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New Work
Examples from practice and pros and cons of the new-work approach

What is new work? Definition, approaches and models of the new world of work

What is New Work? Definition and meaning The term New Work defines the structural change currently underway in the world of work. The term was…
by Anne Wolf |

New Work in action at the Office Club Munich

What is New Work? Definition and meaning


The term New Work defines the structural change currently underway in the world of work. The term was coined in the late 1970s by social philosopher and professor Frithjof Bergmann. The New Work concept is a response to changes in the working world that facilitate improved collaboration and networking. The new working world focuses on the greater responsibility of the individual and the personal development of employees.


Frithjof Bergmann – the New Work pioneer


Anyone looking into the origins of New Work concepts quickly comes across the Austrian-American social philosopher Frithjof Bergmann (1930-2021). The German-born founder of the New Work movement emigrated to the United States after World War II where he studied philosophy. When Bergman visited the Eastern bloc countries in Europe that had been shaped by socialism in the late 1970s, he came to the realization that the wage-labor model no longer had a future. This led the social philosopher to develop a counter-model and to open the Center for New Work in Michigan in the early 1980s. From then on, Bergmann made the topic of New Work his life's work and developed a normative model that is still based on five principles today:

1.) Freedom: The creation of spaces for experimentation and a culture of fearlessness, as well as strong networking within the organization.

2.) Self-responsibility: The establishment of self-organizing work models and the expansion of budget authority.

3.) Meaning: The extension of the concept of value creation and the examination of structures and processes.

4.) Development: The establishment of collective learning and decision-making structures complemented by organizational self-reflection.

5.) 5. Social responsibility: A focus on ecological and social sustainability along with regional engagement, all while adhering to the principles of honorable business practice.


How companies have implemented New Work


Companies seeking to implement New Work approaches often need a radical change in their organizational mindset. Factors such as the development of potential, work-life balance, flexible workplaces, flexible work arrangements and the inclusion of employees in decision-making are all novel concepts for many companies. In past decades, such factors were considered unimportant, which is why a rethink is needed, especially among established companies. These seven factors can play a key role in New Work companies:

1.) Innovation: Innovative ideas are welcome and encouraged. External knowledge is also included.

2.) Participation: The entire team should contribute ideas and have a role in projects. Employees’ interests and skills are more important than their professional position and affiliation within the company.

3.) Coopetition: Coopetition is an amalgamation of the words cooperation and competition. In practice, this could mean, for example, two companies developing a product together (cooperation) and launching it on the market separately and under different names (competition).

4.) Community and Sharing Culture: Knowledge is shared because networked and collaborative working are key components of New Work.

5.) Human development: Developing the potential and self-realization of all workers.

6.) Work-life balance: New Work makes a balanced relationship between work and leisure possible.

7.) Mindfulness: Attention is paid to physical and mental health. The health aspect is placed on equal footing with productivity and success..

The implementation of New Work measures isn’t the same for every company. Each company has individual needs and challenges to overcome. Greater freedom and autonomy are decisive in the implementation of New Work. With six-hour days, remote work and agile working, companies are creating new frameworks for the way work is organized.


How to implement New Work in companies


In a New Work office, the role of employees is greatly changed. With New Work, employees are not just a means to an end – they are passionate about their work and enjoy it. A hands-on mentality and active participation in the processes are the key concepts here. The needs of the employees are the focal point, so that the company can benefit from increased innovation and productivity. The following aspects can be crucial for employees in New Work:

Communication: The company should inform the team about their goals and benefits before introducing New Work measures. This is the only way to ensure that employees are optimally prepared for the New Work concept. Furthermore, proper communication can rapidly build acceptance throughout the team.

Technology: : Digital tools are indispensable for close collaboration. The company must provide the team with a proper IT infrastructure (laptops, tools and software). An easily accessible company network and training opportunities are also critical components.

Labor Law: As soon as a company allows employees to work from home, it must also make certain that it observes the legal framework conditions and regulations. This includes work equipment, such as a laptop.

Organization of work:With New Work, employees have more freedom. In practice, this means that smart office concepts are available and location-independent working is made possible.

Teamwork: Responsibility is shared by all. Management advises the project teams, which in turn assume responsibility. As a result, the entire work is more flexible and the teams enjoy a higher level of appreciation.

Hierarchies and management style: The work is freely designed according to one’s own wishes and needs. Managers provide motivation and support. It is a principle that workers have a say.

Workers develop a different understanding of the topic of work. It is growing increasingly difficult for companies to find skilled workers they can hold on to for the long term. Companies must face up to the new challenges and also be open to alternative working arrangements. This includes, for example, working together with freelancers.


The different New Work models


Ultimately, New Work is a response to the dynamic work environment. This means that the company and the employees must be receptive to change. New Work models are altering significant segments of organizational work structures. An openness to new processes can be beneficial to both the company and its workers. In the following sections, we will explain certain characteristics of New Work from different perspectives.


New Work also means New Leadership


Strict, authoritarian leadership styles are a thing of the past. New Work uses communicative and laissez-faire leadership styles to create a culture of trust and empathy. In addition, an open culture of mistakes is part of New Leadership. Mistakes are accepted and considered necessary for improvement. Managers pursue the goal of empowering employees and encouraging them to take the initiative. In the spirit of Work 4.0, the manager excels as a communicator and a good coach. Leaders motivate, integrate and are open or self-confident. They have a clear vision and are extremely knowledgeable in their respective field.


