Contemporary work –
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With New Work, innovation becomes a living corporate philosophy
The creation of a pleasant working environment in combination with sustained motivation has now become a concept that has been accepted by many employers. But the idea of New Work is more than that: Work 4.0 must go beyond playful approaches and include modern change management in addition to state-of-the-art technology. At EVOSULT we repeatedly encounter the problem that a real change process has not been thought through to its end in many companies. But what is New Work all about – and can this philosophy really lead to a higher satisfaction at the workplace while maintaining high productivity? These are questions that all those involved will have to face sooner or later. One thing is clear: it’s not just about putting massage chairs in the lounge and playing table football. Real motivation should come from the work itself and not just sweeten the pot to go to work at all.
From buzzword to real change: How companies can implement New Work
The rethinking is not easy, especially for long-established companies. Whereas today’s managers were usually still conditioned according to the motto “years of apprenticeship are not the years of men” to be grateful for every job and at best “compensated” for the effort and time spent with good pay and reasonable social benefits, the concept of New Work takes a completely different approach. This is not entirely new, because as early as 1984 the social philosopher Frithjof Bergmann founded the term, which has been experiencing a renaissance for some time now. While at that time it was a rather exotic-looking concept for alternatively managed companies, many large corporations today can no longer do without New Work. It is not easy to rethink how to make this change a reality in the everyday life of medium-sized companies. It is never easy for managers to break through entrenched structures, because it is also a challenge within the workforce to skilfully implement change management. Those who have understood this must develop their own change project that reconciles the needs of the company with those of the workforce.
What is New Work about today?
At the beginning of the millennium, many a boss looked to large, innovative Internet groups for supposedly modern corporate structures. But what at first glance only seems to require a relaxed working atmosphere with open-plan offices and recreational areas with luxurious furnishings actually requires a fundamental rethink at all levels. An important component of New Work is the flexibility to react to the new demands of a globalised economy. This would not be possible without digitalization. Perhaps this explains why the inventor of the term met with little understanding of its concept in the 1980s. Working from home, flexitime and spatial flexibility were not things that could trigger a comprehensive change. But the framework conditions themselves are undergoing a fundamental change. In the age of smartphones, tablets, laptops and comprehensive networking, many employees can work from virtually anywhere – if you let them. The very idea of letting employees work from their home office, where they escape the boss’s control as an omnipresent entity, was unthinkable in the working world of the 1980s – especially since the technical requirements were largely lacking. Furthermore, change management in the sense of New Work requires transparency and trust, which connects managers and project staff. Developing processes is a completely different matter today than it was back then. In a working world in which companies have to submit to the fact that they are suddenly the ones who have to apply for qualified employees – and not the other way round, where these people are forced to compete for every job – a change project towards Work 4.0 is anything but easy to implement.
One workshop is not enough to implement New Work
Open-plan offices, flexible working hours, the compatibility of children and career through company-owned day-care centers or parent-child offices – all these are important components that cannot be missing in a modern New Work concept. But it needs more than that. It is not enough to implement change management in a weekend workshop. In order to overcome resistance at management level, departmental level down to the individual employees, a real change process must be initiated. EVOSULT, both in its function as a coach for other companies as well as in dealing with its own employees, takes the path of communicating every change in a project in a sustainable way and actively involving the people affected by the respective change process. Making decisions over the heads and maintaining rigid hierarchies at all costs is no longer compatible with a corporate culture in the sense of New Work. After all, the motivation should come from work and spur the employee on to top performance. Just as a self-employed person would do everything for his or her own project and start off with a strong self-motivation, Work 4.0 is intended to ensure that as an employee you are a real part of the company and that every work effort is worthwhile – not only in the form of good pay, but above all in the context of a meaningful development of your own personality and the fun of doing things, which no longer stands in the way of a good work-life balance, but makes work and life compatible with each other.
Approaches for New Work began 100 years ago
It may be hard to believe, but even about a hundred years ago some company founders understood that you can actively motivate employees by combining working conditions and circumstances for a good life. Be it the creation of cheap workers’ housing estates, where every employee had his or her own little house and was thus freed from a basic worry; the participation in profits through share packages or the introduction of modern production methods that made monotonous and stressful activities more interesting: All of these can be considered as precursors of today’s New Work concept. The pioneers of that time have one thing in common with their equivalents today – they are often not taken seriously or even ridiculed by the traditionalists in companies. However, it is no longer the level of salary that determines where employees feel comfortable, but in particular the corporate culture. Rigid structures are always difficult for a coach to break through. But if change management takes all those involved from the very beginning and actively involves them, it is much easier to achieve the desired success. The processes within a project are complex and cannot be implemented overnight. If you want to recruit employees for such a project, however, you should realize that it does not always make sense to stick to a rigid eight-hour day with compulsory attendance, when successful change management can achieve the goal much faster with flexibility and innovation. Free time and even sabbaticals, which used to be unthinkable, are no longer opposing exclusion factors for successful corporate management. Initiating a change project is the first step towards New Work. However, the fundamental change that these processes entail has far more potential. Work 4.0, if implemented correctly, could lead to a sustainable transformation of our working world.
Author: Kai Kobbelt
Project manager | Managing director and shareholder
The senior consultant has already supported well-known and internationally active companies in all project phases. He established himself as project manager and product owner in the areas of project, rollout and change management. As managing director and shareholder Kai Kobbelt founded EVOSULT GmbH in 2009.