Welcome to New Work: The Workplace of the Future
It comes to be seen whether business as usual will return after the crisis. An opportunity for creating a new future is presenting itself. The crisis has forced people around the work to reconsider how and where they work. Could the corona crisis clear the way for new work?
What Is New Work?
“New work” is an umbrella term for far-reaching changes in the world of work. New work implies “working to live instead of living to work.” Also called “work 4.0”, it describes the framework conditions for how you can work and live in a society characterised by digitalisation and globalisation. The social philosopher Frithjof Bergmann founded the “new work” movement as the antidote to “old work”, which he sees as an antiquated system rooted in capitalism that deadens people. By contrast, meaningful “new work” fills people with life because it meets their needs for freedom and autonomy.
Values, Methods, and Techniques
New work is more than a new technique for modernising work and making it easier. The concept also goes beyond enjoying work. A foosball table does not help someone reach their potential and a fruit basket does not make them part of a community. New work represents not just new working methods and technologies, but rather an ongoing transformation, a focus on employees’ needs, and a corresponding leadership culture. A company’s “why” has a symbiotic relationship to the employee’s “why” and “how”. New work asks:
- Why do we do what we do as a company?
- Why are you here?
- How do we want to achieve our goals as a company?
- What contribution do you want to make and how?
“It is human nature to create things, not to sit in an office from nine to five.”
Companies that take a new work approach create an environment in which people are productive and autonomous while simultaneously part of a network. This demands the following:
- Flat hierarchies: Democratic leadership culture, open communication, short decision paths, employee self-efficacy, freedom of action within the area of responsibility, trust, appreciation
- Agility: Business processes designed so they can be adapted quickly to unforeseen events and new demands. Important are regular feedback, a culture of trust, tolerance of errors, and breaking out of silos and departments.
- Individuality: Employees are included in the development of strategies and decide their performance and training goals themselves. Job rotation and changing up tasks ensure more freedom.
- New office concepts: Flexible workspaces encourage communication and creativity in interdisciplinary and virtual teams. Quiet rooms make it possible to focus.
Instead of squeezing concepts from new work into old habits, make sure that breathing room for autonomy, co-creation, creativity, and personal development arise. Work should not be a boring activity employees force themselves to do in order to earn a living, but rather something that gives life meaning and fulfilment. When it comes to these new forms of work, start-ups tend to be the pioneers, but more traditional companies are beginning to follow suit. After all, generations X, Y, and Z are beginning to demand that their work meet their individual needs.
5 Differences between Old Work and New Work
How do you make sure that your new work does not turn into old work remotely? Pay attention to these five key differences.
- Employees’ work-life-balance must remain in focus. The purposefulness of a job is critical, as is a good mixture of work and leisure. Simply earning a living no longer suffices.
- Keeping employees, not just recruiting them, must come into focus. Employee satisfaction, a good employee experience, continuing education, interesting projects, and working in strengths (also in an interdisciplinary way) are in demand, as are flexibility and openness.
- Digitalisation links processes together along with making them more transparent and efficient. There must be a technical infrastructure for sharing information with colleagues from other departments and automating time-consuming routine tasks.
- Flexible working hours and locations must replace inflexible schedules and presenteeism. Trust must be the dominating factor and mobile work should be available to lower-skilled employees.
- Companies with hierarchical leadership styles are losing attractiveness in the war for talents. Implement new work approaches now to be future-ready.
Why New Work Is the Megatrend in Coming Years
… and what opportunities new work presents for recruiting:
As Fithjof Bergmann told the Austrian daily Der Standard, many companies have recognised that “happy employees who identify with their professions are significantly more efficient, more reliable, and more responsible.” Neurobiologists, psychologists, and behavioural researchers have been able to show that employees who have had to adapt to working solely according to set patterns do not create economic success for employers. Employers that offer jobs with autonomy, purpose, and opportunities to identify yourself with the job are the ones who keep employees engaged. Employers that do not offer such jobs suffer from increasing, expensive employee turnover that reduces productivity.
It is not just values that are changing; demographics are also changing in full swing. Society is aging. Generations Y and Z have significantly few children. The result is a shortage of skilled workers and fewer good talents than open positions. Employees should react with good and authentic employer branding along with employee retention programs. Businesses that continually strive to be the most attractive employers in their industries profit from increasing innovation power and employee engagement. That leads in turn to more satisfied customers and thus competitiveness.
This means for recruiters that only those companies will survive that are so attractive that they can find the best talents regardless of location and which can fill a talent pool with more candidates than can be found in a 30 km radius of the company headquarters.
How to Implement New Work
The implementation process must be initiated and accompanied by management. HR provides know-how for shaping the concrete changes, and team leaders translate the know-how into day-to-day work. Each employee becomes leader in their specific area.
Examples of Best Practices
- eMagnetix, an online marketing agency in Upper Austria, moved to a 30-hour week with a full-time salary in 2018.
- At the German condom manufacturer, einhorn, employees decide on salaries, vacation days, and tasks together in small groups.
- The German Bakery Leonhardt launched new production times, a five-day week, and flexible shift planning. Since then they also bake during the day. The more attractive working hours help with the shortage of qualified employees.
The Limits of New Work
Can new work really function in practice? There are disadvantages, too.
- New work depends on employees having a great deal of discipline and self-management.
- New work requires excellent organisation and coordination to meet the needs of all employees. If there is not enough structure, everything can end up in chaos.
- Critics fear that employees will always be available and that they will struggle to separate work and leisure time.
- The biggest question is whether new work makes companies more successful. Putting employees in focus makes sense, motivates them, and keeps them satisfied. But you cannot lose site of the customer. To put it bluntly, a business is successful when it meets the expectations of its customers.
New Work Glossary
- Agile work:
- Form of work that does not consist of working strictly according to a fixed plan. Instead, the focus is on the joint understanding of the desired results and the focus is on optimising the process in an ongoing manner.
- Holacracy method:
- A kind of boss-free organisation invented by the American businessman Brian Robertson. Holacratic companies are organised in circles consisting of certain roles or responsibilities. Each circle has a purpose assigned by its broader circle. An employee may take on several roles in different circles, each of which is self-organised.
- Job crafting:
- Employees shape their jobs individually and focus on tasks that match well to their skills, strengths, and needs. Google takes this approach
- A time model in which two or more employees share a fulltime job.
- New leadership:
- Division of decision-making power amongst different people in different constellations, depending on the task or project.