International Worker’s Day on May 1st is a time to celebrate the blue-collar worker. This year they deserve even more credit. Because they suffer the most at the hands of the COVID-19 pandemic. So, let’s seize this opportunity to lend a helping hand and put them where they belong: in the center of our attention.
“We’re all in this together” – a motto devised as a source of motivation and inspiration is increasingly meeting with resistance. Some say it is turning into a platitude. There is no doubt that COVID-19 is hitting the traditional workers particularly hard. Frontline workers are in the field, exposing themselves to risks that white-collar workers may not experience or even understand. Social distancing is challenging when workspaces do not, and perhaps cannot, accommodate it.
A new class conflict – with white-collars on the one side and blue-collars on the other – may take shape in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic. Along those lines some news commentators are beginning to link the rapid spread of the virus to business globalization and international (holiday) trips. This narrative assigns the blame to the white-collar workers. Moreover, it adds a scornful tone to the debate. But fierce rhetoric and confrontations will not help resolve the underlying issue.
Neither will protectionism be an answer. Many supply chains will and must remain global. This is a question of mitigating risk, because suppliers want to be able to balance and distribute operations among multiple sites. It makes sense then, to remember that human workers provide value well beyond what we typically see at face value: So, let us use this International Worker’s Day to explore the human work and the contributions they provide.
To put human workers at the center is a sensible business case
No matter how you look at it: Business is about people. It’s about demand, it’s about investment decisions, and it is certainly about work conditions. So, people should be at the center of economic considerations. More so since they have a decisive advantage over machines: they can process information on the fly without additional training for the precise situation at hand. A human worker who stops will not trigger an immediate shut down of the succinct process. Obviously, things are fundamentally different with machines in that sense.
Connecting both sides via an adequate interface will therefore add a crucial value. Tools that strengthen the human worker, relieve them, improve the quality of their work and thus lead them to more efficiency are one way to allow for that. Industrial wearables can be that interface. Examples include pick-by-voice systems, smart glasses or glove scanners with integrated displays. All of them can provide warning messages, supply relevant information and connect the human workers tightly with other factory systems. In addition, they can improve work ergonomics and thus reduce sickness-related downtime. Their primary task is to improve the work environment and the well-being of the frontline worker. Not only because it keeps us together, but also because it is a sound business decision that pays off quickly.