In addition to the companies, it is particularly the employees who are affected by the changes brought by digitisation. Many people are insecure, others have already adapted to the changes or even benefited from them. In the following unit we will investigate the question of what the “new way of working” in a Working Environment 4.0 actually means for employees.
What do you understand by Working Environment 4.0 and New Work?
We have already heard a lot about the Fourth Industrial Revolution and we also know that it is still going on. Working Environment 4.0 now brings together all the forms of work and working conditions of the Fourth Industrial Revolution or Industry 4.0. The characteristic feature of Working Environment 4.0 is above all digitalisation. Processes are digitally supported and sometimes completely automated, many people work independently of time and place, and the entire economy is networked.
In the Working Environment 4.0, employees often spend a large part of their working time with digital work on the PC. Employees in production often only operate IT systems to control the machines that do the actual work.
Of course, there are still jobs that are carried out manually, i.e. using the hands. Hardly anyone will want to have their appendix removed by a robot. Robots are already making inroads into the operating theatres too. However, so far only as assistants, as the work of a surgeon is simply too complex to be fully automated.
The term New Work is used when talking about the impact of digitisation on the work environment. The main point here is that workers are free to organise their work according to their own wishes and needs. This includes, among other things, the flexibility in terms of time and place that working from one’s own PC entails.
Working Environment 4.0
…describes a work environment that unites all forms of work and working conditions of the Fourth Industrial Revolution or Industry 4.0 and which is mainly characterised by digitalisation.
…describes how digitalisation affects the work environment. This includes in particular the freedoms that employees have in shaping their working conditions in the new work environment.
Advantages of the Working Environment 4.0 for employees
These new developments offer numerous advantages for employees. More and more companies are offering work from home, from the so-called home office. Employees can thus better combine work and family life and be at home when their child is ill, for example. Traveling is no longer necessarily limited to holidays; in theory, it is also possible to work from a beach in Thailand – as long as the Internet connection works, of course.
Thanks to new information and communication technologies such as Skype, communication between employees and superiors is also possible via chat or video conferencing. This means that staff do not always have to be present in person at meetings, for example, which often involves travel. This can save time and money.
On the other hand, employees are responsible for planning their working hours according to the needs of the company and must ensure that their work is completed on time. This greater personal responsibility is a motivation for many people to work with greater commitment, but can also become a burden.
In addition, new working models are emerging, for example, more and more companies are outsourcing individual work steps to freelancers, who perform them independently of their own PCs, both in terms of time and location. Translation agencies often employ freelance proofreaders to check texts for errors from their own PCs.
In summary, Working Environment 4.0 offers employees the following advantages:
But where there is much light, there must also be shadow. Because the Working Environment 4.0 demands a great deal from employees. In the following, you will learn about the challenges employees face in the Working Environment 4.0:
Challenges of the Working Environment 4.0 for employees
For many employees, digitisation means especially one thing: uncertainty. Many people fear that they will be replaced by a robot or that their area of responsibility will change in such a way that they will have to acquire completely new skills.
However, in contrast to companies, less courage is needed here, but rather adaptability and flexibility. But beware: If a company offers its employees work from their home office, for example, but in return requires that they are available outside of regular working hours on agreed days, there should be clear rules for this that are compatible with labour law.
Permanent availability is the downside of this better reconciliation of work with family and leisure. After all, those who are allowed to take time during the day for children or leisure activities will also have to accept sitting in front of the PC in the evening when others have finished their work long since.
The fact that you no longer meet your colleagues in the office everyday can also lead to social isolation. Good time management is also a must, so that the dream of flexible working does not become a nightmare that ends in burnout.
The pressure on employees is increasing. In many cases, not only constant availability is expected, but also the tasks of the employees are becoming more extensive and complex. In addition, some employees also live in constant fear of soon being completely replaced by a computer.
What is important in any case is modern IT equipment, further training and the willingness to engage in lifelong learning. After all, if a company uses new computer programs, its employees must also be able to work with them.
Freelancers need to keep up with the times to be familiar with the latest programs and systems in their industry. Here, too, personal responsibility is required to be successful in the Working Environment 4.0.
In summary, the Working Environment 4.0 poses the following challenges for employees:
But what is the reality in Europe and what influence does the degree of digitisation of a country have on its competitiveness?
Already in 2016, a comparison by the European Commission shows that the competitiveness of countries (measured e.g. by income per capita, productivity or human capital) is directly related to the degree of digitisation. Accordingly, countries with a high degree of digitisation achieve a high income per capita.
A Commission report of 2019 also shows that investment and determined digitisation efforts will boost Member States’ performance. However, the degree of digitisation in Austria (measured by the level of development) is below average compared to other EU countries, with the Scandinavian countries, the Benelux countries and Ireland leading the way. In some individual areas, however, Austria also performs quite well:
For example, Austria is ahead in the digitisation of public services and digital skills and competences. There is a need to catch up in the areas of connectivity and Internet use, and the availability of fast broadband connections is often not up to date