New Work:
Welcome to the Workplace of the Future!

The key question of where and when we work has changed considerably as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. But experts are sure that this trend will continue after the pandemic and redefine our daily work.

In today’s cultures the workplace has become the centre of life. The workplace can now either become a substitute for the lost leisure activities or must take a less important part of life to provide balance. The New Work approach assumes that people should (re)gain their freedom while developing as personalities within the framework of the company. With New Work, the focus is therefore no longer on productivity, but on personal development.

What is New Work?

The New Work concept goes back to the American social philosopher Frithjof Bergmann and refers to a change in the world of work that, to a certain extent, reverses capitalist models of work (“old work”). Instead of seeing work as a means to an end, people and their needs come to the fore. The concept is also called “Work 4.0” and implicates that people are “not living to work but rather working to live”.

“It is human nature to create things, not to sit in an office from nine to five.”

Richard David Precht, Philosopher and Publicist

Implementation of New Work

  • Agility: Business processes need to be flexible and agile in order to adapt them quickly to changes and unforeseen events. A corporate culture that is based on trust and regular feedback is important to develop a tolerance for mistakes and ensures the breaking out of old habits and routines.
  • New office concepts: Flexible and remote workplaces encourage communication, creativity and fresh perspectives. Sit-stand desks, shared desks, collaboration rooms, quiet areas and privacy booths diversify the workplace and enable the employees to choose their own preferences.
  • Flat hierarchies: Short decision paths, democratic leadership, freedom of action within the area of responsibility and appreciation help to create an environment that meets the employee’s needs.
  • Job rotation: Job rotation is about employees getting to know other areas of work in the organization. This ranges from a short trial period to a complete role change for a fixed period of time. Employees develop their skills and become more flexible. This makes it possible to bridge short-term personnel bottlenecks. It also creates a sense of teamwork, which in turn leads to greater motivation and productivity in day-to-day work.
  • Job sharing: This concept implies that two or more people share a job. However, job sharing is not the same as part-time work. Individual employees must work together as a team and independently allocate working hours and tasks. As a team, they bear responsibility for their shared role.
  • Digital nomadism: Digital nomads do not have a fixed place of residence and are always on the move. They have their laptops with them so they can do their work on the road. Thanks to suitable technologies and digital communication with the rest of the team, they are completely flexible in terms of working hours and location.
  • Fluid Teams: Depending on the project, teams can be put together anew. They work together for as long as is necessary for the project. Afterwards, the teams are swapped again and tasks are redistributed. In this way, a wide variety of employees come into contact with each other and can expand their knowledge.

Limits of New Work

  • Because of more flexibility employees must have the ability to take responsibility, be self-organizing and disciplined.
  • New work requires organisation, structure and coordination to meet the needs of the employees and the company. Rules must be installed to avoid chaos and abuse.
  • Experts warn against the “all-time availability of employees” Some employees will struggle to separate work and leisure time.
  • Until now, there are still no long-term studies on whether this concept makes companies more successful in the long term. Putting employees needs first motivates them, and keeps them satisfied. But some experts warn that the site of the customer should not get lost.

Examples of New Work best practices

  • Perpetual Guardian: The company in New Zealand switched to a 4-day-week and reports of greater satisfaction, less stress, more time for the family and more profit for the company.
  • Emagnetix: the online marketing agency based in Upper Austria moved to a 30-hour week with a full-time salary.
  • Salesforce: The cloud-based software company stated that “the 9 to 5 workday is dead” and provides their employees the three ways to work: fully remote, office-based or a flexible mix.

In summary, the concept of New Work focuses on the employees in the company and their potential personal and professional development. The concept encourages digitalization, innovation and autonomy.

To implement the concept, the whole culture and mindset of a company needs to change. Structures have to dissolve and the idea of New Work needs to be lived by every manager and employee.

Article written by Bianca Altendorfer, MSc, CFR Global Executive Search Austria

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