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The New Work Concept – The New Way of Working

In all articles by Christoph Drebes

The new way of working is about creating a culture that encourages collaboration and teamwork. It’s also about making sure that everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed. This means that people need to feel valued for their contributions and that they’ve been given the tools and support they need to achieve success.
The New Work concept slowly makes its way from Europe to the US. This concept is all about employees finding a purpose in what they are doing. But what does this mean? And how can you implement the New Work concept in your own company?

Content
What is New Work?
How does New Work change old processes?
Benefits of the New Work model
New Work means New Leadership
The role of Servant Leadership
The four enablers of New Work
4 steps to create a New Work environment

What is New Work?

New Work is still a very new concept, which has experienced a massive upswing, especially during the Corona Pandemic. But how can New Work be defined and what are the characteristics of this concept?

New Work definition (Bergmann)

The term “New Work” was established by sociologist Frithjof Bergmann, who published a book called “New Work New Culture: Work We Want And A Culture That Strengthens Us” in 2019. New Work is a way to imagine a future in which automation will take over the basic aspects of a company’s functions. As a result, jobs will become more fulfilling on an intellectual and emotional level for employees.

The most important feature of New Work is what Bergmann calls “work that you really, really want.” This means that one can and must find work that aligns with their personal dreams, skill set, and their individual values.
Employees will also gravitate towards jobs that give them a sense of purpose. Overall, Bergmann believes in a world in which work isn’t just a means of labor production; it’s a collaborative effort to produce something meaningful.

Three of the most important facilitators of New Work include the ability to work from everywhere (yes – even entirely online!), actively co-creating a company’s strategy, and connecting on a deeper, personal level.

How does New Work change old processes?

Old, pre-pandemic processes indicate productivity through job aspects that aren’t especially relevant in the days of remote work. However, Managers used to think of productivity in terms of work attendance.
To many, just seeing the employee at the office felt like they were meeting productivity expectations. Even if they were doing routine, automatable tasks. Other old processes included in-office perks (like free coffee or an attached gym) and opportunities for casual dress.

Unfortunately, a study from Forbes indicates that old processes are alive and well, even if they’re not especially relevant anymore. Of those polled, 72% say that their company lacks an adjustment strategy to the hybrid work world. So how can the New Work concept help?

New Work restructures the values of a company. Rather than valuing visibility, managers learn to value trust and freedom. Consequently, employees, rather than seeing their job’s value in terms of perks, begin to see the job as its own perk – a people-centered, collaborative way to accomplish a larger goal.

Crowded office before the COVID-19 pandemic
Some employers still think that attendance in the office means higher productivity –
The New Work model tries to change that perception

Benefits of the New Work model

The New Work model has proven two main benefits, from productivity to job satisfaction and work performance

  • Employee retention through job satisfaction
    Research from the ​​European Commission’s Joint Research Council found that employees who experience freedom and autonomy in their roles have lower turnover rates than those who are monitored during work. Job satisfaction also increases when employees feel like they have a say in the future of their company.
  • Higher performance thanks to trusting in employees
    Additionally, having AI in a supporting role increases an employee’s bandwidth and creativity. According to a Conversica study, 97% of respondents say that their brains work better when they’re engaged in challenging, thought-provoking work. Moreover, increased trust in employees allows them to “be themselves” at work, which can help enhance job performance, according to some studies.

New Work means New Leadership

In an interview for GQ, Philip Semmelroth spoke about how New Work necessitated New Leadership; a method of managing based on coaching, not commanding.
Thus, New Leadership to him means a flat hierarchy that allows employees to assign their own priority to tasks, check in when they need to, and work independently without being delegated. He says that in New Leadership, principles and missions are more important than arbitrary rules.

While this change will take courage, New Work must be implemented successfully. If New Work requires trust, freedom, and connection, managers have to learn how to foster an environment where employees feel empowered and supported rather than criticized.

The role of Servant Leadership

Alexander Straub, an expert in leadership development and founder of changefication GmbH, about the newly required type of leadership: “To create this new environment, managers need the opportunity and support to develop into agile leaders – the keyword here is servant leadership. Every leader must work with employees to create this change and manage the transition. Otherwise, it can quickly become overwhelming if employees don’t yet live New Work or aren’t ready to embrace it.”
And further: “At the same time, different employees also need different guidance and freedom to develop. Leaving managers alone here, or even expecting this development to occur “automatically,” would lead New Work ad absurdum and torpedo any New Work initiative.”

Learn more about servant leadership and how to implement it in your organization in this video:

The four enablers of New Work

What does New Work exactly mean? Besides the definition by Bergmann, there are today several definitions of New Work. It is a concept consisting of different factors, which can vary, depending on the source of information.
These factors are:

  • Flat hierarchies
  • Personal connections
  • Cross-departmental collaboration
  • People-centered valued
  • Digitalization
  • Trust-based work
  • Transparency
  • Speak-up culture
  • Freedom in work and workplace
The factors of the New Work Concept
Factors of the New Work concept


But there are four universal and essential key pieces to the puzzle of New Work in which it is worth taking a closer look: trust, freedom, collaboration, and connection.

