Brave new work: heavenly peace without the hustle and bustle of an open-plan office, zero interruption by colleagues, full concentration on your topic – working from home is just great, isn't it? If only it weren't for the many distractions that your home office has to offer – the huge mountain of laundry, your private paperwork or the parcel messenger who seems to know solely your doorbell. Is remote work, i.e. working without a 100% presence requirement, perhaps not so much better than 9 to 5 in the office?
One thing is clear: the classic 8-hour office day has had its day. New Work has been a buzzword on everyone's lips for several years now. The term describes the change in the world of work as a result of digitalization. Working is no longer necessarily tied to fixed attendance times in the company. People can work more flexibly and autonomously and choose their place of work themselves. Today, the use of the term "New Work" is mostly based on the idea that by strengthening the motivation of employees, a better work result can be achieved, as this increases individual productivity. This motivation boost is to be achieved through more self-determined work.
Methods in New Work
In the globalized world, New Work allows for flexible, location-independent working. In the sense of a well-adjusted work-life balance, work is adapted to the individual life and not vice versa. New Work in its current form has only become possible through digitalization. Flexible technology solutions for efficient collaboration are indispensable for working in virtual, cross-location teams. More and more often, projects are carried out in so-called fluid teams, i.e. interdisciplinary teams without a fixed membership, whose composition is ad-hoc and project-related and therefore changes regularly. Agile working methods such as Scrum and Kanban allow for new forms of work. Both project management methods are based on regular, short meetings in which the team members report on the status of their tasks. Development processes are to be designed lean in order to be able to react quickly and flexibly to changes in major projects. In an increasingly dynamic working world, the concept of agile work has been transferred from individual projects to entire companies in order to guarantee their competitiveness.
New Work not only includes new working methods, but also new management tools. Traditional, strict hierarchies are broken up and managers increasingly act in the role of mentors. They give their employees more freedom and evaluate their work performance exclusively based on results. When and how these results were produced is not relevant. This New Leadership is one of the most important prerequisites for an adequate implementation of New Work concepts.
New Work – The original definition by Frithjof Bergmann
The term "New Work" was originally coined by German-Austrian philosophy professor Frithjof Bergmann in the 1980s. Bergmann wants to conceive the foundations of work in such a way that it serves people by offering them greater personal freedom and meaning. In this sense, digitalization has made a major contribution to relieving the burden on people by automating work processes. With his capitalism-critical concept of New Work, Bergmann originally demanded no less than the revolutionization of classical wage labor. In recent years, the founder of the New Work movement has warned that his concept must not degenerate into a mere advertising gimmick in the service of employer branding.
New Work: Pros and cons
It is obvious that New Work offers great advantages for workers. They can better merge their professional activities with their private lives. However, New Work, with its flexible forms and ownership requirements, is not suitable for every personality type.
Advantages of New Work
- Work-Life-Blending allows a better work-life balance. For example, it is much less complicated to make appointments with a doctor or bring your children to the day care center.
- Remote work in the home office saves a lot of time. Late trains or traffic jams in commute are a thing of the past.
- In home office, there are less distractions and work interruptions than in the (open-plan) office. New Work therefore favors focused deep work.
- The self-selected working environment can be better adapted to individual needs than the employer's workplace. This can have a positive effect on productivity.
- New Work also allows longer periods of absence for self-discovery and personal development within the framework of a fixed employment relationship, e.g. in the form of sabbaticals.
Disadvantages of New Work
- The change from fixed hierarchies to more self-determined work leads to overstress for some people.
- Working in the home office can make you lose touch with your colleagues in the office and make you feel cut off from office grapevine.
- Work-Life-Blending can promote self-exploitation. There is no spatial separation between workplace and private environment. For this reason, prescribed rest periods may no longer be observed.
- New Work is strongly based on technological solutions, and the familiarization with new tools and platforms is indispensable. Digital natives have a clear advantage over employees who have worked in traditional work environments for a long time.
- Remote work can contravene occupational safety and data protection regulations if, for example, the workplace is not ergonomically designed or if work with sensitive data takes place in public places (“working in the café”).
It depends on your type of personality and professional activity whether the advantages of New Work outweigh the disadvantages for you. The concept of New Work was developed to serve people's well-being and increase their freedom. However, this gain in freedom is also associated with an increase in responsibility which can be burdensome. The potential disadvantages that can arise from New Work must be minimized in the coming years through a revision of labor law and new strategies by HR departments.