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Digitisation of work

The use of digital technology at work changes business models and work organisation. The JRC studies the implications of digital tools at work for employment and working conditions, including job quality, routine, autonomy, and work intensity. 

The digital revolution has brought about a significant transformation in the nature of work, through the automation of tasks, using platforms to coordinate work activity, and the digitisation of processes.  

Digitisation interfaces elements of the physical world into bytes, through sensors and rendering devices. By changing business models and work organisation, digitisation can reduce costs and improved resource utilisation, leading to increased revenues, but it may also affect job quality and industrial relations. 

The JRC researches the impact of the digitisation of work on employment levels, working conditions (including work intensity, autonomy, routine), and the nature of occupations, in terms of tasks and skills. 

How computerisation is transforming jobs

Is technology leading to more or fewer routine jobs? On the one hand, routine-intensive jobs have declined in employment over the last decades, in Europe and elsewhere, a phenomenon called “routine-biased technological change”. On the other hand, many jobs have become more routine: an analysis of the changes of tasks contents, methods and tools changed in Europe over the last 20 years based on the JRC-Eurofound tasks framework shows that levels of routine task intensity have increased for managerial, professional, and technical occupations. The role of computers explains this apparent paradox: although digital technology can help replace labour input in routine tasks – especially in clerical and administrative work – they also enable an increasing standardisation and routinisation of some intellectual and social tasks. On aggregate, tasks changes within occupations are often more significant than changes in the composition of employment across occupations. 

Case study on digital technology at work: 3D printing, IoT, VR/AR

A case study on the use of 3D printing, the Internet of Things (IoT), and Virtual and Augmented Reality (VR/AR) found that the digitisation of process can improve efficiency and competitiveness, but may also increase work intensity. The case study was carried out by the JRC in collaboration with Eurofound and covered two Spanish workplaces: TTI-Algeciras, a port container terminal, and Airbus, a manufacturer of aerospace and defence equipment. In terms of job quality and work organisation, the study noted a reduction of occupational hazards, the upskilling of the workforce, increased worker responsibility and autonomy, and a decrease in routine tasks. Finally, the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent restrictive measures accelerated technological change in the workplace.  

How digital technology is reshaping the art of management

A joint study with Eurofound and EU-OSHA, describes how the digitisation of the workplace may lead to data-driven management and affect work organisation and job quality, including occupational health and safety. Digital technologies enabling data-driven management at the establishment level can improve performance, provision of training, greater job complexity and worker autonomy. However, they may also lower workers’ well-being and increase reported psychosocial risks. The study recommends measures to mitigate potential issues, such as prior discussion and involvement of the workforce, and having action plans to reduce stress and effects on occupational health and safety. 

Digital tools for worker management and psycho-social risks in the workplace

A  joint study with EU-OSHA, drawing on a representative survey of European establishments (ESENER 2019) also shows that digital technologies enabling new forms of management are associated to increased psychosocial risks, which in turn can result in work-related stress and other mental health issues. The study also confirmed that OSH measures, such as having an action plan to prevent work-related stress, help reducing psychosocial risks in the workplace, but do not mitigate the relationship between psychosocial risks and management technologies.


Urzì Brancati, M., C., Curtarelli , M., Riso, S., Baiocco, S. How digital technology is reshaping the art of management, European Commission, Seville, 2022, JRC130808. 

Grande, R., Vallejo-Peña, A., Urzí Brancati, C., The impact of IoT and 3D printing on job quality and work organisation: a snapshot from Spain, Seville: European Commission, 2021, JRC125612. 

Riso, S. (2021), Digitisation in the workplace, Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg 

Urzí Brancati, C., Curtarelli, M., Digital tools for worker management and psychosocial risks in the workplace: evidence from the ESENER survey, Seville: European Commission, 2021, JRC125714. 

Fernández-Macías, E. and Bisello, M., A Taxonomy of Tasks for Assessing the Impact of New Technologies on Work, Seville, European Commission, 2020, JRC120618 

Bisello et al., How computerisation is transforming jobs: Evidence from Eurofound's European Working Conditions Survey, JRC Working Papers on Labour, Education and Technology 2019/02, European Commission, Seville, 2019, JRC117167.   

Fernández-Macías, E. (2018) Automation, digitisation and platforms: Implications for work and employment, Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg. 

To find out more about the JRC's work on similar topics, explore the related JRC portfolios: