Occupational Safety

The advantages of flexible work through authoritative agreements

Interview with Dr. Anita Tisch for the Safety Management Trend Report 2021

6 minutes05/20/2021

Many employees associate flexible working arrangements and digitalization in the workplace with great benefits and freedom. At the same time, there are many opportunities for employers and companies to improve and provide a healthier and safer workplace. However, there are alsorisks that should equally be considered. For the Safety Management Trend Report, Quentic has interviewed Dr. Anita Tisch, Head of the “Changing World of Work” research group at the Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (BAuA). Her research focuses on the effects of economic, technological and social change on working conditions and the safety and health of employees.

Flexible working needs to be well structured

Dr. Tisch, you lead a research group examining the changing world of work. For a great many employees, there has been a very abrupt change in this regard in the last year. The coronavirus crisis suddenly required them to be very flexible. So, should occupational safety professionals and executive managers take up the cause of flexible working in 2021?

I think it is now very important that we place particular emphasis on occupational safety and turn this crisis into an opportunity. Alongside all the benefits that flexibility offers employees, we also need to adequately counter the risks involved. Clear regulations are therefore vitally important. Our research shows that flexible working is structured better in economic and organizational terms when there are clear regulations and authoritative agreements in place. Employees work less overtime, while breaks and rest periods are adhered to more closely. This is not the case where such regulations are not in place.

Many surveys also show that the majority of employees would like to continue working from home after the pandemic, either entirely or part time. In light of this, would you say that putting corresponding regulations in place should be a priority?

Yes and no. This is certainly something that occupational safety needs to address; however, surveys also show that employees feel that a clear division between work and private life is just as important. This needs to be well structured as it can otherwise result in boundaries dissolving and employees getting too little rest. At the same time, we must not forget that this is, to some extent, a privileged discussion. Spare a thought for the many employees who do not have any flexibility in where or when they do their job. It is important that we find new ideas and approaches for these people, too, to help relieve the strain on them.

Safety Management Trend Report 2021

Dr. Anita Tisch is one of the eleven international experts who participated in the panel study for the Safety Management Trend Report 2021. You can download the full report here and obtain:

  • New perspectives: Leading experts from eight countries share their estimations of the most important trends and the effects the Coronavirus pandemic has had on occupational safety

  • Valuable experiences: For the first time, the Safety Management Trend Report includes a large survey of professionals throughout Europe

  • A view to the future: What priorities are needed to make occupational safety fit for the future? What should specialists concentrate on now?


Download now!

Digitalization: Opportunities and Challenges

The main focus of your research is digitalization. What challenges do you see in this area?

Fundamentally speaking, I consider digitalization a positive thing, as it offers a lot of opportunities to make working healthier and safer. However, we can also see that digitalization can result in high-intensity at work and cause some people to feel overwhelmed. The transformation of technological processes is continuing at a rapid pace – but people need time to adapt and working hours need to be structured in such a way which allows them to do so. At the same time, we can see that the work is adapting, with differences in work demands becoming more pronounced. This is not a trend we can necessarily link to specific professions or age (any more).

Focus on people, their health and their needs

In your opinion, what is the most important part of occupational safety?

First and foremost, work should be structured in such a manner that it is people-focused. This means that it must not cause any serious effects or harm and should instead preserve and promote the employees’ wellbeing and identity. Consequently, occupational safety should focus on people, their health and their needs.

Dr. Anita Tisch, Interview 2021
Dr. Anita Tisch
Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (BAuA)

Dr. Anita Tisch is a trained sociologist and head of the research group "Changing World of Work" at the German Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.