Jan Johansson’s research is about work organization, how work is organized and different forms of organization. Right from the beginning he was interested in the working environment in mines.
“When I started in the mid-1970s, it was very much research about the ‘wretchedness of the working environment’. We mapped one work environment problem after the other, without seeing what the possibilities were. There was a mindset that problems should be highlighted to ‘trigger the masses’. Many people had a Marxist conviction which led to attempts to apply Marx’s economic theories. During the 1970s, much of the research was conducted in cooperation with the unions, but now it takes place in a broader area that also includes companies.”
Since Jan Johansson started his research career, science has focused on broad issues concerning the working environment and the organization of work, as well as on learning the organization process.
“I have done extensive research on how the work environment in the mining industry has changed, both in local projects and at the EU level. We have just finished a research project called I2mine that is about future mines and mining technology. This project is divided into six sub-projects where I have led the project dealing with health and safety. In total, the project has had a budget of SEK 270 million.”
Whenever there is a change in the organization or work environment Jan Johansson is interested to see what the impact or consequences are for the individual.
“It’s interesting to be involved throughout the whole process and to follow the changes. It’s possible to study in hindsight, but it’s difficult to see what impact the change process has had. When we are given the opportunity to be involved in the change process, as researchers we can also give our views on how the work environment is affected.”
In his research, he also raises the question of how the new technology with identification tagging of both people and machinery impacts the work environment.
“Everything is tagged today and it’s possible to trace almost everything. How does that affect personal integrity? How can this information be used? In many workplaces people are protesting the ‘surveillance society’. At the same time, there are groups of different professionals, such as miners, that are in favor of this because it’s an issue of safety. And if you look outside the workplace, we all leave digital tracks, something that can be used by employers, for example, for recruiting. It’s clear that everything we do digitally has an impact on us.”
Jan Johansson is about to build a European research school where the Luleå University of Technology, Montanuniversität in Leoben, Austria along with Aachen University and the Clausthal University of Technology in Germany are stakeholders.
“The idea is that we will have three postgraduates at each university which will provide a broader perspective and at the same time, we get a financing solution that enables us to have more postgraduates. I hope we will succeed with this application because it creates new opportunities for knowledge exchange on an international level.”
Jan Johansson also teaches in the graduate program through supervision of postgraduates, as well as in basic education.