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Virtual & Augmented Reality

"We need to actively shape workplace 4.0"

Digitization and globalization are changing the workfloor. Old, time-honored structures are dissolving – a process that demands a high degree of flexibility from both employers and their staff.

16 Mar. 2016

Increasingly companies are confronted with processes that keep getting more complex as well as changes in technical and organizational parameters. The new catchword these days is Work 4.0. Companies are still searching for solutions that will work in the future. In that context, professional time management, the assessment of workforce requirements, workforce planning, self service and mobile apps all play an important role.

"The term Work 4.0 was coined by our minister of labor and social affairs Andrea Nahles and is meant to be the counterpart to Industry 4.0," explained Burkhard Röhrig, CEO of GFOS mbH, on Wednesday during a panel discussion at CeBIT. "But it's actually a mistake to separate both terms. It would be better to combine them – and at the same time modernize the 100-year-old Act on Working Hours and make it more flexible."

A win-win for work-life balance

Under the current rigid framework, it's not even possible to implement 'Work 4.0', added Walter Elsner, CEO of PCS Systemtechnik GmbH. "Work-life balance has become more and more important for employees, and companies need to design their processes in such a way that a win-win situation can emerge. At the same time, of course, a way has to be found to record flexible working times reliably."

This is especially important given that so many people have the possibility today to work from home, added Elsner. Knowledge work requires creativity, and in order for creativity to manifest itself, people need more freedom and breathing space in which to develop their ideas. "Processes will be run differently in the future. Fewer people will work from 6 am to 2 pm or from 2 to 10 pm at night. Leisure and free time have become more important. People are certainly prepared to work 60 hours a week every now and if that’s necessary, but then as compensation they want more time for friends and family."

No need to fear the digital revolution

Many people in Germany tend to equate the digitization of the workplace with the prospect of losing their jobs. Some are even afraid that computers and machines will eventually take over their work.

That fear is unfounded, said Burkhard Röhrig. "Digitization won't stop. Business models will change, and therefore so will the workplace. When you think of industrial revolutions in earlier times, they were also always accompanied by a fear about the loss of jobs for simple tasks. That is correct. At the same time, you need to realize that automation has never been higher than today – and yet employment [in Germany] has also never been higher!" For that reason, said Burkhard, it’s vital to help employees get comfortable with new technologies.

Augmented reality simplifies many things

Timon Vielhaber, CEO of the World of VR GmbH, has in fact integrated one of those new technologies into his company name: VR. "It's probably hard to imagine virtual reality in the workplace, but there are already cases where it makes sense – for example with wind turbines. If you have to repair them, you need highly qualified people. But how many physicists are there who are authorized to climb up at such heights? The solution: data glasses that are worn by a technician on the wind turbine and connected to the physicist standing on the ground. Then they can work as a team," explained Vielhaber.

In general, the company believes that work should be more fun. "We've all been using Instant Messenger for several years to talk to friends and aquaintances. So why shouldn't a boss communicate with his team members in the same way? People need to be connected with each other!"