Strong impulses for digitization, less for sustainability

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Respondents from business and science expect a lasting trend towards the home of

Respondents from business and science expect a lasting trend towards the home office. Image: bongkarn thanyakij / pexels.com

Survey on impact of the corona crisis on the economy

The digital transformation in companies is being accelerated by the corona crisis - current trends towards greater sustainability and a changed economic order are likely to be only temporary, however. This prognosis is the result of a survey of more than 200 experts on digitization, artificial intelligence and technology in Germany by the Technical University of Munich (TUM), the Bertelsmann Foundation and the Münchner Kreis.

Less travel, more remote work: The corona crisis has forced employees to become more sustainable in their everyday work. Economic and scientific experts doubt, however, that this will remain so in the long term. This is the conclusion of a survey on the impact of the Covid19 pandemic on the world of work recently conducted by a team at the TUM Campus Heilbronn together with the Bertelsmann Foundation and the Münchner Kreis.

Only 17 % of the 211 experts surveyed expect that people will continue to follow a more sustainable lifestyle after the crisis is overcome. Only 13 % of respondents expect traffic volumes to remain low. Similarly, deceleration and solidarity are seen as temporary phenomena by 22 % and 30 % respectively.

The same applies to state interventions: Despite the massive economic stimulus measures of the federal government, only about one quarter of respondents forecast a higher long-term regulation by the state. A minority of 23 % believes in a changed economic order due to the crisis.

Ole Wintermann, labor expert at the Bertelsmann Foundation, had this to say: "It is noticeable that the respondents classify the corona-induced developments towards more sustainability in day-to-day work rather as a flash in the pan than an ongoing change in thinking. Much will depend on whether economic and political decision-makers have recognized the potential of digital working for sustainable development and will thus promote corresponding initiatives in the future or not."

Digital applications implemented or expanded in the course of the crisis are here to stay, agree the surveyed experts. 92 % of respondents are certain: The Covid19 pandemic has accelerated digital transformation within companies. In particular, they believe that digital services and customer communication channels as well as work models outside of the office will continue to be used more intensively even after the pandemic. Up to 85 % of respondents expect remote work and virtual conferences to become the norm rather than the exception. Not only does the exercise of the profession now occur digitally, but also more flexible in terms of time and location, says the majority of surveyed experts. In addition, at 41 %, they are predominantly of the opinion that more work is done working from home rather than in the office.

Helmut Krcmar , Founding Dean of the TUM Campus Heilbronn and co-author of the study, appeals to companies to set the course for post-Corona already: "Many tendencies that we are currently witnessing within companies will continue to exist even after this acute crisis situation has subsided. Above all, the trend towards working outside of the office will significantly change the future organization of work processes. This means a huge change, e.g. when it comes to leadership, especially for traditional and hierarchically structured companies."

Ole Wintermann adds: "The success factor of digitization is becoming even more important, in the current situation and beyond. In many organizations, we are going to see completely new and diverse concepts in which attendance times and remote working seamlessly intertwine. Companies that had not yet established a digital work and trust culture before the crisis are now threatening to fall further behind." According to the expert of the Bertelsmann Foundation, especially the non-manufacturing industries are currently facing major challenges, having to digitize work processes within a very short time frame.

A fairly clear picture emerges when assessing which economic sectors will benefit on the long term from the crisis. 98 % of the experts see the telecommunications and IT sectors as the clear winners. With 94 %, the respondents almost unanimously hypothesize positive effects of the pandemic on the health care sector and the chemical and pharmaceutical industry. The long-term losers, they reckon, include tourism, gastronomy and aviation as well as the automotive industry. Opinions regarding the prospects of banks, insurance companies and the transport business are divided. With regard to the situation of her own employer, more than half of the respondents expect their respective organizations to deal with and overcome the consequences of the pandemic by the end of 2021.

Despite the widespread agreement that digital technologies and virtual working methods will shape day-to-day work in many professions in the future, doubts prevail about the fundamental willingness of organizations and actors to change. Almost one third of those surveyed believe that people will fall back into old habits once the pandemic is overcome. 27 % are convinced of the opposite.

"Business, politics and society are called upon to make use of this time of upheaval. The positive changes for the world of work triggered and accelerated due to the crisis should be maintained and consolidated. In view of the changing work environment it is becoming increasingly important to strike a balance between the needs of employees and the economic interests of the company", summarizes Helmut Krcmar.

Helmut Krcmar, Ole Wintermann: Studie zu den Auswirkungen der Corona-Pandemie in gesellschaftlicher, wirtschaftlicher und technologischer Hinsicht im Rahmen der MÜNCHNER KREIS Zukunftsstudie VIII: Leben, Arbeit, Bildung 2035+


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