Illinois researchers gather to discuss “The Future of Work”

The digital revolution has led to significant changes in work throughout the past several decades. The COVID-19 pandemic has created an even more rapid and impactful transformation of work across several dimensions, leaving much uncertainty as to how we can constructively move forward.

As part of its mission to unite interdisciplinary researchers around relevant and timely topics to promote research collaboration and apply for external funding, the Center for Social and Behavioral Science (CSBS) recently hosted “The Future of Work” Symposium. Attracting researchers from over 30 units and 12 colleges and schools across campus, the symposium addressed the changing nature of work, the drivers behind these changes, and the impact of such changes on organizations and human well-being.

The event began with a keynote, “The Future of Work (& Workers): Setting the Stage,” from the newly appointed School of Labor and Employment Relations Dean Ingrid Fulmer. Formerly the Vice Provost for Faculty Advancement and Faculty Affairs and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs in the School of Management and Labor Relations at Rutgers University-New Brunswick, Dean Fulmer joined the Illinois campus in July 2022.

Fulmer expressed appreciation to CSBS for hosting the symposium on this very timely topic. “The future of work and future of workers is something that we’ve been thinking about for a long time and from a lot of different angles,” said Fulmer. “We have economists, we have historians, people who are psychologists by training, so there are a lot of different avenues for addressing these issues.”

A recent report issued by the Illinois Future of Work Task Force discusses these issues as they relate to the state of Illinois. “We know that there will be job disruptions for a variety of reasons, but how can we make sure that it’s not a race to the bottom, that the state actually ends up creating good jobs and that the state doesn’t suffer overall economically as a result of these changes?” asked Fulmer. The report discusses shifts in the nature of jobs, including more care work, as seen in national trends; and in Illinois, there is emphasis on a shift to clean energy jobs. “Illinois is really on the cutting edge of this as a state, and we’re very fortunate to be setting the trend there, but that will come with some disruption in jobs,” noted Fulmer. “The concern is how do we make sure that as we move in a positive direction for the climate, that we’re also moving in a positive direction in terms of workers and our well-being as a state?”

At the request of the Illinois General Assembly, Fulmer is working to establish the Climate Jobs Institute in the School of Labor and Employment Relations. The institute will conduct rigorous research to minimize job loss, maximize high-quality job creation, and facilitate workforce retraining and development as Illinois moves toward a cleaner-energy economy.

The symposium featured an impressive set of investigators from across campus to address issues around “The Future of Work.”

Education and the Labor Market

Assistant Professor Tingting Zhang presenting at the Future of Work Symposium
Assistant Professor Tingting Zhang presenting at the Future of Work Symposium

Technology in the Workplace

The Future of Work and Health

CSBS staff members Cristina Alvarez-Mingote, Eva Pomerantz, Kaylee Lukacena, and Peter Ondish
CSBS staff members Cristina Alvarez-Mingote, Eva Pomerantz, Kaylee Lukacena, and Peter Ondish
Connect with CSBS

CSBS can support your “Future of Work” research and help facilitate discussions with potential collaborators. If you need seed funding to pull a team together and/or develop pilot data, we encourage you to apply to the Small Grant Program. If you are ready to apply for an external grant, either on your own or with collaborators, please view a list of relevant funding opportunities and contact us at CSBScience@illinois.edu.

CSBS is pleased to announce Randomized Coffee Talks (RCTs) to help connect researchers across campus on this important topic. The RCTs will create randomized groups of two to three faculty to meet for 30 minutes over coffee to discuss one question – “What would be the most interesting or promising project to collaborate on?” Please indicate your interest in participating and complete this form by Nov. 18 to receive further details.

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