New Work is on everyone’s lips and is one of the trending topics for 2020; yet many people still have different ideas about what it is. Does it mean a reduction in working hours, digitalization, more home office, more flexibility? Or is it a little bit of everything?
How Did New Work Come About?
In fact, the term New Work encompasses several working models and organizational approaches. Historically, the term can be traced back to the social philosopher Frithjof Bergmann: Contrary to the view held since the Industrial Revolution, New Work is intended to be a means by which people can develop as free individuals. Most employees associate New Work with meaningful work, freedom, self-determination and having a balance between work and family life. Advancing digitalization, new (self-learning) systems and/or new working time models can all be used to enable the individual needs of worker development.
Contrary to the view held since the Industrial Revolution, New Work is intended to be a means by which people can develop as free individuals.
Challenges of New Work
This sounds logical at first, but just as every person and company is individual, individual work concepts are needed to get closer to the goal.
Let us take the mobile accessibility of an employee as an example. For one person, it is enormously valuable to be able to check his or her e-mail on the way to work with a company mobile phone or to be available for important updates in between work hours. Another person would prefer a clear separation between professional and private life and is happy not to be confronted with professional obligations after “work.”
Another prominent example from the media is Volkswagen which shuts down the mail server at the end of the working day in order to give employees the time they deserve. But not all employees are enthusiastic about this: Some feel it is a restriction of personal freedom.
It is therefore not always easy for companies to choose the right work model so that all employees climb to the next level of "New Work."
In short, whether or not someone is an advocate of work-life blending is a highly personal matter and certainly has something to do with their family situation. It is therefore not always easy for companies to choose the right work model so that all employees climb to the next level of “New Work.”
The word “Holocracy” is often used in connection with New Work. Holocracy replaces traditional management hierarchies with self-organizing teams. Decisions and powers are thus made in self-leading teams rather than by management. The classic positions and titles are replaced by roles. It was made famous by Tony Hsieh, CEO of the online retailer Zappos. In 2014, he rigorously introduced Holocracy into his company and wanted to make Zappos a role model for innovative business management. However, not all employees turned out to be supporters of this model. More than 200 employees left the company (with generous severance pay) after the announcement of the introduction of the new model, resulting in a large knowledge gap and financial losses.
New Work in Practice at OTRS Group
In fact, there is probably a contradiction in terms for every professional, so that companies have to weigh exactly when it is worth introducing a new model.
These are not new ideas, but are two essential features of the corporate culture that have proven themselves, are continuously appreciated by employees, and which offer great competitive advantages in the struggle for skilled workers.
OTRS Group has always been committed to giving its employees as much freedom as possible. In fact, the company’s the mission statement is “We give companies the freedom to be successful.” At OTRS Group, employees can usually decide for themselves whether they want to work from their home office or from the office. OTRS Group employees also have a lot of freedom regarding working hours. These are not new ideas, but are two essential features of the corporate culture that have proven themselves, are continuously appreciated by employees, and which offer great competitive advantages in the struggle for skilled workers.
Since OTRS Group is still a manageable size with over 100 employees, the company can afford to cater to the individual needs of each employee.
The Executive Board, HR and a project team are constantly evaluating New Work models and carefully weigh whether they fit the company’s goals and employee needs. To this end, internal surveys are conducted among all employees, which are evaluated and discussed, so that the project team is kept up-to-date with the latest developments. A detailed SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis helps keep New Work projects moving in the right direction.
If we decide to implement a new structure, we draw up a detailed communication plan to ensure that we receive the greatest possible support and motivation.
Ultimately, not every form of New Work can be applied to every company, but it is worthwhile to evaluate the different approaches – and to do so regularly.