Challenges in the design of future forms of work
Technical innovations and increasing digitalisation have an impact on every aspect of work: such as tasks and activities, equipment and interfaces, organisation and the working environment. Further research is needed in this area to ensure the design of healthy workplaces.
© Uwe Völkner, Fotoagentur FOX
The "Industry 4.0" concept describes connected systems of industrial manufacturing components – in which the real and digital worlds merge. In many companies, lightweight robots, and new communication technologies, such as smart watches and tablets, have long since been a part of everyday life. However, not only the industrial sector is affected by new technologies. For example, "smart services" are created by combining new types of products with physical and digital services. In nursing, for example, patient's health can be monitored by modern sensor technology, while robotic technology assists nursing staff with routine handling tasks. Furthermore, technical advances allow for completely new, flexible forms of work and give rise to new business processes for companies. Even for "classical" service sectors, substantial changes arise, especially where the service provision can be supported by new types of technology.
The changes described provide opportunities for creating safe and healthy work. The basis for this, however, must be a preventive, human-centred design approach. One of the many questions raising is how to implement smart technologies in this context. The Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (BAuA) therefore studies the impacts of new technologies and forms of work in production and service contexts in order to derive practice-oriented knowledge of humane work design. This work incorporates aspects of mental and physical stress and strain, as well as ethical and legal aspects. These aspects are reflected in, for example, questions of technical and organisational design, adequate decision latitude, transparency and feedback, promotion of learning, and competence. This allows the early detection of potential opportunities and risks and the highlighting of design possibilities.
Through its research, BAuA provides innovative contributions to scientific discourse and profound policy advice. We also incorporate our findings into regulation, in particular technical rules or standards.