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Image: © Robert Daly/Caia Image/Adobe Stock
Image: © Robert Daly/Caia Image/Adobe Stock

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Workplace digitisation driving up skills

New technologies such as the Internet of Things, 3D printing, and virtual and augmented reality can help put greater emphasis on managerial and analytical tasks, reduce physically demanding tasks, drive the upgrading of skills and increase job discretion. However, some aspects of these technologies, particularly the Internet of Things, raise concerns that employee performance could be excessively monitored, requiring greater safeguards to protect workers’ fundamental rights.

Eurofound’s new report on Digitisation explores the impact of digital technologies in the workplace, with digitisation referring to the process through which aspects of the physical world are rendered into data and virtual models, and vice versa. The report highlights that, while digital technologies can bring many opportunities and has been shown to be beneficial for both workers and organisations, there is a need to put safeguards in place to ensure employee data protection and privacy.

The report shows that management decisions play an important role in how digitisation technologies impact on work organisation and job quality. A digitisation strategy with a phased approach, based on experimentation and piloting, underpinned by a high level of employee involvement in the innovation process, can contribute to more positive outcomes for both workers and organisations. Good practices that highlight the business case and raise awareness about the opportunities that digitisation technologies can provide are critical to the higher uptake of new technologies.

Social dialogue plays a critical role in digitisation at the workplace at many different levels. At company level, a digitisation approach that disregards employee participation and engagement will amplify negative impacts on working conditions. In the context of technological change, social dialogue also encourages greater acceptance by employees of new technologies.

The report identifies employee monitoring as an area of particular concern, recommending the further enforcement of and compliance with GDPR rules. An additional avenue to address this growing potential privacy threat could be the EU social partners’ negotiation of a specific framework agreement on the collection and use of personal data in employment.

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James Higgins

James Higgins

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Måns Mårtensson

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Eurofound, a tripartite European Union Agency, provides knowledge to assist in the development of social, employment and work-related policies

Eurofound (European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions) is a tripartite EU body, whose mission is to provide knowledge to assist in the development of better social, employment and work-related policies.

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