What is the importance of technology 4

Work 4.0: meaning, effects, challenges

Digitization, new expectations from employees, new work concepts: the world of work is changing rapidly. We reveal what will happen to HR professionals and employees in the course of Work 4.0 - and how you can use the transformation for yourself.

In times of work 4.0, a strong corporate culture supports it. Download the guide now.

What does work 4.0 mean?

The term work 4.0 arose in the context of the fourth industrial revolution. It encompasses changes in work forms and working conditions - both in the industrial sector and in the world of work as a whole.

The world of work 4.0 is primarily shaped by digitization. Processes are digitally supported or completely automated, people can work regardless of time and location and the entire economy is globally networked.

Digital work requires digital processes

Ok, let's be honest: a company can no longer get very far with Excel lists and files. It's good that Personio has a solution: Simple, digital HR processes - from recruiting to digital personnel files to payroll.

The “New Work” concept

The term work 4.0 is only known in Germany and partly in the EU.

Internationally, the effects of digitization on the world of work are discussed under the concept of “New Work”. The focus of “New Work” is on the individual freedom of employees to organize their work according to their own wishes and needs.

In the public discussion, “New Work” is now used more frequently in this country than the more technical term Work 4.0.

From work 1.0 to work 4.0

The first three industrial revolutions already brought about radical changes for the world of work and workers. The developments have always been driven by new and improved technologies.

Work 1.0 - late 18th century

The industrial revolution began in England and Western Europe in the middle of the 18th century. Machines powered by steam and water power were used.

For the first time goods were manufactured by machine and in large numbers. A new class of wage laborers emerged who worked under the harshest conditions and had practically no rights. The first workers' organizations emerged.

Work 2.0 - late 19th century

The second industrial revolution was characterized by electrification, further technical progress and mass production. The first assembly line production in the Ford automobile works was a milestone in this phase.

The work was broken down into smaller and smaller process steps (division of labor). The companies gradually improved working conditions. Workers could attain a certain level of prosperity and move up into the social middle class.

Work 3.0 - mid 20th century

The third industrial revolution started around the 1970s. Computers and industrial robots were used commercially and supported human labor. Completely new forms of automation became possible.

The new technology made a broad qualification of the workforce necessary, while many simple jobs could be done by machines - the proportion of “knowledge workers” increased sharply. The social market economy was introduced and workers' prosperity increased.

Work 4.0 - late 20th century

The rapid spread of computers and Internet connections heralded the fourth industrial revolution in the 1990s. It continues to this day. Globalization and networking reached a new level. “Artificial intelligence” applications have become practical and can now take on more and more tasks that were previously done by humans.

You will learn about the specific effects on the world of work in the following section.

Digital change? A strong culture provides support

Expert insights, step-by-step instructions and numerous practical examples: In this guide you will learn how to set specific goals, anchor clear values ​​and control and measure your corporate culture in a targeted manner.

What does the world of work 4.0 look like?

The catchphrase work 4.0 summarizes a whole series of developments that digitization brings with it:

Digital workplace

Desktop computers or laptops, tablets, smartphones and a range of software programs are part of an office workplace. The normal commercial clerk spends most of his working day doing “digital work”.

Production employees often only program, operate and control IT systems while the machines do the actual work.

Even for tasks that still have to be done manually, digital tools are making their way. The data glasses (augmented reality glasses) for the service technician in action or the medical robot in the operating theater are just two examples of many.

Work independent of time and place

Employees can network with their colleagues and work online; communication takes place via chats or video conferences.

You no longer need to be at work every day, but can work from anywhere: in the home office, a coworking space or on a beach at the other end of the world (as long as the WiFi works).

Since programs and data are permanently available via the Internet, employees can organize their working hours more flexibly and plan them themselves, for example to better reconcile work and family. If companies and teams are spread over different time zones, working hours outside of “9 to 5” are even required.

Also interesting:Remote work: is your company ready for location-independent work?

This is how remote work becomes successful in 5 steps

Location-independent work is a basic requirement for corporate success. But how can remote work be implemented securely and efficiently - and above all anchored in the long term? This checklist gives the necessary overview.

Agile organizations and leadership styles

The digital world of work 4.0 gives the individual employee more freedom and responsibility. Fixed organizational structures and a hierarchical management style are no longer up to date and can slow down a company.

Spatially distributed employees work in changing teams on different projects at the same time and organize themselves. The role of management shifts further towards moderation, motivation and coaching of employees.

Also interesting:Self-organization - THE form of organization of the future?

Digitization leads to more flexibility (source)

Digital and automated processes

Computers not only take on more and more tasks - they have been doing that for a long time. Entire process chains are completely automated so that people no longer have to intervene at any point.

Systems improve themselves through self-learning algorithms and carry out complex tasks, which we believed for a long time that human intelligence was absolutely necessary. For example, by analyzing huge amounts of data (“Big Data”), computers can make better future prognoses or diagnose illnesses than any human being.

Ready for the future with digital processes

Automatically distribute onboarding tasks? Have vacation entitlement calculated? Digital processes that you can map with HR software relieve you of work. And give space for strategic, future-oriented tasks.


Global networking enables companies to outsource work to other companies and freelancers. On the one hand, this saves you costs. More importantly, they access know-how that their own employees do not have and can react flexibly to market fluctuations.

A worldwide trend can be observed that more and more tasks - even the smallest work steps, so-called “micro tasks” - are being outsourced to self-employed people anywhere in the world (“web workers”).

Lifelong learning

Employees have to constantly learn in order to be able to keep pace with technological change and the requirements of Work 4.0. Newly emerging professions require ever higher qualifications.

Soft skills such as personal responsibility, time management and adaptability are becoming more important in order to be successful in your job.

