In recent decades, our society has developed at a rapid pace. This also applies to the professional world. Old structures are outdated. Employers and employees yearn for modern and more flexible ways of working that make everyday working life easier. For this reason, the concept of New Work was developed, which now has numerous supporters.
However, New Work is much more than just a technology for modernising the world of work. It is a complex system that offers numerous opportunities, but also a few stumbling blocks. In the following, we will look at how New Work works and what companies and employees need to bear in mind.
What is New Work?
New Work means something like "new work". This designation aptly expresses the purpose of the concept. Digitization and globalization require a new understanding of everyday work, which includes above all Self-employment and Freedom of the employees and a communal togetherness count. These three aspects are considered the most important values of the New Work concept.
The idea comes from the Austro-American social philosopher Frithjof Bergmann, who in the 1980s wanted to develop a counter-concept to the outdated form of capitalism. Bergmann believes that the changing world should offer workers the chance to escape the bondage of wage labour. His concept is already proving successful in numerous companies.
New Work is now used as an umbrella term for all innovations in work attitudes and work design. In summary, the concept focuses on the needs of employees. Accordingly, each individual employee should be treated as a free individual with the opportunity for self-realization.
Common examples of New Work are the 6-hour day, freelancing and co-working. We will go into this in more detail later.
Concepts of New Work: How can it work?
As already mentioned, the term New Work covers all employee-friendly innovations in everyday working life. This can include various work concepts, which we would like to present in more detail below.
Important to know: Whether all or only some of the following concepts can be implemented ultimately depends on the company structure.
Anyone who has to spend the entire working day in the office from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. is left with little personal freedom. Advocates of the New Work concept believe that permanent presence at the workplace is no longer necessary in our digitalized world. Even in the context of larger projects, it is no longer uncommon for employees to sit around the globe.
The home office is also becoming increasingly important, not least due to the current pandemic situation. Nowadays, all the technical possibilities are available to work productively from any location - alone or in a team. In this way, employees gain more flexibility, which in turn boosts motivation. In addition, the stressful commute through rush-hour traffic is avoided.
Abolition of open-plan offices
Anyone who has ever worked in an open-plan office knows that in most cases it is not possible to concentrate there permanently. This is mainly due to the noise level, which cannot be avoided when a hundred people share a room. Our psyche perceives the restlessness as subtle permanent stress, which can be has been shown to have a negative impact on health.
More and more companies are therefore implementing the New Workspace concept, which has little in common with the classic office space. The office of the future is a type of office landscape that fulfils various needs-based framework conditions.
Telephone boxes are available for telephone services, where calls can be made without any background noise. There are quiet zones that ensure undisturbed work. In addition, of course, open areas where employees can exchange ideas should not be missing.
More personal responsibility
Brave employees who carry out instructions from above without questioning are undesirable in New Work. Instead, everyone is allowed and expected to take the initiative for their own career and for the success of the company. This goes hand in hand with employees setting priorities on their own responsibility: What needs to be done right away and what can wait? The decision is made by everyone themselves.
With regard to working hours, the focus is also on personal responsibility. Can I really afford to finish work early if task x is still unfinished? The New Work concept is based on the fact that employees are adults who have responsible make decisions can.
As the term already suggests, in the case of the Job sharing several employees a job. The advantage of this model is the concentrated pooling of expertise for the tasks and responsibilities involved.
Application of agile methods
Agility means reacting flexibly to changes. Rigid work rules are in contradiction to this. New Work therefore relies on agile methods such as Kanban or Scrum. If agility is implemented across departments, one speaks of an agile organization.
Agility in business essentially includes the following six factors:
- Flexible target image
- Flexible organizational culture
- Employee-centered understanding of leadership
- Customer-oriented organizational structure
- Flexible personnel and management instruments
- Iteration (repeating processes until they work)
Appreciative error culture
Appreciative communication plays a key role in New Work. This also applies to dealing with mistakes. Instead of issuing warnings, the error is questioned at eye level: What information was missing? How can mistakes be avoided in the future?
Important to know: New Work involves much more than the examples explained above. The core topics are Self-organization, relationships and incentive systems as well as the agile reorganization within the company.
What advantages does New Work offer?
New Work offers a lot of advantages, especially from the employee's point of view. Among the fundamental values of New Work Methods count:
- Community togetherness
Other bonus points include:
More freedom on the job
New Work gives employees greater scope for decision-making as well as growing opportunities to exert influence. Instead of bluntly carrying out the instructions of their superiors, employees are encouraged to think for themselves. This also brings various advantages for the company. Motivated employees who are allowed to develop and contribute ideas allow a company to flourish economically.
This is clear, inter alia, from the HR Report 2021 on the subject of New Work.
