As an HR professional, I now have a divided relationship with the term New Work. There is the original New Work idea as a social utopia, there are very tangible and well-known New Work elements such as flexible working hours and locations, and there are countless conferences and stage events where the hippest companies receive awards. New Work as a contrast to Old Work. The question is: cool or uncool. An unwritten law defines sneakers as the only real footwear at New Work events, where people exchange their minds about “agile” and “remote work”. Everything sounds great. But actually, it is about so much more. It is about the emancipation of the working person. And ultimately, it’s also about the fact that this can change the economy.
FROM SINGLE PERFORMER TO INTERACTIVE COLLABORATION
Behind the dazzling Buzzword front is often overlooked: New Work cannot be implemented but is a journey and the path is often rocky. But it is an opportunity to escape from the immaturity that has been perceived as normal in almost all economic sectors for years. In many corporations – and perhaps not only there – the “working level” and the “decision-maker level” are still spoken of as a matter of course. What is apparently being overlooked is that employees today should no longer be commanders, but that a lot has happened since the industrial revolution.
Competitive advantages today are no longer created by people who carry out work as quickly as possible and press buttons (computers and robots can do this better and faster anyway), but by the cooperation of people, by the coming together of ideas and information. At best, employees are ultimately hired because they can do what they do better than others. Because they are the experts on a subject. Consequently, these experts should also be able and allowed to make decisions that affect their area of competence – in other words, take responsibility. In contrast to the assumption of responsibility by each individual, leadership today is also difficult to practice. After all, leadership and decisions are necessary nowadays in relation to people, tasks and innovations. If all this is to be done by a manager who decides for an entire team, he would have to be omniscient and possess supernatural abilities.
START WITH YOURSELF
New Work also means effort, because personal responsibility and freedom are principles that most of us have forgotten the full meaning of in the work context. We stand in our own way, put ourselves in our own limitations and first have to learn to perceive both again. This is not only a training during work but work on our own personality. It is about making mistakes, reflecting, communicating and communicating about our own communication. This process can only succeed if it is initiated and really wanted throughout the entire organization.
BEING HUMAN AGAIN
At the same time, New Work also has something liberating about it, because at its core it is also about the fact that people are allowed to be at work in their whole self. I don’t have to play a role or hide a part of my personality and what I “really, really want to do”. Because New Work also means employing people according to their strengths and needs and what drives them. People are seen as a whole again. This should trigger similar feelings as the experience when the manager in the Corona Home Office video call is served a sandwich by his little son in between: “Oops, that’s a human being too!” When the person itself becomes the focus of attention again and the other people in our everyday working lives, such as customers or suppliers, are perceived as such as well, the entire economy will also change bit by bit. And this does not mean to see the human being as a selfish being in the center of the world. Acting responsibly also includes social responsibility: for certain values and also for sustainable economic activities.
So, in summary, I can say that wearing sneakers and attending New Work events is not even scratching the surface. New Work begins with each individual, with working on our personality and asking ourselves questions. Only when self-responsibility and freedom are again principles that every individual as well as the organization follows, when making mistakes is explicitly allowed and communication is the most important tool, then New Work can start.
People & Culture