New Work: blending life and work
Executive Education / 6 January 2020
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Project Management Product Manager
Barbara Rave (M.A.) is a product manager in Frankfurt School’s Professional & Executive Education department. She designs continuing education programmes covering Strategy & Change Management and Technology & Operations.

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The structural transformation of the workplace is clearly inevitable. As digitalisation, automation and demographic shifts proliferate, the way we work is also bound to change. One response to this transformation of our working environments is “New Work”. As a blanket term for trailblazing, meaningful work, “New Work” has become an increasingly popular buzzword – one that is influencing organisation management and leadership culture in businesses everywhere.

The term’s origins

The New Work movement is characterised by employees asking themselves what they really want to do, starting from the assumption that what they are currently doing is not personally fulfilling. Social philosopher Dr Frithjof Bergmann has been researching New Work for years, trying to establish how to address the needs reflected in the concept. He likens the dilemma facing many employees to a mild cold – the kind of discomfort about which you might say “I can put up with this until Friday”. But considering how many years people spend in this frame of mind while doing their nine-to-five jobs, he regards this mindset as extremely unhealthy and unproductive. Unhappy people do not work as efficiently – this has long been well-established fact. People would prefer and should be able to express their own personalities in their work, abandoning the usual well-trodden pathways. This is the only way to produce innovative ideas and forward-thinking strategies.

The core values of New Work – as a collective term for meaningful work – are autonomy, freedom of action, self-fulfilment and a sense of purpose. There is no fixed way of putting this into practice. New Work is more a question of in-house attitudes and management culture, so should be initiated by a company’s decision-makers.

Tools, people, places – establishing a New Work culture

Modern executives should manage their team members as equals. This goes far beyond bosses simply discarding their ties in favour of sneakers – it implies a profound change in corporate culture and structures. Those wishing to embed New Work in their companies must engage in a 360-degree dialogue with their employees, actively communicating the challenges facing the business and involving the entire workforce in the search for appropriate solutions. Accessibility and transparency encourage team members to identify with the business. And modern employers must also be prepared to share power with their employees.

Based on trust

Clearly trust is a key component of today’s New Work culture. Trust is the basis of all change processes intended to give employees more freedom of action. If employees are given more freedom and flexibility to manage their own time and work, they become demonstrably more motivated. If this is combined with greater responsibility and an awareness that the work they are doing is appreciated, employees go on to develop new ways of thinking from which your business will undoubtedly benefit. Redefining and reorganising work in innovative ways endows the social lives of individuals with new, higher status – something the younger generation considers highly desirable. By offering New Work structures, businesses enhance their ability to attract new talent.

New Work is one of the practices explored in our Organisation Manager certification course. You can find further course details on our website.