Congress Leaders Focused on the Future of Work

BMW recently decided to treat mobile work the same as office work, German Federal Minister of Labour and Social Affairs Andrea Nahles said

DUSSELDORF -- The future of work is already upon us, with stress, automation, and the 24/7 nature of today's jobs being top concerns, leaders of the 34th International Congress for Occupational Safety and Health said as they opened the Congress here Oct. 27.

The challenges of training a new generation of workers and retaining top talent remain top of mind, said Dr. Margret Suckale, chairman of the federal employees association of the German chemical industry and head of EHS and labor affairs on the executive board of BASF SE. She discussed how data networks can help chemical companies supervise the performance of their equipment in real time, allowing them to avoid unplanned equipment failures.

Suckale and other speakers said robotics will supplement today's workers, not replace them, especially for workers who have a high degree of technical and managerial skill.

Tomorrow's workplaces will be more flexible, safer, and more networked, with many jobs extended by IT, Suckale said.

Andrea Nahles, the German minister of Labour and Social Affairs, discussed the higher stress inherent in today's 24/7 jobs. BMW recently decided to treat mobile work and office work identically, so mobile work is no longer an add-on, Nahles said, explaining that she applauds that decision.

Some huge enterprises, such as Airbnb and Uber, maintain they are not even employers in the traditional sense. Workplace safety and health regulations will have to change to adapt to such businesses, and even tax policy will have to be adapted to them, Nahles said.

The Congress continues through Friday with numerous sessions on workplace stress, ergonomics, productivity, health promotion at work, green jobs and sustainability, and more.

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