Increasing globalisation, demographic change and ubiquitous issues such as skills shortages, digitisation, artificial intelligence and industry 4.0 are changing the way we work, interact with other organisations and also the demands on working conditions and workplaces. Previously successful traditional structures and corporate cultures are now subject to change, which companies cannot ignore if they want to remain successful in the market.
Digitisation will significantly change working life and change has already begun. Without the Internet and computers, many companies would be shut down and even the skilled trades would use digital tools to construct parts, for example. Social networks and company-internal intranets enable employees to exchange information permanently, CRM systems facilitate work processes and agreements.
In addition, people's attitudes to their work are also changing. Flexibility, self-determination, team spirit and freedom of action, as well as the ability to bring one's own personality into one's work, play an overriding role, especially for the younger generations.
Technological progress and the advent of digitalization will influence future ways of working, but to some extent already today, and present companies with challenges. Despite the rapid development and increasingly technical work requirements, protection standards must not be ignored in the world of work.
Work 1.0 is characterized by the beginning of the industrial society at the end of the 18th century and the first workers' organizations. Work 2.0 was characterised by mass production and the beginnings of the welfare state at the end of the 19th century. Work 3.0 has its basis in the social market economy and workers demand more rights for themselves - including in workers' organisations that communicate on an equal footing with employers. Now comes the digital shift to "Work 4.0".
The term "work 4.0" follows on from "industry 4.0", but focuses on forms of work and employment relationships, not only in the industrial sector, but in the world of work as a whole. In general, it is not only about working in the new production worlds or adapting to new technologies. Above all, it is also a question of prudently and foresightedly addressing and helping to shape the social conditions and future working arrangements.
Work 4.0 creates the framework for new employment models with family-friendly working hours or the opportunity to work more efficiently and creatively in a preferred location other than the workplace. At the same time, the clear separation of work and leisure time threatens to become more and more blurred, with possible negative effects on health and performance. Opportunities and risks of the new forms of work are close together.
Production within a company is highly technologically networked and the working relationships between people and machines are changing. New business models such as online platforms create central marketplaces for information, goods, work and services. New digitally produced products created by 3D printers and new job profiles are being introduced. Thanks to digital terminals and modern communication technologies, people are no longer tied to a fixed place of work and working hours are also becoming more flexible. New Work is the buzzword in this context.
But this new freedom is also accompanied by a high level of responsibility. While fixed workplace structures usually prevail, employees have to discipline and structure themselves in the home office, for example, in order to work effectively and not be distracted. In addition, those who work with sensitive data bear a high degree of responsibility. Data protection is at great risk outside the office and employers must be confident that internal information and data will not be transmitted through insecure networks. Data protection regulations will thus become part of the basic knowledge of employees, also in their own interest, as the protection of personal data also plays an increasingly important role. As a result of increasing digitalisation, employees are becoming increasingly transparent and monitorable.
New workers must also be prepared to constantly learn new things throughout their lives, as they are constantly faced with new challenges. In the new world of work, working according to scheme F is no longer an option if you want to be successful. In addition, the complexity of information that can reach employees via a variety of channels is increasing. In this context, the ability to focus is all the more important. A study by the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs provides insights into the spread of digitisation and its consequences.
This change requires above all managers to guide their employees on this path and to sensitize them to the responsibility that goes along with this freedom.
New forms of work such as desk sharing, bringing your own device or crowdsourcing are rarely used nowadays. A Deloitte study showed that companies that use these forms of work more frequently are more successful than those that offer them out of necessity because an employee demands it.
But what is behind these forms of work?
In this form, employees select a new work center every day within an organizational unit (company, department, etc.). With this type, there are fewer work centers than employees, because observations have shown that the work centers in an office building are only partially occupied. Since the workplaces are always tidy due to the daily change, the principle is also called "clean desk policy". The advantages of this form are that the colleague can choose the workstation that best suits his current activity on a daily basis.
Here, private mobile devices such as laptops, tablets or smartphones are integrated into company networks. Of course, the end devices are subject to organizational guidelines, as employees can access the company's IT infrastructure with their private devices. Compliance with data security plays a very important role here. This variant offers advantages such as high flexibility in workplace selection and the elimination of the need to get used to other operating systems.
A similar approach is the concept Corporate Owned, Personally Enabled (COPE). This means that the employee can also use the company's own devices for private purposes.
The term means as much as "the wisdom of the crowd". It involves passing on tasks or specific problems to a large number of people who then deal with these issues and offer solutions to the company. Crowdsourcing also refers to the "intelligence of the masses". Wikipedia is a very well-known example of this form of work.
Behind this is the idea of a team without permanent members. The aim is to work together in different teams in order to come into contact with a wide variety of people and thus promote a willingness to learn and action skills.
In this form of team, employees usually do not know each other personally, but are connected to each other via cloud services. This makes it possible to work from anywhere.
Clear advantages are the spatial and temporal flexibility that these forms of work bring with them. Especially when working in the home office, those involved save a lot of time, as there is no need to travel to and from work. By the independent choice of the job and the environment the productivity of the coworkers is clearly increased. All in all, the new possibilities lead to greater self-determination and thus satisfaction and also promote independent working.
However, only those who have perfect time and self-management and are willing to continue their education can profit from the new working world. Also the borders between occupation and private life dissolve ever more, which provides often for extra work. For companies, implementation is a major challenge, as a fundamental change requires good leadership.
Flexibility and a high reactivity are not new topics for medium-sized companies and medium-sized companies have always been able to adapt to new structures better than large corporations. What is new, however, is the speed and frequency with which companies are currently confronted with phases of change.
Companies should ask themselves the following questions if they want to keep up with the times:
What resources can I give my employees to work more independently and efficiently?
What working environment promotes productivity and motivation?
Are there sufficient training opportunities available to my employees?
What other opportunities can I use to become more agile and flexible (crowdworking)?
How can I take my colleagues with me on this journey?
In order to answer all these questions and guide the company successfully through the development process, it is advisable to get a partner on board who is able to see the status quo from the outside and at the same time has the necessary know-how in these areas. Optimization potentials can be uncovered more effectively, and a joint strategy can be developed to make the company fit for the future. Our consultants will be happy to answer your questions.