On a table are several documents, a tablet and a notebook Copyright: © Martin Braun


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Participative and Prospective Work Design – Reloaded


Key Info

Basic Information

01.10.2018 to 31.01.2023
Research Area:
Work Scientific Support of Change and Transformation Processes



Susanne Mütze-Niewöhner

Head of Work Organization Department


+49 241 80-99451




The project is carried out in the context of digitalization and Industry 4.0. By focusing on the work-related effects of digitalization, the project supports the uncovering and exploitation of potentials in the context of forward-looking work design that promotes learning and development. By analyzing and assessing work processes, which is one of the core tasks of work science, changes through digitalization are evaluated on the basis of various criteria. The results are used to enable participatory and prospective work design. In this way, expected effects of individual digitization measures can be taken into account before they are realized.


The transformation to Industry 4.0 creates uncertainty - also in the companies that want to drive the digital transformation. This uncertainty concerns, among other things, the design options of the work processes affected. Effects, opportunities and risks associated with this change process are often not foreseeable in the planning phase of digitization measures. It is precisely in this phase that it is important to derive design recommendations based on work science analyses and to transfer the technology-centered approaches into a socio-technical transformation process. The prerequisites for this are tools that support a criteria-based analysis and evaluation of work activities already in the design phase and are tailored to the current conditions and design options.


The aim of the project is to investigate the suitability of classic methods and instruments of work analysis and design for use in the context of digitalization measures within production and to identify necessary adaptation requirements. To this end, the following questions are addressed:

  • Have activities already changed, especially with regard to work science criteria that can be assigned to the assessment level of personality development, or is there potential for corresponding, positive changes?
  • Can monotonous activities be expanded to include elements of planning and control, and can opportunities for participation and autonomy be improved?
  • Or are the potentials for a motivational and personality-promoting work design reduced?
  • How must adequate instruments for participative and prospective work design be designed?


In the project, case studies will be conducted in various manufacturing companies. Typical production activities that can be assigned to different work forms and areas of responsibility (e.g., manual work, machine operation, maintenance) and are the subject of a digital change process will be considered. For the work analysis, several existing instruments will be used comparatively, which involve different survey methods (e.g., document analysis, observational interview). Experiences with the methods used will result in case studies evaluated from a work science perspective, as well as findings that will enable an assessment of the suitability of the instruments and reveal adaptation needs for participatory and prospective work design. The findings are to be made usable in the form of a web-based demonstration tool.


In preparation for the case studies, work analysis tools were identified in accordance with the current state of scientific knowledge and then systematically classified on the basis of ergonomic criteria. In addition, opportunities and risks of digitalization in companies were identified in semi-structured interviews with employees who carry out the practical work in companies. Based on these findings, a systematic approach for a participatory procedure in the planning and implementation of digitization projects has been designed. These findings will be used to conduct case studies and serve as the content basis for the development of a web tool to support work design.


The project “Partizipative und Prospektive Arbeitsgestaltung – reloaded” (Participative and Prospective Work Design – reloaded, funding code: 2018-447-1) is funded by the Hans-Böckler-Stiftung as part of the research network “Digitalisierung im Betrieb” (Digitalisation in the workplace).

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