New Work is synonymous with a new generation of employees. Most often, the term is used in connection with flexibility, agility, independence and personal development in the workplace. It has long been clear to companies that they need to embrace the modern way of working in order to stay relevant for Millennial and Gen Z talent. But what exactly drives New Work, and how can companies put it into practice? We’ve compiled the most important information on this and more right here.
The fundamentals of New Work
New Work is based on three central values: independence, freedom, and community participation. Based on these values, four different approaches to New Work have evolved that each focus on certain aspects of the concept.
Freedom regarding the “where and when” of work
Here, employees are given the freedom to choose where they want to work. This ranges from fixed home-office days to digital nomadism, where employees are completely remote and can work from anywhere. There are also various forms of flexible working hours that companies can offer.
A breakdown of organizational structures
Organizational charts and silos are finally a thing of the past. New Work increasingly revolves around agility and project-based organization.
Creating meaning through work
Employers are challenged to bring meaning to their work. They’re increasingly questioning the values of companies and how worthwhile their own work is.
New management structures
Flat hierarchies, participation and democratic management structures play a central role here.
New Work in practice
Enough theory – what does New Work actually look like in practice? As it happens, there are many established ways to integrate basic New Work values into organizational structures, corporate culture, and everyday work life.
New Work Leadership
Leaders such as managers, team leads, department heads and those at the executive level play a key role in the implementation of New Work. They set the framework and give employees the tools they need to actually live New Work ideals.
- New Work leaders: New Work Leadership is based on trust, personal responsibility and appreciation. Leaders in a New Work environment have to adapt their leadership skills to meet the current moment, where good leadership is measured by the team’s ability to work independently and make collective decisions.
- Empowerment: Empowerment is a central keyword in the New Work context – enabling employees to achieve their goals. In simple terms, this means that employees are allowed to work independently and be accountable to themselves. This brings with it an enormous amount of freedom, and allows the team to develop and grow. In many companies, this leads to greater motivation and better performances.
- Self-actualization: Self-actualization is the goal behind empowerment. The pursuit of self-actualization through work takes into account the expectation that work must also be meaningful.
- A democratic leadership culture: Employee participation is an important but controversial topic when it comes to New Work. While it actively integrates employees into important decision-making processes and leads to greater satisfaction, it also lengthens decision-making paths.
- Flat hierarchies: New Work breaks up classic corporate structures. This includes hierarchical structures that are considered outdated. It’s precisely through principles such as employee participation that hierarchical levels are flattened. Nevertheless, managers play a central role in the implementation.
New Work in the office
In the New Work context, the office no longer connotes a fixed place, but more of an idea. After all, the location of work has long ceased to be linked directly to the company’s physical location.
- Remote work: Even before the pandemic, working from home was increasing in popularity. On the one hand, it offers employees great flexibility. On the other, it demonstrates confidence on the company’s behalf in their employees’ ability to structure their own time. Several pandemic-related lockdowns catalyzed the move toward remote work, as companies were effectively forced into implementing it. Now, remote work has effectively become a requirement for employees, especially the younger generation. This includes either allowing for fixed home-office days or the ability to be fully location-independent. The concept of digital nomads is also on the rise – employees, the self-employed and freelancers tend to work abroad for longer periods of time and use coworking spaces there, for example.
- Job rotation: With job rotation, employees work in other positions within a company for a limited period of time. The extent of this can vary from a brief trial period to a permanent role in a new position. The aim is to build up new skills, connect employees and offer them opportunities for personal development.
- Rethinking the office: If you want to adapt your own office space for New Work, you should plan for communal spaces, well-equipped meeting rooms and places for concentrated work. The office must be designed to foster creative work and community, but also concentration and focus. All this is to say that modern workplaces go far beyond providing a desk, shelving and an internet connection.
How employers can use New Work to their advantage
When New Work is integrated into the company structure, it offers multiple advantages. On the one hand, it presents companies with the opportunity to position themselves competitively in the war of talent. Companies with flat hierarchies, capable New Work leaders and strong values have the best chances of attracting promising talent.
This talent, in turn, can flourish in New Work environments and fully realize their potential. The company then benefits from greater motivation and willingness to perform within the team.
Furthermore, New Work principals are seen as drivers of digitization and innovation. To enable employees to work flexibly and independently, companies must be equipped with the appropriate technology. In this way, companies can keep their finger on the pulse of day-to-day goings on, while benefiting from the positive effects of flexible, agile and digitized work processes.
New Work for a new mindset
New Work principles may entice many companies with promises such as higher output, higher employee motivation, and more innovation and digitization. However, they should also keep in mind that the implementation of New Work starts with the company mentality. New Work cannot simply be imposed on conservative companies and outdated structures – processes must be analyzed, broken down and revised. Managers must also be trained and educated, and employees must understand and accept new ways of leading. New Work values must be lived in the company – requiring a fresh, open and flexible mindset.