Living healthy in the digital working world – Prof. Dr. Filip Mess draws attention to the health demands caused by digitalisation and has valuable tips on employee health at hand.

Why does the health aspect play such a large role in companies?

Our working world is currently changing rapidly. Without a healthy workforce, it is difficult for companies to meet current and future challenges. One example is the digitized world of work. The aim of companies must therefore be to maintain, promote and, if necessary, restore the health of their employees. Otherwise, there is the danger of oversleeping the changes and no longer being able to survive on the market.

What are the health risks in the digitalised world of work?

Three trends characterise digitisation: information, interaction and artificial intelligence. These trends result in changes and health risks. One example is the constant accessibility through media. Work and private life become blurred. The consequences range from exhaustion to burn-outs. Another example is the constantly new technologies that we have to deal with at work. This requires lifelong learning. Those who can’t keep up will be left behind. The flood of information is increasing, so that we have less and less time for projects and activities. Stress increases, dissatisfaction rises. Dissatisfaction also rises due to ever decreasing self-determination. Machines and stakeholders are increasingly “driving” us. On the other hand, stakeholder expectations are also growing. These factors lead to dissatisfaction and stress, which ultimately nibbles at our psyche.

How can a company promote the health of its employees under these conditions?

Companies should first find out where health potentials and risks lie by means of a classic health survey. It is also important to find out which measures employees would like to take, because health should be positive in general. Health can, for example, be positive through the combination with playful elements, keyword gamification. The responsibility lies with the managers. Companies must sensitize their managers to their role as health-conscious managers and prepare prospective managers for this role.

And what can individual employees do to stay healthy and fit in a digitized world?

We can’t stop digitization. But we can make the handling of digitisation healthy. Employees should also be offline at times, i.e. consciously plan recovery times. Employees should take digitalization as an opportunity, but at the same time also take a critical look at it and not follow every new development blindly and without reflection. To do this, they must try out the new forms of working and leading and integrate them into their daily work.

Let’s take a look into the future: Which topics will occupy the world of work in ten years’ time as digitalisation progresses?

In ten years lifelong learning will have brought about a cultural change. It will no longer be just a question of whether we embed lifelong learning in schools and universities, but how. We need to build trust in artificial intelligence and in big data – we can learn together with machines and make decisions in the course of artificial intelligence. Big data gives us large amounts of data, and we have to trust them and the results they produce. In general, we will ask ourselves the question what still holds our society together and how it is always reconstituted when changes occur in the areas of technology and digitisation.

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As scientific director of the Institut für Betriebliche Gesundheitsberatung (IFBG), Prof. Dr. Filip Mess is involved in digital health promotion, among other things. In the study #whatsnext – Gesund arbeiten in einer digitalen Arbeitswelt (working healthy in a digital world) in February and March 2017, more than 800 personnel, managers and persons responsible for health took part. The core result of the study was that managers are the most important adjusting screw for healthy work 4.0..