Work and the digital revolution

Work and the digital revolution


“Transwork” joint research project looks at how digitalization is transforming work

Digital technologies are revolutionizing the way we work. They are having a broad impact on employment, labor markets, occupational health & safety, and the way businesses are structured. The project “Transwork - The Transformation of Work through Digitalization” aims to develop approaches and solutions for working in the digital world and make these solutions accessible.

There are already a number of places where you can find isolated examples of how work might look in the future. But the major process of transformation still lies ahead of us, including all the effects that digital technologies will have on employment, labor markets, occupational health & safety, and the way businesses are structured. Developing approaches and solutions for working in the digital world and making these accessible is the primary goal of the high-tech strategy currently being pursued by the German government. One of the ways it hopes to achieve this is through its “Work in the Digitalized World” priority research program.

Real-life examples highlight opportunities and challenges

Joint research projects in this priority area have given rise to various approaches for working in the digital world. As part of the “Transwork” project, Fraunhofer IAO has taken on the task of examining these approaches from a broader perspective, creating synergy effects, and studying their implementation. Together with the project consortium, Fraunhofer IAO is playing a major role in this process in two key ways: firstly, they carry out their own independent research and, second, they identify best practices from the other joint research projects in order to develop holistic solutions for the challenges that lie ahead.

The goal of the joint research project is to examine current research areas of work design – including skills development, managing complexity, productivity management, and job design and regulation – in order to analyze and evaluate how digitalization is changing work. The next task is then to compile and transfer examples of how to design “good work” in a way that makes them accessible to target groups. Another of the researchers’ goals is to identify and address research and development gaps, both to benefit existing projects in this priority research area as well as to foster cooperative development of this topic. “Transwork provides a comprehensive set of tools to address the transformation of work through digitalization,” says project manager Kathrin Schnalzer.

How to design and structure work in a digital world

The goal is to develop practical solutions for dealing with these changes, for example in the form of qualification modules. The long-term usefulness of this approach relies on the development of training concepts which must be firmly anchored in educational institutions. If the solutions for improved work design are to take effect, they need to be transferred into companies. The project also strives to transfer the results into the realms of politics, academia and real-life practice by maintaining links to the German Society of Ergonomics (GfA) and the German government’s high-tech forum. The results are also incorporated in research and teaching and in the interdisciplinary consortium’s operational support portfolio.

Project duration and partners

The “Transwork - The Transformation of Work through Digitalization” project is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) under the umbrella program “Innovations for Tomorrow’s Production, Services, and Work.” “Transwork” is scheduled to run from July 2016 to June 2020. It is coordinated by Fraunhofer IAO and run in collaboration with the following partners: IAW - Chair and Institute of Industrial Engineering and Ergonomics at RWTH Aachen University, the Institute for Applied Occupational Ergonomics and Industrial Engineering (IfaA), the company Input Consulting, the German services trade union ver.di, and the German Federal Office of Administration.