Self-determination for mental health
Constant pressure to perform and a boss who looks over your shoulder every five minutes? That doesn't exist (anymore) with New Work. Nevertheless, New Work employees are more efficient than the average. This is because they are valued and asked for their opinion. Those who feel taken seriously are more motivated and perform better voluntarily.
Maybe you know the feeling of having to do a job out of economic necessity that you basically don't like. The permanent external determination can make you ill in the long run. New Work aims to protect the well-being and mental health of employees. Self-determination instead of being a puppet: that's the motto.
Variable working conditions
Monotony at the workplace is a thing of the past. With the New Work concept, the workplace is adapted to the current task so that it can be completed in the best possible way. This includes, for example, the home office and changed working hours. A new division in the office (e.g. for a team project) is also possible.
Reconciliation of family and career
The optimal compatibility of family and work counts as the strongest argument of all proponents of New Work. Decentralised working allows parents to look after their children during holidays or school absences, for example. In earlier times, women in particular had to choose between having a child and a career. With New Work, both are possible without having to cut back in one area.
Since the focus is on the individual employee with his or her individual needs, competition is eliminated. Everyone is allowed to realise their professional potential in the way they want. No one takes an opportunity away from the other. In New Work, all employees pull together to advance the company. A common goal unites them, which contributes to stronger internal cohesion.
With New Work, the classic hierarchical structures are eliminated, which is referred to in technical jargon as Holocracy or as collegial management designated.
Instead of showing dominance, transparent and open communication is cultivated. This means that every opinion counts. Objections are taken seriously and examined, regardless of the position in which one finds oneself. Together as a team, solutions are developed that satisfy everyone involved.
Incentive to attract employees
New Work is also associated with numerous advantages from the employer's point of view. The concept of self-fulfillment makes the workplace attractive, especially for young talent. However, New Work not only helps to attract high-performing employees, but also to bind them to the company in the long term.
People who feel good at their jobs are self-explanatorily less likely to think about changing jobs.
Critical voices about New Work
New Work is often propagated as the ultimate solution to dissatisfaction in the workplace. Despite all the popularity, however, critical voices are being raised again and again. Does the modern working world really function without classic hierarchy or does everything sink into chaos? Skeptics fear the latter.
Finally, one must not forget that New Work requires optimal organization and coordination. Which employee is currently working from where? At what time can everyone come together for an important meeting? It can happen that you get bogged down as an organizer. In the worst case, this has fatal consequences for the work result (e.g. missed deadlines).
Critics also point out that New Work blurs the boundaries between work and leisure. Although integrating work flexibly into everyday life (e.g. through home office) brings practical advantages, the areas are no longer clearly demarcated from one another. The latter can lead to employees finding themselves in permanent standby mode.
Does New Work really make companies more successful?
Another point of criticism is the question of the extent to which companies actually benefit from the flexibility concept. Prioritizing the needs of employees may well boost motivation and improve the working atmosphere, but it is not uncommon for the market and customers to be neglected in the process.
From a business perspective, ensuring customer satisfaction should be top of mind. A company with happy employees is all well and good, but without customers no business can survive for long. The goal should be to find an acceptable middle ground. Properly implemented, one does not have to exclude the other.
What is work-life blending?
Everyone has certainly heard of work-life balance. The situation is different with Work-Life Blending off. Whereas with the Work-life balance While leisure time and work are clearly demarcated from each other, professional and private activities overlap when blending. This is due to the maximum flexibility of the New Work concept, which is intended to make working possible at any time and in any place.
At any time and any place: that also means at home, on the weekend or even on vacation. Whether work-life blending can be classified as positive or harmful is a matter of debate among experts. Ultimately, the positive benefit depends on whether the employee finds a rhythm that fits his or her daily routine.
Personal mentality also plays a role: while some people cope well with the blurred boundaries between leisure and work, other employees need clear time off.
Does New Work have a future?
Whether New Work will become established across the board in the future can only be conjectured at this point in time. Even though there is a growing awareness of the need for more personal initiative and self-realization, wage labor with its classic hierarchical structures still dominates, especially in Germany. Nevertheless, there are indications that New Work could soon become established here as well.
The main argument is the constantly advancing digitalization, which makes New Work possible in the first place. Processes that used to require a great deal of effort now run automatically. While this eliminates jobs, it creates new tasks that require the corresponding technical expertise. The workplace of the future no longer requires office presence and hierarchies.
As things stand at present, it is therefore quite possible that the change to widespread New Work will take place within the next few decades. From the employee's point of view in particular, this forecast is a positive one. Free thinking and self-realization instead of working according to the rules: This not only promotes the willingness to perform, but also ensures inner satisfaction.
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