Future of Work: Work 4.0 – Remote Work as new Working Model?

How does digitization change our way of work? Is working remotely a future working model? How do we want to work in future? An assessment.

Digitization, industrial revolution 4.0, employees claiming for more flexible working times – We’re living in a world that is changing very fast every day. All those changes affect the world of work, too. How does the future of work look like? What kind of competencies do we as human beings need to get along with this new world of work? And do we actually want that kind of future? I would like to find some answers to these questions. Therefore I will discuss some terms you can find on the topic of “the future of work”. Moreover, I’m going to give a very practical example of how it’s like to work in the future – while being in the present. I will talk about working remotely, from home, flexible. But I’ll come to that later again.

Definition: Digitization, Work 4.0, Working Remotely and more

Talking about something without knowing the terms describing the topic? No way! That’s why I give a short introduction to the relevant terms.

Digitization and Digital revolution

Well, digitization is the reason why this blog post exists. Digitization has several meanings. On the one hand, it means the changing process from analog to digital communication with the effect that more and more information is presented digitally. On the other hand, digitization means the modification of instruments, tools or devices by digital techniques. Moreover, we’re talking about digitization in general, when we talk about the changes, well, the upheavals in a society coming along with the intensified use of digital technologies both in private and company environment. (This definition is made by the German Gabler economy dictionary.)

How often did you already hear this beginning of a sentence: “Due to digitization …”? In this context, we often talk about the digital revolution.

The digital revolution started in the last third of the 20th century and describes further automation and modernization of industries and the private sector. People say all began with the invention of the microchip. Since then computer networks are created, computers for each and every person are available. You also call this time Industry 3.0. Here you can find the definitions of Industry 1.0 up to Industry 4.0.

Industry 4.0 and Work 4.0

Well, and what’s the Industry 4.0? There are some definitions and opinions about this term. Some say, Industry 4.0 doesn’t exist. I think there had been a change in the industry, so I searched for a definition. And here it is:  “The Industry 4.0 vision establishes a hyper-connectivity that goes beyond the factory walls and where production means interact not only with the factory environment itself but along the value chain to which customers, suppliers, logistics etc. belong to.” (Source) Thus, one vision of production in Industry 4.0 is that orders are triggered directly by customers. This vision is strongly connected with the Internet of Things. This term means the connection of devices with the internet in a way that they communicate with the internet and deal with tasks instructed by the device’s owner.

However, which tasks do human beings have in Industry 4.0? What kind of activities will execute the people working in traditional production now? Will they be redundant? How does technological process and a world of work, in which everyone has a place, fit together? Thinking about these questions can be summarized with the term work 4.0. In short: work 4.0 deals with the changing process in the world of work that started because of digitization and the “fourth industrial revolution”.

Working Remotely and Home Office

Surely, everyone knows the term home office. It means working from home. But where is the difference to the term “working remotely”? Well, the answer is quite easy. While people making home office also have a workplace in a company’s office, working remotely is like the next step of evolution. It means that people work location-independent completely.

Fear: Unemployment because of Digitization?

Do we have to fear losing our workplaces? Do we have to fear to either be a winner or a loser of digitization? Is the future of work going to plunge mankind into chaos? Well, all answers are a matter of perspective. They depend on how we see and think about ourselves as human beings. It’s a question about who we want to be.

You know, there are always winners and losers. I mean, it’s totally normal that some people can use opportunities better than others because each of us has different skills and talents. Nevertheless, we are all social beings. And I’m convinced that there will always be people amongst us supporting and caring for disadvantaged people.

Let’s have a more rational perspective on it: Due to digitization, several jobs will no longer be necessary. We can think of that quite well. What we can’t imagine is what kind of jobs digitization will create. Because that’s something only the future can reveal. But what we can think of is the human being in between all of this: The human being is a creature finding new needs – always. And these needs have to be satisfied. A simple example: 30 years ago: Did you imagine live coaching would ever become popular? So, professions will change. And new professions will appear. Because there will always be new working fields created by human being itself.

Thus, nobody needs to be feared. Changes are totally normal. The way we work is going to change. But our society always changes. Imagine what happened during the last 150 years with society? That’s why I personally think that digitization is not going to destroy human beings. Quite the contrary. I think that all the possibilities of the changes will lead to more autonomy and freedom.

This makes me think about the next question:

Which competencies does the human being need in the future world of work?

I found an interesting quote about that:

Autonomous work remains a hart, lifelong task. It requires new culture techniques: emotional intelligence, communication intelligence, network intelligence … it always asks persistently for ourselves, our internal being, our TALENT: Who are we – and who do we want to be

Das Zukunftsinstitut (German Source)

I think this is what it’s all about. In the future, we will focus less on skills we have to learn to practice a profession. Instead, we will focus more on ourselves and the people around us.

We have to learn to listen to and understand our needs. Moreover, we have to learn to recognize, understand and influence the feelings of our fellow human beings (emotional intelligence). Thinking about the future of work, emotional intelligence will help us to find future working fields – the needs of other people.

Communication intelligence is the skill to convince people with good arguments and have a good way to express yourself. It’s linked to emotional intelligence as you need good communication to show empathy to your fellow beings.

Network intelligence describes the skill to create a network with others.

One thing that becomes quite clear: Digitization coming along with autonomous work challenges us as human beings. And offers big chances for a changed togetherness.

The Future of Work: Working Remotely as a Future Working Model?

A question remains: How does autonomous work look like? For sure, the home office is one way for more autonomous work. So are flextime models. But both are only interim solutions.

Working remotely focuses more on autonomous work. This working model offers a lot of flexibility in the way you design your way of work and your free time. However, the basis is another thinking about “life” and “work”. Both aren’t separated anymore, but mixed. In this context, autonomy means deciding for yourself when it’s time for leisure time and when you have to work. It’s about finding out your needs and reconciling it with your work.

Best example: The way we work at Inpsyde. You know, we work remotely, and all is autonomous. But due to this, we have to face some specific challenges being connected to emotional and communication intelligence. We really have to find a balance between our needs and the expectations of Inpsyders and customers in order to have working workflows. (Talking metaphorical: A relaxed meal at lunchtime vs. urgent tasks others rely on.) And as we don’t see each other face-to-face often, we really have to communicate carefully (= the way we write in chats or talk in phone conferences), to ensure that everyone really understands what we want to say.

Conclusion: The Future of Work

Due to my own experience, I can tell that working remotely is, as a future working model, a good example of autonomous work. However, there are more things to consider when talking about the future of work than the question about new working models. The much more important question is about how we can enable ourselves to work autonomously. Because that’s one of the major challenges when talking about the topic work 4.0.

Digitization already changed our society and will further penetrate it. I’m excited about what the future is going to bring and how we design it.

Unfortunately, this text cannot cover all aspects of the topic future of work – it’s much too complex. However, I hope you maybe got some interesting points of view and maybe a new perspective on the topic of future of work.

What do you think about the future of work? How do you work at the moment? Already in the future? I look forward to reading your comments below, on Twitter or Facebook. 🙂