This article on personnel requirements planning reveals how you can plan the number and qualifications of your employees in a forward-looking manner.

Employer 4.0: Which challenges do you have to master?

Every revolution brings with it a lot of uncertainty and places new demands on people. Employers must prepare themselves and their employees for Work 4.0 so that they remain fit for the future.

Which areas are affected?

Hardware and software equipment

Sounds simple, but modern IT equipment is definitely a challenge for many companies. Employees need hardware and software to be able to work in the office, at home and on the go.

They demand concepts like BYOD (“Bring Your Own Device: Employees use private devices for work”) and expect company software that is as easy to use as their iPhone.

IT security and data protection

Systems and data are the most valuable assets of many companies and must be protected as well as possible: from failure, loss or theft. High statutory protection standards apply to the personal data of employees and customers.

When systems are accessible from anywhere, they offer attack surfaces for hackers. Data security is therefore the central task of every corporate IT.

Flexible room and building concepts

The fixed desk is obsolete when employees can work from home and anywhere. Empty offices cost money and do not promote a productive working atmosphere.

Instead, companies need flexible, “smart” office concepts. Employees can find a place there as needed to work undisturbed or with colleagues. Various rooms are available for meetings or creative workshops, naturally with excellent technical equipment.

Flexible working time models

Work-life balance and family compatibility are high on employees' wish lists, and digital work makes it possible.

Accordingly, employers must offer flexible working time models, be it flextime models or trust-based working hours.

Cooperative management style

As mentioned, classic leadership styles collide with the requirements of Work 4.0. The boss instructs and controls, the employee explains: This does not work in practice if employees work in a spatially distributed manner, nor does it meet the expectations of generations Y and Z in demand.

For many experienced managers, this means a change that employers must encourage and support.

Agile working methods

A characteristic of the digital world is that requirements change overnight. In order to be able to react to quick changes, agile project methods have become established, Scrum is certainly the best known of them.

Such methods not only require specialist knowledge, but also a new way of thinking and even corporate culture. Companies must actively drive this change.

Also interesting:Agility and Talent Management - Between Desire and Reality

Qualify and motivate employees

Every new technology requires employees who know how to use it. Digitization can trigger fears of job loss or feelings of being overwhelmed.

Those who fail to get their employees excited about the world of work 4.0 and to qualify them lose valuable potential. Internal offers for further training, mentoring and the individual promotion of employees are an absolute must!

High demand for specialist staff

Highly qualified employees are desperately wanted, especially in the technology sector, and the battle for technical experts is high. A shortage of staff is slowing the growth of many companies.

Companies have to pursue intensive recruiting and forward-looking personnel planning. Outsourcing and working with freelancers are also important tools.

Employee health

Sitting for long periods of time and working at the screen are not good for your health. Constant availability and high pressure can trigger stress and psychological problems. Employers must therefore actively take care of the physical and mental health of their employees.

Labor law and bureaucracy

Agreeing freedom and flexibility for employees with labor law provisions is a balancing act for employers. Technological developments and trends do not wait until the legislature has dealt with them.
The fact that companies do not introduce new concepts or only introduce them slowly is often simply due to the fact that the previous administrative processes left too little leeway.

Companies have to adapt - including Personio

At Personio, the employees come from all over the world and have different personal and professional backgrounds. That is why it is important to us to meet the various requirements of our employees.

  • Home office? Gladly, and can be applied for with just a few clicks via our software
  • Different working models: Working students enter their working hours themselves, permanent employees work in a 40-hour package.
  • Qualification: A development concept ensures that employees are promoted in the right direction.

And those who work a lot can celebrate successes together. You can regularly find insights behind Personio's scenes on our Instagram channel.

Criticism of work 4.0

Like every revolution, Industry 4.0 - and thus Work 4.0 - has advantages and disadvantages. Not everyone is enthusiastic about the technical possibilities or the prospect of individual self-realization in the job.

Three of the main criticisms of the current development are the following:

Machines make human work superfluous

Every technical invention has replaced human labor, this is not a new phenomenon. What is new is the speed with which computers and robots take over jobs, and no longer only in the low-skilled sector. Computers are already writing news reports or advising customers on the phone. Soon they will be driving our taxis and trucks.

Digitization creates new jobs, but they require highly qualified employees. Bus drivers and office workers will not all be retrained to become data analysts or programmers. One can easily imagine that in a few decades there will be no more jobs for a large part of society as we know them today.

Our current economic, social and social system is based on the goal of full employment. If digitization continues as before, these systems will have to be fundamentally rebuilt.

Increasing burden on employees

The number of sick days in public authorities and companies rose by more than 60 percent between 2008 and 2016. On the one hand, this is due to the higher number of employees. However, the data show that psychological stress in the workplace has increased sharply.

Employees feel under pressure to always be available and to work after work and on weekends - because it is technically possible. The boundaries between work and leisure are blurring. The amount of work for the individual and the complexity is constantly increasing.

In addition, there is the constant fear of getting lost, of not being able to keep up with technological change and of being replaced by a computer or freelancer from India.

The pressure on employees is increasing (source)

Control of people through technology

The technology already enables seamless control and analysis of employees and their performance. AI systems use algorithms to evaluate applicants' résumés or recognize employees who are about to fall ill.

Such insights can be used in a positive sense and luckily the German laws place fixed limits on employers.

But experience shows that what is technically possible is usually used at some point. The abuse potential of such technologies is high. Many people are increasingly getting the feeling that they are helplessly exposed to new technologies.

Digitization will continue. After Work 4.0 comes Work 5.0. Despite all the criticisms, we cannot stop these developments. It is crucial that we create fair framework conditions and that people continue to be the focus of the world of work.

More links to work 4.0

Do you need further information? We have put together some helpful links for you.