The Trend of New Work Explained — Models, Challenges, and Tips for Implementation.

February 15, 2023

The term 'New Work' is becoming increasingly popular and is often hotly debated in the job market. But what exactly is meant by this 'New Work' that everyone is talking about? We'll get to the bottom of this question and take a look at some modern work models.

Before we get to the challenges of New Work and some New Work studies, we need to understand how the change from 'old' to 'new' work came about. Finally, we have prepared useful tips for you on how to drive New Work in your company.

New Work Definition — What is behind the term?

Let's go back to the late 1970s for a moment. During a visit to the Eastern Bloc, Austrian-American social philosopher Professor Doctor Frithjof Bergmann came to the realization that socialism was not a sustainable model for the future. An alternative model was needed and the term 'New Work' was born.

While the conventional work patterns of industrial society do not allow for creative thinking individuals and certainly not for flexible work scheduling, 'New Work' heralds the era of the knowledge and information society. Not only does it herald it, but it shapes it — until today, especially today.

In broad terms, New Work is therefore to be understood as a result of the structural change in the world of work. Tradition gives way to innovation and the needs and desires of the employee are becoming increasingly important.

The labor market is changing

The labor market is undergoing significant changes due to both external factors such as globalization and digitalization, as well as the changing attitudes of employees. The following are the main developments:

Globalization — the gateway to the world for companies and workers

With the opening of the former communist states of Eastern Europe, as well as China and India, a new era of division of labor began. Production work could be outsourced to emerging countries for the first time. This led to a shift in labor services. While developing and emerging countries can produce cheaply and provide raw materials, the West focuses on innovation, marketing, and creativity.

New core competencies and key qualifications are in demand - knowledge is no longer a good that can be acquired simply. A "New Worker" is required to think conceptually and solution-oriented. Knowledge must be continuously maintained, adapted to new developments, and renewed.

Digitalization — New Work takes place virtually

Digitalization offers companies and employees a range of new opportunities. It ensures that employees are reachable anywhere and anytime, which in turn plays into the desire for remote work.

In addition, digitalization enables a new form of networking that did not exist before. Interdisciplinary work and the exchange with other industries and professionals are promoted like never before.

The development of Artificial Intelligence (AI) also promotes these factors. Because where computers take away jobs, they simultaneously create new ones - and thus constantly create innovative fields of activity that need to be filled with "New Workers".

The pursuit of self-realization

The employee of the past strictly followed instructions, the work rhythm of machines, and highly hierarchical leadership styles. Today's workers have a whole host of opportunities available and fuel the desire for self-determination and self-realization. The individual has long been brought to the fore and is promoted in the pursuit of their own self.

This goes hand in hand with the desire for fulfillment, also in professional life. It is no longer just about making money. Rather, needs and priorities are shifting towards making money with a job that pursues a sense of purpose.

The compatibility of work and family life

To put it bluntly, women are no longer just at home caring for household and children. Women have - again, exaggeratedly expressed - long since become the key players in our society.

Creative solutions for balancing work and family life have become almost essential for companies. These apply to both mothers and fathers. New Work creates flexibility and relief and paves the way for the "modern family" in which no one has to give up their career if they do not want to.

The departure from the classic workplace

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that work does not necessarily have to take place in an office at a fixed workplace.

New Work questions the classic workplace. Anyone who can work outside of stuffy office spaces wants to be able to do their job anywhere. At home, but also on the train, in their parents' apartment, with friends - or on the beach in Bali.

New Work doesn't just happen at a fixed workplace, but relies on mobile working.
The Importance of Work-Life-Balance

The "new employee" places great importance on a healthy work-life balance. Working time is living time, so on the one hand, the job itself must be enjoyable. On the other hand, the job should only take up as much space in life as it needs to be profitable and fulfilling. Work-life balance takes a step further with New Work, becoming Work-Life-Blending. Maximum flexibility in professional life leads in this case to the boundaries between leisure and work becoming blurred and the two blending into one another. But more on that later.

New Forms of Work — The Most Important New Work Models

  • Mobile Working: Where possible, employees can work independently of location. Decentralized work structures include working from home and remote work, or hybrid working models. Desk sharing or co-working spaces are often used in these cases to save resources.
  • Flexible Work Time Models: Whether for work-life balance, the compatibility of work and family, or both, the flexible scheduling of work time is a major factor in New Work. Classic models here are flextime and trust-based working time.
  • New Leadership: In New Work, leaders do not follow strict hierarchies. They act as empathetic, approachable individuals who do not give rigid orders. New Work leaders encourage their employees in their personal development, motivation, and personal responsibility. Trust is the keyword here.
  • Agile Working: The concept of New Work breaks down old structures and processes in companies and brings innovative and creative approaches to the surface. Popular models of agile work include SCRUM, Kanban, and Design Thinking.
  • Virtual Teams: In the past, solid teams were strictly separated by departments, but today they are more fluid and often do not have permanent employees. Various teams work on a project basis and collaborate virtually in an interdisciplinary manner, thereby promoting the members' willingness to learn and their ability to act.

New Work relies on new work models such as New Leadership or agile working.

