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Dennis Jürgensen

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"New Work" is not the next term to be picked out for the forthcoming Buzzword Bingo but actually deals with the question of how to work efficiently and innovatively in a digitized world. The majority of Germans tend to react with suspicion, or even take a defensive stance, when it comes to changing work processes and making them more efficient. This usually results in a lot of moaning beforehand, only to discover later that working in a digitized environment is actually a lot of fun. In this article, I present the main features of the New Work movement and would be very happy if you would share your opinion on this topic in the area of auditing at the end of the article.

 

The future is already here – it's just not evenly distributed

– William Gibson

 

That science fiction authors don't just have unusual ideas but are also visionaries has been known to us at least since one of the greatest film series in history hit the screens: Star Wars by George Lucas.

Want an example?

In the 1980 film "Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back", Darth Vader cuts off the hand of his son Luke Skywalker, who then receives a mechanical prosthesis. And now tell me that we don't have comparable prostheses today when we are even hosting Olympic Games for athletes with disabilities.

Perhaps that is not enough for you?

Then you'll find more examples of Star Wars technologies on the brink of breakthrough here (German language).

But new technologies are also changing the way we work and communicate. Just to give a few examples: Skype, LinkedIn or Chatbots. In today's age of globalization and digitization, these changes are called New Work. Rarely before have the demands for freedom and personal self-determination been greater than today.

But one thing at a time!

What does New Work mean?

New Work describes new ways of working that are particularly important for employees in a global and digitized world. The term was originally coined by the American social philosopher Frithjof Bergmann. His research is based on the concept of freedom and the assumption that the previous system of work was outdated.

I would now like to show you what this means in detail in the following areas:

  • Self-reliance
  • Flexibility
  • Diversity

Self-reliance

The problem:

Self-employment is about much more than just self-determined work or flexible working hours.

According to a study, 19% of respondents believe that poor management is one of the biggest killers of productivity. Employees have the feeling of being controlled by their manager and are not trusted enough. Then there is the feeling of having to complete tasks that are considered completely pointless and you have the perfect basis for employee dissatisfaction.

The solution:

A possible solution has multiple aspects and requires a real rethink in many cases, though many measures that can be taken are obvious and can be implemented with little effort.

 

The very clever see around five corners and are blind straight ahead.

– Benjamin Franklin

 

  1. Have employees do it

Of course, employees should not be allowed to do what they want without a plan. The key word in this context is: Goals!

Agree on concrete goals and expectations. In the ideal scenario and according to the ideas of the New Work movement, this should even be done together as a team. In this way the responsibilities and expectations on the team are clarified once again. With regard to motivation, this should not be defined from the top down, but found together in a self-determined way. When formulating goals and expectations, any overlaps can then be noticed and interfaces can be optimized if necessary. Incidentally, according to the study, inefficient workflows are another major factor leading to unproductive work, accounting for 19.6% of cases.

So, sounds like a win-win situation, right?

 

  1. Transparency

Formulating goals together as a team is only one example of how greater transparency can be achieved. Furthermore, the mode of communication is also an effective means for achieving greater transparency. Let employees participate in planning, strategies and decisions. Open communication gives the team a certain sense of belonging and responsibility.

 

  1. Self-determination

I have already mentioned that goals should not be defined from the top down. The same applies to self-determination. Employees should be able to bring their own interests and wishes into work. An open culture must be established, and room must be created for independent work, which brings us conveniently on to the next point:

Flexibility

The problem:

The organism of each individual human being is as different as day and night. Some people may get up early and get into the workflow faster, while others like to sleep in late and take their time in the morning to enjoy reading the newspaper and drinking their first coffee of the day. Then there is the long journey to work, where you run into roadworks and a traffic jam almost as soon as you set off. The day has barely even started and already your mood has taken a nosedive.

The solution:

The solution is not flextime, but flexible working hours. Flexible working hours have the problem of being mentioned in the same breath as core working times or fixed working times. The most important thing is to respond to the needs and challenges of employees. A father of a family has different processes to deal with in the morning than a working student or a single employee.

However, it is not only time that is decisive, but also place. Who or what is stopping me from working from my home office when, for example, it has long been obvious that the traffic jams were going to be terrible today? Or to go to the shared coworking space nearby where creativity and new approaches are just waiting to be absorbed?

And what about meetings?

- Perhaps I have already mentioned web conferencing or Skype?

Diversity

Today's tasks in the company are as varied as mankind itself. The approach of thinking in departments should therefore be questioned. The background is that departments generally have a homogeneous structure of employees who have the same or very similar skills and usually have a comparable social background. Prof. Dr. Peter Kruse had this to say about such structures:

 

Harmonic systems are stupid systems! In nature, patterns of order always arise from contradiction not from harmony.

- Prof. Dr. Peter Kruse

 

It is not homogeneous teams that deliver better results. Diversity of expertise should be the motto, as this study reveals. The main advantages of diversity are therefore:

  • Stronger struggle for consensus leads to better results
  • New information stimulates creativity
  • Diversity reduces shortage of skilled workers

Thus, structures such as departments are obsolete, as they do not usually represent the ideal combination of expertise. According to the ideas of New Work, work should therefore be organized in projects. After a data analysis has been performed, for example, who better to tell you why processes in purchasing are not meeting the defined target than the persons/employees responsible in the respective department?

Now it’s over to you:

 

This article does not claim to be exhaustive, as the topic is a very extensive and complex one. The idea is to make you think about the issue and question old structures.

Sources referred to and sources for further reading:

https://www.gruenderszene.de/lexikon/begriffe/new-work

https://newworkblog.de/new-work/ (German)

https://t3n.de/news/barrieren-mitarbeiter-produktivitaet-2-1122646/ (German)

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-diversity-makes-us-smarter/ (English)

https://www.adp.co.uk/hr-insights-topics-trends/employee-engagement-talent-management/effective-employee-engagement-strategies-2018 (English)

 

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