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A development that brings opportunities and risks for workers

In the digital era, work became increasingly interconnected, more international and more flexible. Many workers are experiencing greater requirements for flexibility in terms of working hours, place of work, and forms of employment. Here, we outline potential consequences for the workers.

These consequences can be either positive or negative. Breaking down the rigid boundaries between work and private life can lead to a spill-over of work, along with all of the accompanying disadvantages for workers' health and social lives. On the other hand, it can also create opportunities for improving the reconciliation of work with obligations and wishes in other areas of life. The working time regulations play a role in whether it is the risks or opportunities that predominate.

This raises the question of how to reorganise working time when production, distribution and service processes are constantly "online". How can the needs of humans be reconciled with the requirements and rhythms of the digital world of work?

Increasing mobility requirements

Potential stress factors associated with flexibilisation are not limited to constant availability and the removal of boundaries between work and leisure. Another focus is the increase in mobile working, or rather:

  • working from home (teleworking),
  • working at the customer's premises or
  • working while travelling (e.g. on trains or planes or in a hotel room).

The growing demand for work-related mobility is caused by the structures of business net-works, as well as by decentralisation and standardisation processes. These are often associated with processes of globalisation, as well as a perceived need to operate near to customers.

Different employment relationships

The flexibilisation of work also results in changing work and employment relationships. In the context of digitalisation or smart services, certain sectors of the economy are recording an increasing number of solo self-employed workers. From the perspective of occupational safety and health, this raises the following questions:

  • What specific challenges can accompany solo self-employment?
  • What health risks does it entail?
  • What occupational safety and health measures can support solo self-employed workers in the digitalised services sector?

A challenge for managers

Increased flexibility in the digital world of work is a challenge not only for employees but also for company management. It is essential to involve members of staff in identifying beneficial conditions in which flexible job design can help maintain and promote health and performance. Against the backdrop of demographic change, the interests of workers of different ages must also be considered.

Keeping an eye on working time

Through detailed reporting on the working time, the Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (BAuA) aims to ensure that the health-related regulation of working time will comprehensively and continuely be addressed in the future. Therefore, BAuA helps to ensure that minimum standards are reflected upon and adapted, and that concrete solutions for occupational safety and health in the digital world of work are identified.

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