The flip side of the coin — Challenges of New Work:

As great as it all sounds, some aspects of it can be challenging in practice. Therefore, we have summarized the biggest hurdles when introducing New Work. It should be noted that hurdles are meant to be overcome - so be courageous!

The issue with technology

On the one hand, employees must have a certain level of technical affinity and the willingness to use the corresponding technology. On the other hand, a more significant problem often lies in providing the appropriate technology. Not every company is technically well-equipped to directly implement New Work models such as remote work and others.

The issue with data protection

In times of decentralized work models, the requirements for data protection increase. Here, precise planning and solid coordination are required.

Legal hurdles

All too flexible regulations sometimes collide with existing labor laws in Germany. In particular, recording working hours in trust-based working time or remote work models can be problematic. Moreover, work accidents that occur outside the office but within working hours are often challenging to clarify. However, legal hurdles can be overcome as long as one plans well and is adequately informed.

Challenges for the individual

Despite all the wonderful flexibility, it is essential to consider that not every employee is suited for the high level of self-discipline and time management that comes with it. Interdisciplinary teams and agile working can also make it difficult to find one's own role.

Work-Life-Blending — Curse or Blessing?

As mentioned earlier, the boundaries between work and private life blur with Work-Life-Blending. Leisure time and work almost seamlessly blend together. However, too much flexibility can lead to overwork and increased pressure to be constantly available. Therefore, one must exercise caution and ensure that private life does not suffer from work.

With work-life blending, the boundaries between work and personal life become blurred.

New Work studies — are we ready for New Work models?

Studies on the topic of New Work have not been widely conducted yet, but some results can already be seen. According to a trend report by Randstad from 2021, 74% of employees wish to have a sense of purpose in their employment. 70% of respondents consider interesting and varied work content important, and just over half define their job as a significant part of their own personality.

Work-life balance or work-life blending?

According to the aforementioned New Work study, 38% of employees believe it is important to completely separate work and personal life. Interestingly, with regard to this aspect, those over 45 years of age have a lower percentage (34%) compared to the 45% of 16 to 29-year-olds. Therefore, a trend towards work-life blending is not likely to be observed in the future.

Corona as an accelerator of digitalization

With regard to the COVID-19 pandemic, 55% of surveyed human resources managers state that the pandemic has advanced digitalization in the company. 64% of employees confirm that their company has invested in digital tools. In terms of flexible working time models, according to the trend report, a whole 76% of respondents are able to adapt their working hours better to family and work since the pandemic.

Corona as a driving force in terms of work culture

Not only digitalization but also work culture in companies has been positively advanced by the pandemic. In a survey by Bitkom Research from 2022, 79% of employees state that their employer increasingly relies on personal responsibility. Approximately the same number confirms the increased willingness of the employer to use digital technologies. Around 40% of respondents already work in interdisciplinary teams and the leadership style has become more cooperative overall. Also, 40% report that their working hours have become more flexible.

Decentralized working — yes or no?

With regard to home office, 45% of employers believe that employees are less productive when working from home. And in fact, only 23% of employees report being more productive when working from home. Approximately the same number feel lonely when working from home and almost half miss contact with the team. In terms of what is really important to respondents in their job, the possibility of mobile working ranks low with only 43%.

Interestingly, in the New Work study by Bitkom Research, just one year later, a whole 88% of employees wish to work from home. Information such as vacation homes, shared desks in the office, residence abroad, or co-working spaces achieve values of over 50% in the survey.

According to a New Work study, 88% of employees want to work from home.

New Work — Tips for Implementation in the Company

Define goal

New Work doesn't happen overnight, and it's not helpful to stumble into it blindly. At the beginning, it's important to define the goals of the New Work concept in the company and present concrete plans.

Provide technology

To enable flexible working time and workplace models, necessary technical solutions must be provided. Employees must be trained in new technology, especially unfamiliar software solutions.

Create a creative working environment

To create an optimal work environment for "New Workers," it's important to get creative. It's rarely enough to just put a foosball table in the break room. It's best to get feedback from employees to cater to their needs.

Work on mindset

The New Work concept needs to be internalized by employees, and this is a process that doesn't happen overnight. To make it tangible, leadership style needs to change. Leaders should introduce team members to agile work methods and innovative communication forms and embody the new New Work concept in their leadership style.

Make clear agreements

Clear "rules" must apply even with flexible working models to prevent chaos. Defined principles and clear agreements from the start can help.

Foster collaboration

To network employees interdisciplinarily, it's useful to promote exchange among them. This can happen, for example, through virtual coffee breaks. Tools like the yuccaHR app can help facilitate this.

Now it is your turn — drive your New Work models forward!

As a human resources employee or as an employee in your company, do you want to promote New Work? How about an interview with the HR manager? Together, you will certainly come closer to your understanding of New Work and the goals of the New Work movement that make sense for your own company.

If you are leading a company or are a decision-maker in the HR field and want to promote New Work approaches but don't know how, in addition to our tips mentioned above, it would certainly be helpful to start a survey among your employees. This way, you can assess the current status and the wishes of your employees and develop concrete action steps based on them.

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