New Work – more than just a short-term trend?


New Work is currently on everyone’s lips and is seen by many as the answer to the demands of the modern working world. It is hoped that this will lead to more flexibility, fewer hierarchies and participation in decision-making. However, this requires a genuine cultural change in companies.

Many still have misconceptions about New Work. The term is often associated with trendy start-ups, where hip offices offer 10 different types of cereal and post-its are stuck to the glass walls everywhere. This cliché is long outdated. New Work is increasingly spreading throughout Germany, in companies of all sizes.

Many companies are focusing on open office concepts and workplace autonomy. This means that anyone who comes into the office sits down where a team task is currently pending and where they are needed.

Since the pandemic, home office in combination with flexible working hours has also become increasingly popular. The same applies to job sharing, where you share a management position, for example. 

Some companies are even going one step further

They are reducing hierarchies and relying on the fact that decisions that were previously made solely by the boss are now shifted to the employees. The teams work together toward a common goal and must organize themselves in this regard. 

Two very radical models are holocracy and sociocracy. Here, the complete decision-making power is transferred to the group and the company is run democratically by executives. However, these models tend to be the exception.

The New Work model is spreading in more and more companies in Germany. This was the result of a survey conducted by the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering in Stuttgart on behalf of the German Federal Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs.

It’s time for new work models

Originally, the idea of agile working came from the IT industry, where the aim was to develop software faster. Today, agile refers to the state of constant change in the world of work.

Did you know that the term “New Work” can be traced back to the Austrian-American social philosopher Frithjof Bergmann?

It was he who worked with the unemployed in the American automotive industry in the 1980s, looking for a way for employees to find their work worthy and meaningful. As you can see, people have been working on this topic for quite a long time.

He developed a 3-pillar model in which wage work, community work and work that people really want to do complement each other. Nowadays, people have often moved away from this concept.

Implementation is not always possible

Introducing new structures is a good first step, but it is not enough, because the psychological empowerment of employees also plays an important role. To achieve real cultural change, it is critically important that employees feel that their work is meaningful and that they perceive themselves as self-determined, competent and influential. So it’s not enough to simply flatten hierarchies. Quite the opposite. If leadership tasks suddenly land with the team, this could quickly lead to conflicts. 

In some companies (e.g., nursing homes, daycare centers, etc.), physical presence is required, making home offices and flexible working hours simply not feasible. For the trade unions, occupational health and safety also play a centrally important role, because self-determination in the New Work model must not ultimately lead to self-exploitation of employees. It is enormously important to the unions that working hours are recorded. Flexibility and freedom are all well and good, as long as the employee does not suffer in the end.

Benefit for young workers

New Work is popularly used these days to “lure” new employees into the company. It makes a company much more attractive to many young people. Good pay has long ceased to be the decisive reason for applying for a job. Today, people also pay attention to the work-life balance and whether the job is meaningful. In the end, the conditions simply have to be right. 

There is a lot of potential for companies in the New Work model, because it has been proven that it can lead to less depression, later retirement and innovation. And, of course, it’s also about being successful in the new world of work.

Feel free to share your opinion on the topic with us on social media.

* Source: Tagesschau

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