Historical Origin of New Work
When defining New Work, it's essential to differentiate between a historical definition attributed to the Austrian social philosopher Frithjof Bergmann and the contemporary use of the term.
Frithjof Bergmann visited Eastern Bloc countries in the late 1970s and concluded that the socialism he encountered was not sustainable. In response to this political issue, he developed the concept of New Work. For him, New Work translated into the end of traditional wage labor, and instead people only engaging in work they "really, really want to do." The process involved developing technological progress to account for the remaining work. Consequently, individuals would only do work they genuinely desired, a concept he termed "High-Tech Self-Providing."
Contemporary Use of New Work
In today's working world, New Work is a widely discussed concept, although it's not primarily treated as a political alternative to socialism, as Bergmann initially intended. The modern definition of New Work is more focused on work methods and models that align with values that have emerged as a result of digitization and globalization. The following are some of these values:
- Flatter hierarchies
These principles can be partly, though not exclusively, attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic. As early as 2018, Hays' "HR-Report 2018" study found that most employees had the following expectations regarding corporate culture:
- Employee responsibility
- Team self-organization capability
- Cross-hierarchical communication
- Open discussion of critical issues
- Greater employee involvement
- Breaking down rigid decision-making structures
The goal of work practices encompassed by "New Work" is to meet these expectations.
It's important to note that fulfilling these requirements benefits not only employees but the entire organization. A self-determined work environment leads to increased overall success, as when flexibility and self-determination are effectively utilized, employees become more productive, motivated, and creative.
Elements of New Work
There are numerous practices and work approaches that fall under the New Work concept. Some of these include:
Since the pandemic, working from home has become more prevalent than ever. The lack of a commute, high flexibility in scheduling, a conducive work environment, and more time for family and friends are all advantages of working from home.
Remember, one of New Work's goals is to make employees more flexible and self-determined, and the home office work model fosters exactly these aspects.
Another work model in this realm is hybrid work. As the name suggests, hybrid work combines two approaches: Working in the office and working from home, a nearby café, or an Airbnb location. In this model, employees work from home on certain days of the week or month while meeting in the office on other days.
This work model is seen as the best solution for most employees. According to a Capgemini study, half of the respondents would consider quitting their jobs if remote work became mandatory. Many employees place great importance on social interactions at the workplace and their relationships with colleagues.
Desk sharing is a relatively recent phenomenon. It involves eliminating personalized workspaces for each employee. Instead, office spaces are used flexibly, and desks are booked based on availability. Notably, this approach significantly reduces office space requirements, resulting in substantial cost savings for companies.
A sabbatical is a time-limited leave of absence, often referred to as special leave or extended vacation. The duration of a sabbatical can range from one month to a year. Sabbaticals are typically used for personal development or training.
Sabbaticals promote work-life balance, allowing employees to take time for themselves and pursue personal goals. This aligns with the principles of individual freedom and balance between work and personal life.
Modern Work Time Models
These include the 5-hour workday and the 4-day workweek. The 5-Hour Workday is a work time model in which the daily working hours are limited to five hours, as opposed to the typical eight-hour workday. This model is based on the idea that employees can be just as, if not more, productive in a shorter amount of time compared to a traditional eight-hour workday.
The concept of the 4-Day Workweek is straightforward: instead of working five days a week, employees reduce their working hours to four days while maintaining their regular salary. This can involve extending the daily working hours or avoiding overtime. The goal is to provide employees with more leisure time and improve their work-life balance.
Advantages and Disadvantages of New Work
Like any concept, New Work has both advantages and disadvantages, which we'll outline below.
Disadvantages of New Work
Disadvantages of New Work can occur, especially when the transition to these work methods happens too quickly. For instance, in our Checklist, we've highlighted the technical and other prerequisites necessary to adopt remote work. If the shift occurs without ensuring the necessary hardware and employee training, you won't reap the benefits.
Unprepared and especially older employees can be overwhelmed when left on their own. The technical requirements and managing their time without a given structure by going to an office can be problematic. This can then again impact individual and company-wide success. Therefore, the key is to establish a foundation before successfully implementing a New Work approach.
Advantages of New Work
Gven employees are adequately prepared for self-directed and flexible work methods and the transition isn't rushed, numerous benefits can be realized.
The primary advantage is that employees enjoy their work in this new environment and thus become increasingly motivated. This aligns with Bergmann's original goal for New Work, where workers should only do work they genuinely want to do. Motivated and well-trained employees are fundamental for both individual and organizational success. This is ensured through increased flexibility, freedom, and self-determination, all of which are made possible by New Work practices.