Thesis 2: Digital Transformation Creates Tensions Which Have Positive and Negative Impacts on Work and Health

The digital transformation presents opportunities as well as risks in terms of the safety and health of people in work systems. Whether a specific technological influence on the work system should be seen as positive or negative depends in each individual case on the particular workplace type, the company, and its culture.

3.3.1 Impacts of Digital Transformation on the

Impacts of Digital Transformation on the Elements of the Work System

Table 3.1 sets out in concrete terms the central influences of digital transformation on the elements of the work system.

In terms of their effect on the elements of the work system - and therefore on safety and health - the listed changes or influencing factors related to digital transformation can be neutral, positive, negative, or both positive and negative. What is certain is that the interactions reach a degree of complexity that makes it impossible to decide from the outset whether the work-related stressors have critical healthstrain consequences. Case-by-case assessments are the only way to shed any light.


Relationship between Work System and Influences Related to Digital


Element of the work system

Worker "

Changes and influencing factors related to digital transformation

1 Digital competence is becoming a core competence in all sectors (Holdampf-Wendel2018)

> “Just in time learning” is increasingly important (BMAS 2017, 109)

  • • Changing values and expectations of work, e.g.,
  • • life plans are becoming more individual and more varied
  • • classic role models are becoming less rigid
  • • many workers want more freedom to improve their private-work-life balance (BMAS 2017.75)
  • • “more time for the important things”, like innovation, social work, leisure (Bauer 2018)

Work task

• The number of activities in which cognitive, information-based, and emotional factors dominate is steadily increasing. In many occupations, there is a shift from the physical demands of the past to predominantly mental demands now (BMAS 2017, 135)

> Activities are being automated, not necessarily entire jobs (BMAS 2015)

> Job profiles are disappearing, and new ones are emerging (Holdampf-Wendel 2018)

Work process

• Intensification of work: acceleration of the world of work and greater work pressure (Diebig et al. 2018, 57)

> Increasing and decreasing autonomy and self-organization

> New forms of cooperation and networking: coworking, crowdworking, cocreation (Bauer 2018)

• Constant adaptation of work processes to changing value chains (Bauer 2018)

> Dynamic integration of customer requirements in work processes (Bauer 2018)

  • 1 Greater transparency/monitoring/supervision of activities (Diebig et al. 2018, 59)
  • 1 Management of more complex correlations in processes (Bauer 2018; DGUV 2016. 15-16)

> New forms of leadership (Bauer 2018; DGUV 2016. 30 et seq.)

Work equipment

> Artificial intelligence (Al), digital assistance, and tutoring systems (BMAS 2017)

> Cobots (collaborative robots) (Bauer 2018)

> Systems providing physical support/enhancing abilities (e.g., robots, humanrobot collaboration, exoskeletons)

> Digital assistance systems (e.g., data glasses, software to support decision-making)

> Wearables (e.g., smartwatch, intelligent work clothing)

Work environment

> More flexible working time and location/blurred boundaries (BMAS 2017, 73 et seq.; Diebig et al. 2018. 57; DGUV 2016, 21 et seq.)

• Cognitive environments and smartroom technology (ergonomically customizable workplaces - desk height, lighting, acoustics, room temperature, oxygen supply, air humidity) (Bauer 2018)

Autonomy of action/decision-making at work

High levels of individual responsibility and

Negative strain from financial/business pressure, increasing dependency on (opaque) processes (organization as a "black box")

Increase in perceived coherence and meaningfulness

Monitoring of behavior/performance with end-to-end data capture

Decrease in perceived coherence and meaningfulness

Competence development and learning

Ongoing competence improvement (e.g. in new forms of cooperation and with just in time learning)

Qualification pressure and mental overload

Easier learning (e.g. with tutoring systems)

Self-learning algorithms (machine learning) and the parallel analysis of vast quantities of information are enabling Al applications to adapt to people in line with the situation at hand, and to carry out a large number of complex tasks in close collaboration

Downgrading (for example because of the declining importance of practical experience or the use of self-learning algorithms/artificial intelligence (Al) to take over problem-solving)

Occupational safety

Improved accident prevention with intelligent tools, clothing and equipment (data glasses, gloves, cobots) registering everything that “► £ happens around them, allowing a safe physical human-machine collaboration

Increased accident risk in the event of a system failure due to incorrect responses (with highly complex systems that are poorly understood)

Participation in work

New opportunities for participation in work

Exclusion from work due to a lack of flexibility in terms of location, or of people without

because assistance systems can compensate K in terms ot location, or ot people wunc

for physical or sensory impairments r access to information technology (IT)

(also older workers)


Physical burden

Better protection from physical overload

Physical complaints due to lack of exercise (e.g. no more changes of location - “sitting is the new smoking")

Greater flexibility

A better private-work-life balance thanks to greater flexibility in working time and location, and greater use of opportunities within the organization to increase flexibility

Possible negative stressors resulting from blurred work boundaries as well as partial absence of defined employment contracts and forms of employment


Better workplace ergonomics, for example with intelligent workplace equipment and smart rooms

Risk of poor ergonomics at home or in shared

Social contacts with new forms of collaboration

Lack of social integration/belonging or fewer direct social contacts/isolation

FIGURE 3.1 Opportunities and risks of digital transformation.

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