including memory training.
Figure 2: Conceptual architecture of the multi-dimensional modelling framework.
Spark Works ITC Ltd (United Kingdom) will join efforts with Instituto Pedro Nunes (Portugal) for the implementation of the Unobtrusive Sensing Framework, while Byte SA (Greece) together with Raising the Floor International (Switzerland) will implement the Ubiquitous Work Environment and Work Flexibility tools. The European Connected Health Alliance (Ireland) is facilitating multi-stakeholder connections around the SmartWork system. In the final six months, the SmartWork system will be evaluated at two pilot sites, namely at Cáritas Diocesana de Coimbra (Portugal) and at the Center for Assisted Living Technology Heath and Care, Aarhus Municipality (Denmark). This is the final step towards large-scale pilot validation and preparation for the SmartWork system to enter the market, potentially benefiting a large number of office workers, employers and formal and informal health carers.
 M. Dyakova, A. Clarke, and H. Fraser: “Innovating care for people with multiple chronic conditions in Europe project evaluation”, European Journal of Public Health 26, 1, 2016.
 K. Tuomi, et al.: “ Promotion of work ability, the quality of work and retirement”, Occup Med 51, 2001.
University of Patras, Greece