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Work in the digital age

Digital resources have changed our way of working in many ways and leads to both new possibilities, but also new challenges
Two workers in front of computers in office environment

Digital resources have changed our way of working in many ways and lead to new challenges as well as new possibilities.


Work in the digital age involves many new aspects. A digital workplace can also be called a virtual workplace. Another expression used for this kind of work is telework. Telework is defined as the use of information and communications technology, such as laptops and smartphones, for work that is performed outside the employer’s premises. The worker can be located at home, or at different other locations. The worker can also have a hybrid working situation, being at home some days and at the workplace other days.

Increasing number of digital workplaces and telework

Development of technologies and work procedures are natural parts of work. Such developments have always been recognized in occupational health as a cause for concern, worries, uncertainties and new health risks. One development in recent years has been the shift towards a more digital working life, using digital communication forms and platforms more than before. We have new ways of doing the work and interacting with colleagues. The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a large increase in the use of telework globally. WHO have made a technical brief on the topic “Healthy and safe telework” which might be of interest.

Health aspects of digital work

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This man is working while sitting out in the park. This is a great opportunity for many workers today. It might be a part of health promotion! ©Colourbox

Challenges with production technologies on workers’ health have been a recurring theme in occupational health. The skills of the worker, or the share need of the workers may become redundant. The result might be that workers are left without a job, or have to learn new skills or even trades when the technology advances. This may represent a challenge for the worker’s psychological health. In addition, telework may for instance cause more isolated workers, if the workers stay home and do not meet colleagues. Another challenge is to make distinctions between the working time and the leasure time when both take place at home. The work-family interface might be difficult to handle. However, telework may also be a very positive solution. The flexibility of being able to work at home might be great and reduce stress for many workers. Many workers in large cities may use several hours daily for transport to and from work. To be able to work at home can be a great improvement of their quality of life.

Advice on digital work

Digital work is an important and growing part of the working life in the world. Research on the topic of health and telework is developing, and we see an increasing number of studies on the topic emerging. However, we do not have many specific intervention studies today that can guide us clearly in telework, but we hope to see new knowledge on this topic soon. In the meantime, we must use the general knowledge we have in occupational health, and performing risk assessment is central. It is important that we perform risk assessments also at these workplaces. Such assessments must be carried out broadly, including both the positive- and negative aspects. If the workers use home offices during their work, also the home offices must be a part of this assessment. All aspects of work must be included in the evaluation, but the main topics should be ergonomic factors, psychosocial factors and safety. In such assessments the use of an occupational health service in cooperation with the workplace would be a strength. Also, the challenges we see in telework affect large parts of the society, and health personnel working on national policy making should be aware and contribute to relevant rules and regulations for this type of work. Through proper risk assessments and risk management procedures, we can avoid negative health effects from telework, and the work can even be health promoting!

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Occupational Health in Developing Countries

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