The future of work in the context of the digitization of many areas of life is summarized under the term “Working 4.0”. Sounds simple, but it is practically highly complicated: the catchphrase “Working 4.0” conceals a wealth of as yet unresolved labour law issues for employers, managers and employees, according to Manager Magazin.

In the article on Work 4.0, Telekom and St. Gallen put forward a number of theses on the world of work 4.0. In this text I take the top 3 theses, which I think are realistic, and the top 3, which I do not think will happen in this way. The evaluation is done in my own opinion, the results of my research and with regard to the IT industry. For each thesis I also present some further articles, as far as possible.

Reading tip. What is Work 4.0

Statements on the world of work 4.0 that are probable

The role of man in the production process is transformed from the provider of work performance into the monitor of the machines. Routine operations and also physically stressful activities are carried out independently by them. Man controls and intervenes only in an emergency.

I think this thesis is right, especially for IT. Many scripts and Excel macros still make up a large part of our work. Also with my portal Projektify all possible activities are automated. We follow the thesis of the Decentralized autonomous company. So a company without people. Currently, the focus is on automating all daily tasks. We are also talking about chatbots and intelligent helpers. So I think that this thesis is already very truthful.

With big data, there is sufficient data for data for all areas of life. The ability to meaningfully combine and interpret them is a key qualification of digital work and cannot be substituted. However, working with big data differs from traditional data analysis because hypotheses are no longer needed (“end of theory”).

We have collected a lot of data at the moment, but we are usually not able to evaluate them all or we evaluate it and then ask ourselves: Well, what do we learn from it now? Also at the beginning of my doctoral thesis I conducted 14 interviews for the study Agility in Management and when I evaluated the data, I wondered: “And what does that tell me now?” A high key capability is therefore needed to evaluate a large amount of unstructured data.

The departure from the spatially located work is coined with a change from the culture of presence to the culture of results. Leaders need to learn that they will motivate more than they control. The art is to build and maintain personal bonding through impersonal technical channels.

Home office, flexible desks, mobile work and even distributed teams as well as complete home office workplaces demand a new kind of leadership from executives. Control is less possible and must be replaced by trust. How do I run an employee via email and Skype? How do I keep the balance between controllability and control? I don’t think there’s a common leadership method at the moment that answers these questions. Especially in agile leadership the elements are missing, which is why we are now talking about a digital leadership. I think this thesis is absolutely correct. Read more in the digital Leadership article.

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Top 3 Statements on The World of Work 4.0 That Aren’t Likely

Companies are increasingly relying on the company’s fixed workforce for the provision of specific services. Global transparency of skills and availability of highly qualified professionals leads to a “hiring on demand”. The employment relationship is transformed into the labour input.

When I raised the issue in the Roundtable, it was immediately viewed with scepticism and I, too, cannot imagine that we will only consist of outsiders. Above all, the trend is more towards in-sourcing than out-souring. An agile corporate culture can often only happen on the basis of permanent employees. My participants in the Roundtable confirmed this to me. Externalparties simply do not have a close bond with the company, which will soon be gone anyway.

The increasing importance of IT opens the way for the “nerds” to reach the top levels of the company. What used to be the musical prodigy are now the precocious app tinkerers and data experts. This generation will make a significant contribution to the disruptive transformation of corporate cultures. Non-formal qualifications, but only technical skills, decide on employability from now on.

Leadership remains a supreme discipline. Thus, the quality of the work often depends on the boss and every 2nd dismissal should even be because of a boss. I would therefore argue that it is empathy and the agile values that are becoming more important for leadership every day. Read more about this in the article on leadership in digital change.

The place of work of people in flexible working conditions spreads to the public space. Physical offices are temporary anchor points for human interaction, which are primarily used for networks. Work is done everywhere, except at your own desk.

Clear. Everything becomes mobile, flexible and automatic, but when I did my first surveys, it turns out that everyone likes to go to their workplace. I also asked Generation Z about this and came to similar results. The Roundtable also showed that humans are still a habitual animal and want their permanent job. For example, despite a free seat choice, everyone was back in the same seat together in the team. So there is hardly any argument at the moment why the classic office should die out and no one goes there any more. Also, for me, office as an anchor point for interactions sounds more like this: We just go to chat and evaluate yesterday’s Bayern game again today in the office. Read more in the article on the Roundtable on Work 4.0.

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Conclusion: There is a lot of speculation!

The world of work 4.0 is coming and we are eagerly awaiting the innovations. The workplace digitizes and everything somehow becomes agile and mobile. We can only speculate at the moment on what these changes entail. In my article on digitalization in the workplace, I have already identified opportunities and risks. Some things, such as more flexible work and more automation, are clearly visible and are understandable as theses. But on the other hand, for theses such as: “Man will command a drone army at some point”, I currently find no valid arguments. Also sentences like: “Everything becomes totally flexible and everyone gets involved in the company”, I think, will hardly arrive, not every worker is looking for total self-fulfilment in the work. So there will continue to be wage work and even a motivated employee has a bad day or has looked a little too deep into the glass the night before and just wants his peace. That is why we can only speculate at the moment on what is really being implemented by The World of Work 4.0 and what is not. For example, I would not want the reception of a hotel to be digitised. I am happy to be received there by a member of staff and also to be greeted in the gym laughing by my trainer with a handshake. We simply need to understand more precisely: what do we expect from The World of Work 4.0?

Genderhinweis: Ich habe zur leichteren Lesbarkeit die männliche Form verwendet. Sofern keine explizite Unterscheidung getroffen wird, sind daher stets sowohl Frauen, Diverse als auch Männer sowie Menschen jeder Herkunft und Nation gemeint. Lesen Sie mehr dazu.

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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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