Key trends and drivers of change in Information and Communication Technologies and Work Location

2017 – The European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) published a Working paper, reporting ‘Foresights on new and emerging risks in Occupational Safety and Health’.


Main objectives

European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) has commissioned a foresight project on ICT and work location.

This project is made up of three work packages. The objective of Work Package 1 is to identify the key trends and drivers of change in ICT and work location. The objective of Work Package 2 is to use the key trends identified during Work Package 1 to develop and test scenarios of the future that will allow policy-makers to consider a range of potential future OSH implications. The objective of Work Package 3 is to disseminate the scenarios developed in Work Package 2 to policy-makers and other interested stakeholders.

This report is the final report on Work Package 1. It describes the process by which the key trends and drivers were identified. The process was broken down into three distinct tasks. The objective of Task 1 was to identify a wide range of relevant trends and drivers through horizon scanning. The objective of Task 2 was to consolidate the trends and drivers through consultation with experts via telephone interviews and a two-stage Delphi-like web survey. The objective of Task 3 was to select those trends and drivers considered to be the key ones via debate at a mini-workshop of the project team and a small number of invited experts. This report (on the completed Work Package 1) is structured so that each task is described in turn, first the method used and then the results obtained. The results from all three tasks are then discussed overall and conclusions drawn with a view to the implications of the results for Work Package 2.

Main findings

The primary benefits of ICT applications are removing people from hazardous environments and providing new opportunities for communicating good OSH practice. The risks are mainly psychosocial (e.g. relating to the emotional and cognitive load associated with the 24/7 economy, permanent connectivity, loss of traditional working hierarchies and social interaction at work) and ergonomic (e.g. relating to the increase in the use of mobile devices and new human-machine interfaces). Many comments made during consultations were about work-related stress. There were also comments about bullying and discrimination and whether the new types of jobs and working patterns would provide sufficient employment to provide workers with a living wage.

A major challenge for the application of employment and social security laws, as well as for education and training approaches, relates to a more diverse and less well-defined workforce and to changes introducing more flexible working patterns, which are expected to be brought about by an increase in the prevalence and spread of ICT-enabled technologies (ICT-ETs). This is because ICT-ETs allow work to be done virtually anywhere and at any time, and it is expected to fundamentally change traditional employer-employee relationships.

Although the spread and prevalence of ICT-ETs are currently varied across sectors, ICT is now generally seen to be part of many sectors rather than as a sector of its own, and ICT-ETs are expected to continue to increase across them all, although not necessarily uniformly.


European Agency for Safety and Health at Work. ‘Key trends and drivers of change in information and communication technologies and work location’.

Authors: Nicola Stacey, Peter Ellwood and Sam Bradbrook (Foresight Centre (HSL)), John Reynolds and Huw Williams (SAMI Consulting Limited). Working Report. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union, 2017. ISBN: 978-92-9496-382-6