Digitisation will significantly change working life in the coming years – in virtually all areas. Those who do not prepare will have a problem, according to an article from the world. Digital change is therefore increasingly changing our working lives. Without computers and the Internet, work is now stopped in many companies. Craftsmen use digital help to make furniture or car parts, and architects quickly create blueprints, where they had to make elaborate drawings beforehand. Employees are connected via social networks, digital programs facilitate workflows and agreements with each other. Employees can concentrate on essential tasks and are no longer overburdened with administrative tasks, for example (source: education experts).

Digitisation in the workplace: Home office usually better equipped than office

digitization at the workplace
Comparison Home office vs. workplace in the company (own presentation, derived from the study)

The WiWo study on digitalization in the workplace summarizes:“Digitalization is already more advanced at home than at the workplace in the office – this is shown by a study among German office workers.” The study goes on to say that the road to a truly digital office is still a long way off. At present, a large proportion of German jobs are not equipped in such a way that knowledge workers can really work digitally. Many administrative activities, which can be carried out much faster digitally, are still carried out in the same way. This is the central result of a study by hosting service provider Host Europe, based on a survey by YouGov of 1,000 employees with office workstations.

digitalization workplace
Top 5 of the most annoying office jobs according to the study (own presentation according to the study)

Status Quo on Digitalization in the Workplace

The Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs published a digitalization monitor. The results of the study in a nutshell:

  • A large proportion of all respondents in companies with at least 50 employees subject to social security contributions use digital information and communication technologies (ICT) in their daily work.
  • While only half of the low-skilled workers use ICT for work, almost all of them are highly skilled.
  • Managers are significantly more likely to be equipped with mobile devices by their employer than employees without managerial responsibility.
  • Almost four-fifths of employees have experienced a change in the technical equipment of their workplace in the last five years, and here too the proportion increases with the level of training.
  • Through technological change, employees experience physical relief and reduced demands on their own skills and competences, but also the need to develop and multitask.
  • Nearly 30 percent of employees report physical relief due to technological innovations, and 15 percent report declining demands on their own skills and competences.
  • Employees who are taking part in declining requirements are less likely to take part in continuing vocational training.
  • Almost 80 percent of employees see the need to constantly develop their own skills due to technological changes. Sixty-five percent perceive a condensation of work.
  • Employees who perceive a need for further development are more likely to participate in continuing vocational training.
  • Thirteen percent of employees consider it likely that their workplace will be taken over by a machine in the future.
  • About one third of employees experience greater freedom of choice due to technological developments.
  • More than half of the respondents perceive an increase in their own productivity.
digital workplace
The impact of technology in the workplace. How many percent of respondents use a computerized workplace by educational attainment. Results of the study of the BMAS (own presentation)

How digitalization is changing our world of work

An article on Xing shows the changes brought about by digitalization in the workplace. First, the article mentions the increasing spatial and temporal independence that results from the fact that employees can do their tasks from almost any location and increasingly at flexible times via laptop and other mobile devices. As a result, workers will become more flexible overall and can better reconcile work and private life.

The importance of lifelong learning was also mentioned. Employees need to be willing more than ever to constantly learn new things, as the half-life of knowledge decreases significantly.

In addition, strong automation is added and the work is greatly facilitated. The article mentions: For example, doctors who use augmented reality glasses to display important information about their patients while they are operating, or mechanics who are shown the next steps for their planned repair virtually and flexibly.

The article also notes an increased complexity and says that information is made available to employees continuously through a variety of channels. Multi-tasking and the ability to focus become a basic requirement, so to speak. Overall, the speed in the company is increasing – there is a steady acceleration, which employees have to adapt to agilely and flexibly.

Last but not least, The Article by Xing notes that more work is being done in team structures in the digitized world of work than before. Interdisciplinary teams that extend across different divisions or company boundaries are gaining in importance in order to achieve the best solutions to complex problems.

Number of mentions as a percentage of respondents by educational attainment, whether the IT equipment in the workplace has changed significantly. Results of the study of the BMAS (own presentation)

Opportunities of Digitalization in the Workplace

The subjects of the bmAS study say about the opportunities of digitalization: The technological innovations have given me more freedom of choice to shape my work. Currently, 32% of respondents confirm this rate. The chart below also shows that middle-skilled women are slightly more likely than men to experience an increase in their own work performance due to technological innovations. There are only minor differences between employees with different levels of training and between occupational groups.

Number of mentions by educational attainment, whether the already existing digitalization has increased the job performance. Data based on the study of the BMAS (own presentation)

Risks of digitalisation in the workplace

Just as there are opportunities, there are risks. The article by education experts shows them. The first risk is a devaluation of human labour. Intelligent software eliminates or devalues human work in some areas. Professions such as that of the salesman, copywriter, language teacher or bank employee are losing social and social importance. For example, Internet platforms now mediate service providers or craftsmen at low prices.

Another risk is the stress-related illness through constant accessibility. Workers who are constantly available and have to take on new tasks are often suffering from an increasing workload. The result is increasing stress-related conditions such as burn-out or depression. Many people can no longer switch off from work due to the increasing pressure and only think about the job in their spare time.

digitization workplace
Number of mentions after educational attainment, whether there is too much information in the workplace. Data based on the study of the BMAS (own presentation)

Furthermore, data protection is a high risk. As the blog of education experts says: Not only since the revelations of Edward Snowden, the topic of data protection also plays a major role in the digitalized world of work. Workers must be able to rely on their data to be secure.

The last risk is the “glass employee”. Here, the blog article of the education experts says: Whoever gives information about himself on social networks, be it on Xing, Twitter or Facebook, may become a glass worker. In the worst case, it can even damage his professional success. It is not uncommon for companies to use the personal profiles of their employees in order to inform themselves about them and to obtain enquiries.

Was verändert sich an Ihren Arbeitsplatz am meisten?

Conclusion: Digitization in the workplace is coming!

In the future, therefore, the use of digital gadgets in the workplace will increase and human work will change through automation and intelligent machines. People are likely to increasingly take over areas where high levels of creativity and thinking are required. In the last part of the article, we see that digitalisation in the workplace also carries the risks. In this way, employees have to learn how to deal with digitalization and “just switch off”. It is therefore important to build up digital competence among employees and managers so that digitalization can support people instead of becoming a torment.

Reading Tip: Opportunities of the Digital Workplace and Risks of the Digital Workplace

Gender note: I have used the male form for easier reading. If no explicit distinction is made, women, miscellaneous and men as well as people of any origin and nation are always meant. Read more.

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I blog about the impact of digitalization on our working environment. For this purpose, I present content from science in a practical way and show helpful tips from my everyday work. I am a manager in an SME myself and I wrote my doctoral thesis at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg at the chair of IT Management.

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