New work: development, meaning, and examples

Digitalisation continues to change our working environments. The new work concept describes how companies should deal with these changes. Greater flexibility and self-determination aim to help employees feel more satisfied at work, thereby boosting productivity in the long-term. Read on to find out what new work is and what it means.

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New work: definition

New work is not an entirely new phenomenon. The term has been used since the 1970s. Today, it is emblematic of the structural change in corporate environments.

These changes are being driven by the digitalisation and automation of our daily lives. Existing jobs are being eliminated or modified, and new positions continue to be created. Artificial intelligence and globalisation are intensifying these developments. At the same time, the demands of Generation Y – those born in the early 80s to late 90s – are changing. Jobseekers of this generation are looking for roles with purpose; roles they can shape to some extent. Fulfilment is increasingly taking precedence over high salaries and prestigious titles.

Fact

At least half of existing jobs are bound to change as a consequence of the ongoing digitalisation and automation of the working world.

New work: meaning for companies

For businesses, new work means keeping up with technological progress and, at the same time, offering employees an attractive workplace. These are challenges that require visible structural changes, but above all a change within the corporate culture or the so-called ‘mindset’.

There is no checklist for what new work should look like at a corporate level. Each company must define new work for themselves and derive their own measures. The market, the customers, the competition, and the employees ultimately define what a new work culture will look like. The only thing that is certain is that in the long-term, hardly any company will be able to afford to do without new work, since the shortage of skilled workers continues to grow, especially in emerging professions, and experts will ultimately select companies that understand new work.

Advantages of new work for companies according to studies include:

  • Increasing productivity and staff motivation
  • Boosting innovation
  • Higher employee loyalty
  • A competitive advantage thanks to employees and products that are constantly evolving

Foundations of new work

At the heart of new work are employees, who expect maximum flexibility from their employer in all facets – from project and task choice, to working hours and location. In concrete terms, new work consists of the following basic ideas:

  1. Staff select their tasks according to interest and skills and not according to structural framework conditions such as titles or team membership. The idea behind this is that people who are passionate about an idea tend to achieve better results. In the best case, employees thus develop their full potential and advance the company with new ideas.
  2. Employees are free to decide which projects they complete when, where, and how. So called agile working is as much a feature of new work as is working from home. Digital collaboration tools ensure that everyone involved in a project can easily coordinate their tasks and understands the project status at all times.
  3. Technology frees employees of certain tasks but doesn’t eliminate their jobs. Nowadays, routine tasks can often be managed by machines. People have more time to devote to more exciting and new tasks. Another basic idea of new work is that work should be inspiring!
  4. Work isn’t everything. Being mindful of oneself, others, and one’s health in general is part of the new work concept. Work-life balance, i.e. the perfect combination of work and private life, is of great importance.
  5. Team in focus. People are social beings who want to be part of a group and are more motivated when they feel they are working towards a common goal. Knowledge is shared as widely as possible within a team or the entire company.

How do you implement new work in businesses?

If you want to introduce new work in your company, the implementation process begins with the corporate values and with the employees because they should be involved right from the start. A sense of a common spirit or optimism, the right to have a say, and the freedom to shape things are fundamental ingredients for new work to be successful.

Tip

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Examples of implementing new work:

  • Break up rigid attendance and work schedules. Introduce flexi-time, a four-day week, a 6-hour day or working from home. Sabbaticals and digital nomandum – working independent of location – are also good examples of new work.
  • Set up offices in a way that allow for collaborative creative working, but also more focused working. You could combine individual office spaces with shared spaces equipped with flipcharts, whiteboards, and other tools. Co-working and shared desk solutions are also good solutions.
  • Introduce digital collaboration tools – from cloud solutions to platforms like Jira, Trello, or Microsoft Teams to digital whiteboards and mind maps.
  • Introduce agile working. There are various approaches and methods such as Scrum and design thinking. These ways of working are characterised by speed and added flexibility.
  • Dissolve rigid hierarchies and traditional leadership styles. New work is not about leaders assigning tasks to employees and monitoring progress; instead, they become facilitators, motivators, and coaches. Trust and mutual understanding are more important than hierarchical positions in a company.

New work means structural and cultural change that takes time and patience. It’s best to start by introducing small changes and, if necessary, get support from external consultants – fresh eyes are invaluable. Since markets, technologies, and people continuously evolve, the new work project is never finished. There is always something to improve.

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