Whilst self-determination is only one of several aspects in the original New Work concept, it is gaining more and more importance in the effective implementation of New Work in companies. Digital transformation allows for a much higher level of flexibility in our decisions regarding what we do, when and how. Many modern day employees have the flexibility to book the next business trip on their smartphone at 2am, work on their presentation on that flight and then make some time for sightseeing during the day etc. Employees also expect more flexibility, through options for home office, flexible work hours and so on. Flexibility seems to have risen to one of the most important aspects of employer branding.
But what kind of company culture is necessary to realise this version of new work? And how can I enable these flexible ways of working without letting the company fall into chaos?
New work? Prepare your culture!
In order to implement new topics, ways of working and forms of New Work, I need the right culture as a good basis. This is exceedingly important, because New Work does not work overnight. Going at it in a way of “let’s just do this quickly” will not be successful. Instead, you need to think carefully about what it is you want to reach and what kind of culture is necessary to reach it. Most importantly: culture is something that changes over years, it can’t be changed and reimplemented in just two or three months. But what you can do is to change it in small steps, bit by bit, thus disassembling your current culture and building it up again in a changed way.
An entity of many
Cultures differ everywhere. Not just between countries, regions and companies, but also within a single company. A salesperson thinks different from a bookkeeper, someone in marketing does not work the same as someone in HR. This is a good thing, but also something we have to remind ourselves of. Because it also means that New Work will work differently, and be perceived differently, in the different departments: an open-space-office might be perceived very positively in a creative environment, while a data analyst, developer or other employee needing a high level of concentration for their work might not like working in such a space at all.
Home office options, flexible work hours and and working models all sound great, but they don’t work automatically without preparation and effort. We at teambay know this first hand: we also have employees working from home, sometimes even from a different continent for a certain time. We have flexible work hours and full-time as well as part-time employees. But to provide this kind of freedom, paradoxically what you need most is rules. Rules and clear agreements: Who is where at what time? What needs to be communicated until when?
It does not work without this kind of structure, but what it also needs is a suitable company culture. When thinking about New Work, most people think mostly about flexibility. What’s easy to forget is that New Work within the flexibility framework requires a lot of discipline. You don’t only need good organisation from management, but especially the employees need to have a high level of discipline in order to stay within deadlines and agreements, because in this form of work you can’t always just walk over to the next desk to clear things up. You need structure in order to resolve structure.
All these aspects and challenges show that the way to New Work is not necessarily an easy walk in the park, but more of a marathon. This does not mean that it’s not worth it. With patience, trial-and-error and holistic communication including all stakeholders you can make progress step by step, and might even get to enjoy the view from time to time.