Work 4.0: Faster, further, higher or deceleration?
3 July

Work 4.0: Faster, further, higher or deceleration?

The rapid automation of the working world has made many voices concerned and loud for deceleration. However, digital systems could still offer an opportunity for modern working society. An observational opinion report.

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More than two centuries ago, people used machines to efficiency of their work to increase. From today's perspective, many of these automation processes have progressed at a snail's pace. These were significantly increased by digitization, especially with the spread of the World Wide Web in the 2000s. Due to the widespread use of software, which can increasingly be networked, many manual actions have become obsolete. And will continue to be. The pace at which the possibilities for automating work processes are being developed seems threatening in many places.

possibilities and reality

What many Media Reports disregarded in their (gloomy) view of the future is that initially it is nevertheless people who establish automation in their companies. Efforts to keep up with the potential speed of today's automation can be observed in many places. The pioneers are the technology giants GAFA (Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon). However, it is questionable whether these attempts reflect the reality of our working society.

One Study by the specialist publication IDG surveyed employees from around 1,500 companies about the workplace of the future in 2017. 95 percent of those surveyed communicate via e-mail, 88 percent also over the phone. However, the intelligent systems of tomorrow now work with data that is not registered in any software in these cases. Big data (as the name suggests) cannot fulfill its purpose here. Of course, the example of communication only provides an excerpt of today's working reality and yet it is exemplary, since working habits also have to grow with technology.

No speed is no solution either

At the same time, many of those surveyed already have the desire for more freedom and self-determination through technological possibilities such as cloud systems. New working time models are also popular in the study, and at least two out of three of the entrepreneurs surveyed understood that workplaces need to be further developed in this regard. Task management, i.e. also cooperation and thus work hierarchies would change significantly and that takes time - regardless of the possibilities.

Furthermore, the desire for more freedom strongly suggests what many exhausted employees and employers report and often have to pay for in terms of health. Collective burnout, so slow down. Automated processes could have a supporting effect here in theory. Tasks such as reporting or invoices, which often take the last few minutes and also the last nerve, are taken over by systems.

The difficulty now is not to immediately fill up the remaining time. After all, especially in capitalism as a society, we are subject to an insatiable urge to increase, which will not be eradicated by all "slow work" philosophies. At least that's what Dr. Hartmut Rosa. Instead of reduced speed, the sociologist suspects that the way in which we come into contact with our environment ensures happy and healthy work. Applied to the world of work, what he describes as “resonance” means that we have more time to really deal with things and people and thus relate to them differently.

Control is good, people can be better

Most working people can understand that – a technological system cannot. What software in times of big data what you can do better for this is to relate and put data into perspective. For companies, these results are important because they form the basis for decisions that (supposedly) ensure their growth and continued existence. According to Rosa, the fact that we are constantly trying to make everything controllable is also responsible for the signs of exhaustion in today's working society.

What sounds very dystopian overall can also be an opportunity for the future of work. If we let systems make our data controllable and stand up for everything “uncontrollable” with our human intuition and creative drive, we fill our (working) time to the same extent, but possibly with a different feeling. Even then we don't know what the future will bring, but at least we are shaping the present.

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