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What is New Work? Everything you need to know

Digital TransformationNew Work

What is New Work?

Ora et labora – pray and work. This principle dates back to the Middle Ages and was used as a maxim by the Benedictine monks. A life filled exclusively with work and faith. Today, however, this model no longer fits in with our concept of work. Many people wish to realize themselves with their work, therefore a suitable motto could be “live and work”.

New Work is the epitome of structural change in the world of work. It is assumed that the previous work system is outdated. The new keyword is freedom. It is a collective term for meaningful and forward-looking work, a concept for a new way of working in the global and digital age. The demands on the employer, the workplace and the image of the employee are completely new.

What is it about (roughly)?

New Work is about leadership at eye level, appreciation and less to-do lists. It is not only open-plan offices and mobile work, nor is it necessarily free of hierarchy. It means employee-centred work and leadership, and takes into account the balance of all interests. New ways and free spaces for creativity and development are to be offered. Self-determined action is in the foreground, because rigid working methods are no longer up to date.

Triggers for a new way of life and culture of work

The digital transformation of the world of work entails a change. New technologies make it possible to manufacture products that are almost perfectly adapted to specific customer wishes and needs. From personalized cola bottles to Nike shoes to individual software solutions. Nowadays, every single product can be precisely tailored to its customers’ needs. It becomes more difficult to differentiate oneself by the cost factor alone through standardized products from mass production. Because customer-centric products are becoming an increasingly central component to stand out from the competition. This development also influences production decisions and processes.

Nowadays it is essential to continuously develop and improve your products. New technologies enable ever faster, better and cheaper innovations. This makes it easier for new companies to enter the market and creates more and more global competition. Work processes must therefore become faster and more dynamic. Creative work, innovation and flexibility of employees are becoming more and more important, as the automation of process steps eliminates many monotonous, routine and trivial tasks.

In addition, the so-called “war of talents” is a term that every HR professional is familiar with. The shortage of skilled workers strengthens the negotiating position of employees and they can place higher demands on employers. Here, companies can see the implementation of New Work as an opportunity to attract and retain talent by enabling meaningful work and identification for their employees through a new understanding of work.

Another aspect is that collaboration within the company is becoming increasingly essential. Due to the ever faster technological change, the half-life of knowledge, i.e. the period in which knowledge is current, is decreasing more and more. The required knowledge can hardly be covered and paused by a single person anymore. Therefore it is simply the only solution, if individuals work together, since by the collaboration much more knowledge covers and up-to-date can be held.

Most recently, new technologies all have in common that they can be produced in a small space. Part of the new world of work therefore means that many things no longer have to be produced industrially in large factory halls, but can be produced in a small space. This also makes it possible for more and more companies to be founded.

“To work, to create something, to realize oneself lies in the nature of man. To sit in an office from nine to five and not get paid for it”, as philosopher Richard David Precht writes in his book “Jäger, Hirten, Kritiker”.

Where does the term come from?

The social philosopher Prof. Dr. Frithjof Bergmann first named the concept New Work. He dealt with the philosophical question of human freedom and assumed that the previous job system had come to an end. For a long time, beginning with the industrial revolution, there were precise divisions of labour, fixed and clear hierarchies and fixed time structures. This has contributed to the standardization of work processes. However, work has changed dramatically in recent years – away from pure routine to non-routine activities. For example, routine administrative work can be replaced by expert systems based on big data and intelligent algorithms. Another example is the increased use of robots in manufacturing plants.

Therefore, New Work is above all a promise for the future, which tries to meet the individual demands of many. It begins with the question of what you really want to do. It is a combination of self-realization, self-determination and self-sufficiency.

How can you implement the New Work transformation?

Kienbaum stated in the “New Work Pulse Check” that 63% of respondents have started initiatives to establish a form of New Work in their companies. The focus is on the change in corporate culture and the use of mobile technologies.

But how can a company implement this change? Unfortunately, there are no step-by-step instructions, because New Work is not a standardized process, but a culture and leadership attitude. Therefore no to-do list can be prescribed – the change has to happen bottom up and top down and is individual for each company. In order to remain successful in the future, companies have to deal with New Work. They must modernize their culture and leadership, because the following generations X and Y strive for a sense of their tasks.

To implement New Work, one must first understand that the basic idea of it is to enable people to find meaning in what they are doing.

This can be achieved by enabling everyone to work self-organized and to pursue personal goals that intrinsically motivate them. In order to achieve this, the right structures must be created. Organizational hierarchies should be dismantled and organizations should transform themselves into a network organization, since control and micromanagement of tasks destroy self-organization and thus one cannot pursue one’s own goals.

So that employees can pursue their own goals and thus intrinsically motivate themselves, appropriate framework conditions must be created. Objectives and Key Results (OKRs), for example, can make a contribution to this. A management framework that allows goals to be set both bottom up and top down. This mutual goal-setting process enables identification with the goals and can at the same time provide intrinsic motivation.

Finally, the way of thinking about leadership has to change. The task of a manager is no longer simply to delegate tasks in order to control them afterwards. He should act like a coach and mentor. Modern leadership consists of self-organized teams, which are empowered and supported by leaders.

4 starting dimensions for New Work – The Detecon approach

Detecon, the consulting division of Telekom, defines four starting dimensions for New Work, all of which are relevant and must be designed together as an overall picture: People, Places, Tools and Principles & Regulations. These four components must fit in with the company’s strategy to create a new culture that promotes change, enables it and breaks open silos. The focus is on aligning the work environment with the tasks of the employees to create an environment of individuality, flexibility, creativity, communication and collaboration. Furthermore, customer expectations are changing. There are several tools that help with this transformation. Every company has to find the right concept for implementation.

In the organization, the following three roles can help:

  • Enabler: New Work must be established in the company so that employees can work on creative new business ideas.
  • Catalyst: New Work creates a common understanding of values, which is the foundation for the new and agile cooperation. (New Work principles and building blocks)
  • Link: with each division of the units, the basic principles of New Work should be passed on. This allows collaboration within different units.

Exemplary New Work instruments 

There are many tools and frameworks to implement New Work in your company. For each organization there are different approaches, which is why we have put together a list of possible instruments.

  • Creative spaces
  • Democratic leadership culture
  • Flexibilisation of structures, thought patterns and habits
  • Fast decision rooms
  • Work location flexibilisation
    • Home Office
    • Remote work
  • Working time flexibilisation
    • Part time
    • Flexitime
    • Job sharing
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