Digital Working World, Work 4.0 And Health

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Digital Working World, Work 4.0 And Health
Digital Working World, Work 4.0 And Health

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Video: Digital Transformation: Future Scenarios 2030 | Deloitte 2023, January
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Digital working world and health

Regardless of whether it is agriculture, industry, trade or services: Hardly any work today can do without digital information and communication technologies (ICT). Software, apps, big data, robotics, artificial intelligence, information platforms on the Internet - the trend towards digitization of work processes and business models affects all areas of the economy, but also private life. Digital technologies will create new jobs, change other jobs, disappear or relocate to other countries.

The digitization of the world of work is often summarized under the terms Work 4.0 or 4th Industrial Revolution. It is important not only to pay attention to the technical aspects: The technological changes also affect the organization of work processes, cooperation in teams or the work environment, among other things. In addition to many positive effects, technological change can also bring health risks with it. Experts expect an increase in mental stress in particular as a result of the changed world of work. Occupational health management can help to identify and avoid negative consequences for employees and the company in good time.

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What challenges does work 4.0 bring?

Companies expect advantages from digitization, for example a simplification and acceleration of work and business processes or greater competitiveness. Digitization also brings changes in working conditions and new challenges for employees, which they have to learn to deal with and where they may need support from the company. These include:

  • Flexible workplaces - keyword home office,
  • new forms of work organization (crowdworking, online outsourcing etc.),
  • more virtual collaboration, fewer personal contacts,
  • increasing use of artificial intelligence, decision support systems (EUS),
  • complex and accelerated work processes,
  • location and time independent accessibility,
  • predominantly sedentary activities.

Due to the rapid changes in work processes and the further development of technologies, the qualification of personnel is ascribed a great importance in the digital working world. This includes the willingness to lifelong learning. A skilled workforce who can handle new technologies is a valuable resource for companies.

Knowledge of the application of new information and communication technologies is an important basis for professions known as knowledge work. Knowledge workers are in intensive exchange with other people, e.g. customers, cooperation partners, etc. They work in teams, use networks and develop new solutions. The core of their work is to create, distribute or creatively apply knowledge. The number of activities in which mental, informational and emotional factors predominate is steadily increasing.

Why is health literacy important in the digital world of work?

In the increasingly digitized world of work, the health of employees is an important resource for maintaining the efficiency of knowledge carriers. In order to cope with the increasing or changing stresses caused by work, a high level of health literacy is usually necessary. It's about recognizing and assessing health risks for yourself and making health-promoting decisions in everyday working life.

In this context, experts also speak of psychological resistance (resilience). The ability of employees to adapt quickly to a situation and to react appropriately - to lead themselves - is not only important for the individual, but also a competitive advantage for companies.

What burdens and risks are associated with technological change?

The new technologies bring many advantages and opportunities for employees in certain employment relationships, for example relief from difficult or dangerous tasks, more flexibility and self-determination in work, better compatibility of work and family. However, they can also lead to health problems under certain working conditions, e.g. if the work cannot be organized flexibly.

Physical complaints

In the digital world of work, physical strain from heavy work (e.g. heavy lifting and carrying) is decreasing more and more. Much of the work that used to be done manually is increasingly being performed by computer-controlled machines or robots.

At the same time, there is an increasing number of complaints that can arise from sitting down or using a computer. These include back problems or irritation of the muscles, tendons and ligaments of the arm ("Repetitive Strain Injury" syndrome). In addition, ergonomic standards can hardly be controlled when working on the move or in the home office.

Mental stress

The challenges of the digital working world also increase psychological stress, especially in the area of ​​knowledge work. Possible causes of excessive demands are, for example

  • constant accessibility,
  • simultaneous completion of different tasks (multitasking),
  • high complexity of work,
  • Information overload,
  • few personal contacts, increased pressure to perform, etc. in new forms of work organization such as crowdworking.

The trend towards time and place-independent work is increasing the blurring of the boundaries between work and private life. A negative consequence of “not being able to switch off” is a lack of recovery. This can lead to burnout or depression.

Some experts see the risk of developing addictive behavior in the intensive use of mobile devices such as cell phones or tablets that they can no longer control themselves.

In the area of ​​robotics-supported production, too, psychological stress can arise, for example through monotonous, less self-determined activities.

New requirements for health promotion and occupational safety

The responsibility for the design of a healthy work 4.0 lies both with the employees, who maintain and develop their skills, as well as with the companies and the management, which is responsible for conditions conducive to development. Older, professionally experienced employees who have not been able to develop knowledge about the application of digital technologies from their youth need appropriate support on their way to Work 4.0. Experts also see the need to adapt occupational safety and health care to digital change.

With appropriate health-promoting strategies of company health management, employees can be prepared to maintain their health and professional performance in the digital world of work.

Note The FGÖ focuses on the increasing digitization of the world of work and the challenges associated with it in one funding priority: WHP in the world of work 4.0: digitization and fair health opportunities

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