Building trust

Having trust in employees is a vital feature of New Work, as, without it, employees will feel stifled. This is especially the case now that hybrid work is at the forefront. In fact, research from Gartner shows that employees with work tracking systems on their computers are twice as likely to pretend to work rather than actually work.

The future of work is in working online remotely, and managers need to implement facts of New Leadership to adjust their expectations accordingly. By allowing employees to work self-driven and on their own schedules, managers can serve in an encouraging capacity rather than a correctional one.
Here is a detailed guide on how the be a good remote leader and hands-on tips for swift implementation.

Valuing freedom

Bergmann’s version of a flexible schedule was something he called “alternative work-time models.”
To him, as the future became more automated, having the freedom to work as you please increases creativity, innovation, and adds an individualized human element to the workday.

Freedom in the world of New Work doesn’t just mean having a flexible schedule. Employees should have the ability to block time in their calendars for learning new things or getting solo work done outside of meetings. Working from anywhere is another key feature of New Work, and fits in with schedule flexibility. By working remotely, employees no longer feel beholden to their organization’s schedule, which will decrease turnover.

Boosting collaboration

According to Humanyze’s Future of Work Survey, there’s been a 24% increase in “knowledge diffusion” since the beginning of the pandemic (meaning knowledge sharing and access to information). Also, there’s been a 27% increase in cross-departmental and cross-level collaboration.

As New Work is in the co-creation of a company’s strategy, the collaboration between teams and managers is necessary to build an organization’s identity. As a result of silo mentalities breaking down and employees being able to share multiple perspectives, they can paint the whole picture of a company’s future together.
To furthermore enable this change, ensure that you have an adequate speak-up culture where employees feel safe to express ideas, concerns, or critiques without backlash.

Focusing on people-centered values

The last key feature of New Work is ensuring that people are at the center of your company’s values. McKinsey research says that many corporations have shifted to a more people-centered mentality by cherishing “small moments of engagement.” From idea sharing to coaching, mentorship, coworking, and socializing, this intimacy has been shown to increase productivity.

Professional meetings are one element of New Work, on the other hand, informal meetings are just as important. Ideally, they should be seen as a perk or a benefit. When meeting culture is people-centered, employees develop a positive association with meetings rather than seeing them as mandatory busy work.

4 Steps to create a New Work environment

New Work culture is no longer the employers shaping the conditions of work. And now, with the Great Resignation, the stakes are higher than ever. Employees’ needs, wants, and requirements are at the forefront.
That being said, employers, team leaders, and HR professionals should talk to their employees and get their opinion on the future of their work environment in the following ways.

Leaders and HR professionals discussing the future of the work environment in their company
Leaders and HR professionals must strategically work together to create a New Work environment for all employees

Surveys

Surveys are the easiest way to get feedback on how to improve, and they allow HR a constant overview of workplace morale. With tools like, for example, Officevibe, you can constantly keep a pulse on the happiness and culture score employees give. If you’re concerned that these surveys won’t be taken consistently, incentivize them commensurate with your company culture, or turn them into a group activity that can be done as a team

Conversations

Another way to get feedback is to utilize team meetings to have transparent conversations.
Therefore, allow employees to express if they feel trusted, free, and connected to others. Helpful, nurturing New Leaders can create these “small moments of engagement” by having virtual town halls or huddles including different departments to compare and share experiences.
But team leaders should be sensitive here: some team members might not be open to speaking in front of the group. In these cases, confidential 1:1 meetings might be the right way to go.

Collaboration

Next, emphasize collaboration to increase the flow of information and socialization, as it helps create one cohesive workplace. For example, try having some informal meet-ups where employees can get to know one another through programs like Mystery Coffee.
The end goal is for increased connection and the reduction of silo mentality, so cross-departmental project teams can also accomplish that mission. Another side effect of these Mystery Coffee’s will be better company culture. A better culture furthermore means better and rich collaboration between all employees, irrespectively their department or hierarchy level.

Building resilience

Lastly, finding ways to build resilience among employees will help the New Work transformation.
Resilience means the ability to bounce back from setbacks, adapt well to change, and persevere in the face of adversity.
The shift to New Work might be a little disorienting, so in moments of change and potentially failure, handling the pressure of this new trust and freedom takes resilience. Give employees the tools they need to be more resilient by offering workshops and prioritizing employee wellness.

Conclusion

Implementing New Work and New Leadership might seem like taking a huge plunge, as it’s a heavy departure from old processes. It involves changing managerial culture to be employee-driven and departing from a lifelong definition of work conditions. But change won’t be a shock to your company’s system if you’re mindful of the transition.
“This change should be accompanied by systematic change management. The entire organization must be analyzed and developed for a sustainable transformation on “bricks, bytes and behavior” adds Alexander Straub.
Embracing this synergistic future will make for happier more productive employees and a more successful company.


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