New Work – Trendy phrase or the actual future of work?

How do I design a business that is economical profitable and at the same time attractive for my employees? How do I encourage my employees to become motivated, pro-active workers who are willing to go the extra mile? Which structures do I need to establish to ensure my company will stay competitive in our modern times of digitalization and automation? New Work claims to offer a solution to all these problems. Frithjof Bergmann, the founder of the movement, promises his concepts are going to revolutionize today’s economy and undermine established paradigms. Reason enough for us to have a closer look at New Work.

What now?

1981. The first center for New Work opens its gates in the US-American city Flint. Around that time, Flints economy was about to change dramatically due to automation. Thousands of assembly line workers were about to be replaced with machines. People who had been working for General Motors for more than 30 years were endangered to lose their jobs.  Suddenly they were forced to search for new positions.

A complicated situation.

Frithjof Bergmann, professor of philosophy at the university of Michigan jumped in and helped the workers to help themselves. His offer to General Motors: Instead of firing half of their employees, the workers could spent 6 months per year to produce cars while the remaining 6 months would be used as an opportunity to work on themselves. In other words the employees should use their 6 months off to reconsider what they really really want.

Laughers. The workers were perplexed. After all these years of monotonic actions, how should they still know about their true desires? Their ability to imagine a different, more creative life was gone, they said.

Bergmann countered: “You don`t need to work 25 years at the assembly line to not know what you really really want. Many people who had never worked before do not know what they really really want.” This “lack of desire” might be the reason for dissatisfaction in one`s job.

The big car manufactures accepted Bergmann`s offer and together with his team he coached dozens of workers in his Center for New Work. After hundreds of interesting conversations one thing stood out: What the employees really really wanted was a job that gives them a sense of purpose. They wanted to make a difference with their work and add value to our community. Without shame or a guilty conscience. Always with a bigger goal in sight. A strong vision that leads them.

Demotivated workers do not work efficient.
People who do not share the same vision as their company work less efficient and are often demotivated.

Things need to change

Today, 40 years later, this desire is more relevant than ever before. A huge number of blogs tell stories about finding a purpose in your job. A hole army of coaches supports you to discover your personal “why”. Nonetheless many employees are unhappy and deeply demotivated. They do not understand their works purpose neither identify with their employer.

Looking at the statistics we can draw a shocking picture: Employee loyalty is nearly nonexistent. According to the german Gallup Engagement Index only 17% of all employees truly identify themselves with the company they are working for. 83% feel little to zero emotional connection to their employer. As a result, they are less motivated and only work on their do-to-list instaed of thinking ahead. Additionally, these workers are absent more often. 

Missing identification with the employer dampens business sentiment. Without a clear “why” in their head many employees start to question their role in society. In some cases this leads to depression with drastic consequences for the company. The number of days absent due to mental illness nearly tripled since 1997 resulting in the loss of billions of euros.

It is true, the ongoing digitalization leads to greater flexibility for employees, but the permanent availability could also have negative consequences. May it be a quick respond to an email in the late evening of a phone call on the weekend – the work is always present. As the Arbeiterkammer Tirol announces, 81% of all employees are available long after the official office hours. Half of them them mention they are expected to react as quickly as possible. Home Office leveraged this problem: Work and leisure time can`t be parted that easily anymore if your office is your living room at the same time. Many people struggle to make a clear curt and free their minds from problems related to work. This inevitably leads to Burn-Outs.

The solution is a change of paradigms

New Work tries to face the problems of our old way of working and aims to completely solve them. Therefore Employees need to take a step back and view their situation from a different perspective. The question what they really really want to achive with their hustle is essential, thus needs to be asked constantly. Bergmann uses the repetition of “really” intentionally to underline the importance of diving deep into your desires. Superficial desires like having fun don`t satisfy you in the long run. Rollercoasters are quit fun and ice-cream is delicious, but eating ice-cream and driving roller-coaster all day long will not satisfy you in the long run. 

What employees really really need is a deep intrinsic motivation which can only be generated by a strong entrepreneurial vision. This vision motivates them even during challenging or frustrating times. It helps to solve problems that nobody wanted to face but every company experiences at some point.

For companies and especially the leadership team this means to listen carefully. Starting in the first Job Interview, both sides should clarify their goals. What does the employee really really want to do to help your company grow? Which interests or skills could he use to strive towards your entrepreneurial vision? Do we offer the right Job for this purpose or do we need to create a new one, personalized to our employee? Then, and only then, a future corporation is about to be successful. 

New Works overarching goal is to inspire people to deliver their best possible work. This implies making them interested in their tasks. The goals of your company should become their own goals. Their work should deeply satisfy them and give them purpose. This is were employees come alive as a part of the living organism of your company.

To achieve this goal, New Work suggests to establish:

  • Flat hierarchies
  • Remote work structures
  • Flexible work hours
  • Salary that is not connected to the hours worked
  • Trust and Transparency
  • Employee growth and development
Young employee sitting outside and working from wherever he wants. Workers are allowed to choose their way of working, as long as performance is good.
New Work aims to empower and liberate employees. In the end it is all about the results they produce.

New Work November

New Work is a large and complex topic. Maybe you feel a bit overwhelmed by all these theoretical concepts and don`t now were to start.

No need to panic.

We want to support you on your way to a stronger and more agile organization with employees who truly go the extra mile. Thus we will deep dive into bergmanns concepts in our “New Work November”!

Get ready for a month full of new input and practical tipps that allow you to become a better leader in an innovative business. Use this opportunity to get your company ready for 2022.

This is your Chance.

This is the New Work November.

Stay tuned and follow us on social media to recieve regular updates!

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