Agile working


The alternative leadership style of managers and the right of employees to have a say requires a completely new approach to work throughout the company. Hierarchical work structures are replaced by flattened hierarchies so that the entire workforce can contribute their ideas. Agile working methods accelerate projects and promote innovative ideas. For example, projects are handed over exclusively to mixed teams from different departments. The idea: The more diverse the team members are, the better the innovation and the ideas that come out of it. Networking and collaboration are intended to improve cooperation within the company. Specifically, this means that the work methodology is flexible and open to creativity. Agile working methods, such as Scrum or Design Thinking, are key points in the implementation of New Work.


New Work: Working from home and other forms of work


The demands on the workplace have changed. Traditional offices don’t provide optimal space for agile working methods and flexible working models. A modern New Work office must enable focused and creative work and meet the requirements and wishes of the workforce. In multi-space offices, different space options are designed and used flexibly as employees see fit. With desk sharing, employees can freely choose between workstations in the office. In addition, digital options such as remote work and the ability to work from home must be created. Accordingly, New Work workplaces can be completely different. From modern office concepts and coworking spaces to remote workplaces that can be located anywhere in the world. The sole requirement: Employees need to be connected with the team online.


Remote work


Remote Work means doing one’s job from a remote location. In contrast to working from home, remote work refers to 100-percent virtual work. No time is spent in a set office and the work is independent of any specific location. This offers companies some benefits:

1. International structures:Remote work makes it possible to build an international team. Companies that operate internationally can hire people from a wide variety of regions around the world. When recruiting new employees, companies are not limited to a specific region.

2. A multinational environment: People from different countries and different cultures bring numerous perspectives and approaches to the table. This significantly improves a company’s innovative power. If managers properly integrate multinational employees, it will have a positive effect on overall corporate performance.


Coworking spaces


Coworking spaces, which allow workers to do their job in a shared space with numerous other freelancers and companies, are particularly popular with startups and small enterprises. They bring together different teams in one place where they can benefit from each other through networking and joint exchange. This opens up new perspectives and drives respective business ideas forward. Inspiring and open work is more important than ever for many companies.


New Work and the four-day work week


In a four-day work week, the usual number of working days is reduced from five down to four. The idea behind it: Employees have more time to recuperate from work and have more free time to pursue their personal interests. But there’s a trade-off: Greater productivity is required in the four working days, because the identical amount of work is to be performed as in the five-day week. The concept is less widespread in Germany. In the U.S. and Scandinavia, however, the four-day week has frequently been adopted successfully.


Knowledge work as an element of New Work


In New Work, the principle of the knowledge work is another important concept. The background to this is the increasingly fast-paced world of work. Team members must adapt to dynamic markets and respond to change with tremendous speed. These days, a degree or successful training is no longer sufficient. Professional training and lifelong learning are essential in the age of New Work. Employees must acquire a great deal of knowledge on an ongoing basis across departments to develop innovative ways of solving problems. Education and training can include seminars, webinars, workshops and e-learning platforms. The aim should be for workers to learn from both experts and like-minded people from different industries. The training aspect is vital for modern companies, because in addition to increasing innovation, it also drives motivation and feelings of appreciation in workers.


Work-life blending


The familiar work-life balance has been a predominant factor in the design of modern workplaces for many years. For parents, couples and individuals, leisure time is an important criterium when it comes to recuperation during non-working hours. Flextime and core time models are becoming increasingly popular because employees have to adhere to a fixed period of work presence. As a rule, this is generally between three and five hours. The remaining working time can be freely allocated by the employee. The point of work-life blending is to soften the distinction between personal life and work. Personal conversations during working hours are tolerated, provided employees are also willing to answer e-mails or answer the phone during their free time. From the employee's point of view, this requires meaningful and fulfilling work – otherwise, employees are reluctant to voluntarily deal with business matters in their free time.


In the era of New Work, do we still need offices at all?


With the multitude of digital possibilities, the question arises as to whether offices will still be needed in the future. Offices will, of course, still exist, but the needs have already changed. No longer strictly workplaces with a culture of 9-to-5 attendance, they are now spaces for the exchange of ideas and culture. Companies do still need offices, but they must be spaces that facilitate the seamless integration of digital processes. In the office of the future, digital and real workspaces merge so that creativity can be exercised at any time.


New Work: The advantages at a glance


New Work is a multifaceted concept with numerous measures and requirements. The new forms of work are changing many aspects of our working world, and the increasing dynamism in almost all areas of life will result in further adjustments. We have summarized the advantages of New Work for you here:

- Working from home and remote work save commuting time and provide employees with more leisure time.

- New Work attaches a great deal of importance to a good work-life balance. Families, couples and individuals benefit from a healthy balance between work and leisure time.

- The scope of liberties also helps to facilitate professional and/or private training and continuing education. This strengthens the workers’ sense of appreciation and increases their innovative strengths.

- Independent work is at the forefront of New Work. Team members on a project have significantly more freedom and responsibility in their respective fields. It also makes agile and fast action possible.

- Flattened hierarchies and greater individual responsibility increase motivation and creativity.


New Work: The new forms of work in our future professional world


New Work provides important answers for our constantly changing times. The New Work megatrend is driven by digitization and globalization, which are creating new demands from employees that companies should be addressing in the best possible ways. Agile working, working from home, flattened hierarchies, new leadership and knowledge working are central components for successfully establishing New Work in any company. In the digital enterprise setup, numerous tools can help to successfully connect teams.

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