New Work – An Overview

Digitalisation and globalisation are two of the most important phenomena of the 21st Century. They influence significantly how we live – and work. New Work is supposed to be the answer to our changed modern society. Discover here an overview of what New Work stands for and what it represents. The idea of New Work originates from the social philosopher Frithjof Bergmann. In the 1970s and 1980s he  looked into capitalism and developed a counter model to it. The approaches of today‘s New Work movements were born  – a new form of working, which releases the employee from the “Servitude of Paid Labour” and is instead characterised by freedom, self-employment and participation in the community.

Old Work versus New Work

Whether one condems “paid labour” as strongly as Bergman or not, New Work delivers many valuable contributions for a modern work culture. In order to understand New Work better, it has to be clarified from which traditional work structure this movement differentiates itself.

Working in Networks

Instead of hierarchical top down organisation charts in companies, where commands run from the top down and reports from the bottom up, comes working in networks. Interactively and without any barriers, people are jointly developing their approaches – irrespective of where they are. More can be achieved through free exchange of knowledge and ideas than through working in constantly the same team, which executes commands coming from above. Employees are not to perceive themselves as lone fighters, who fulfil a specific task, but as part of an agile team. Knowledge and experiences are shared in the network and employees can always reassemble in new project-related teams. Mobility also continues to grow in importance. The stationary workspace is pushed back in favour of a mobile work culture, flexible working time models and virtual teams. Here digitalisation plays a key role: through cloud technologies and communication as well as collaboration tools, people around the world can connect and collaborate in real time.

Creative Working Nomads

While, until a few years ago, it was a generally accepted career goal to work yourself up the company ladder over a few decades, young New Workers find working for a single employer over many years both strange and restrictive. As young talents capitalise on freedom and independence and often don’t require anything else for their work than a laptop, they work increasingly project-related. A job offer is of particular interest to a New Worker when they can realise their potential optimally. Therefore they work for who they would like to work for at a particular time, as long as they would like to and from whatever location – may it be in Kassel or the Carribean. A career in the traditional sense is today often put on the back burner after self-realisation, work-life balance and the individual needs of the employee.

New Work: Combine Working and a Sense of Wellbeing

”Work while you work – play while you play’’ is a quote of the philosopher Theodor Adorno. While it still applies for traditional forms of work to separate work and pleasure, then the New Worker clearly stands against this view. Work even has to be fun. Our society is undergoing a change from industry to the knowledge society. Conventional forms of work can no longer keep pace. Creative, innovative thinking becomes increasingly important as routine tasks are being carried out more and more by machines. Only few people still have sudden inspirations after working eight hours in front of a screen or after a meeting marathon. Creativity demands less discipline, but more relaxation: when people feel well – as the New Work philosophy goes – they are able to achieve their best intellectual performance. This is to be achieved on one hand through attractive furnishing of office buildings, which offer New Workers in part sun decks, chillout lounges and fitness rooms.  This allows employees to spend their working day as per their personal needs, while exploiting their creative energy. On the other hand, flat hierarchies, as well as independence and freedom in the design of their working times, is to encourage top performances.

Conclusion

New Work is no fad, but already in full swing. For example, people use technology opportunities to collaborate freely and efficiently, irrespective of when and where. At the same time hierarchies in companies disappear gradually, while boundaries between work and leisure time blur: “Life isn’t divided into work and leisure time – it is all life”, points out dm founder Götz Werner. This is the belief New Work draws on: The work culture mirrors a value change, which pursues the demand for more independence, freedom and self-determination in the modern society. Supported by technology, people are meant to be able to realise their entire creative potential and  balance their personal needs and professional activity as best possible.

 

 

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