Tasks such as researching, analysing, communicating, and documenting, in which information is the central subject of work and the employees own knowledge is crucial to value creation, play an increasingly important role in the world of work. What impact does the digital transformation have on these tasks? And what are the new challenges for occupational safety and health? The Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (Bundesanstalt für Arbeitsschutz und Arbeitsmedizin, BAuA) examines these questions in its focus program "Occupational Safety & Health in the Digital World of Work" (BAuA 2018).
Two representative data sets were taken as the basis for this research, the Employment Survey (Erwerbstätigenbefragung) conducted in 2018 by the Federal Institute for Vocational Training (Bundesinstitut für Berufsbildung, BIBB) and the Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, as well as the "Digitalisation and Change in Employment" (Digitalisierung und Wandel der Beschäftigung, DiWaBe) survey. They were used to evaluate three sub-clusters of information-related tasks with different learning and creativity requirements: tasks that require mainly routine skills, tasks demanding flexible approaches, and those focusing on creative or problem-solving capabilities.
At first glance, a picture emerges that is typically associated with knowledge work: Information-related tasks are often associated with prolonged sitting. Overall, knowledge work shows a very high level of penetration of computer-aided information and communication technologies (ICT). In detail, however, there are also significant differences between the three sub-clusters in terms of current working conditions and the state of digitization. Employees in the creative problem-solving sub-cluster are much more likely to use mobile ICT. In the other two sub-clusters the desktop PC still comes first. In addition, the three sub-clusters differ significantly in the areas of work intensity, monotony, and the amount of autonomy at work. Thus, the results of the three sub-clusters go beyond previous scientific findings on the use of technology and working conditions in knowledge work.
Overall, the use of new technologies does not have a generally good or bad effect on employee's work arrangements. Despite the ubiquitous ICT in knowledge work, the potential of networked technologies in particular is not really exhausted. Especially with regard to monotonous work content or high learning and problem-solving requirements, there are untapped opportunities of assistive technologies in knowledge work. However, future research investigating these possibilities of technologically supported work should also examine a possible polarization of qualifications needed for information-related tasks.
Please download the complete baua: Preprint "Information-related tasks in times of digital change: work characteristics and technology deployment" (in German only).
Informationsbezogene Tätigkeiten im digitalen Wandel: Arbeitsmerkmale und Technologieeinsatz.
1. edition. Dortmund: Bundesanstalt für Arbeitsschutz und Arbeitsmedizin 2021. pages 27, Project number: F 2502, PDF file, DOI: 10.21934/baua:preprint20210115, Version 1