“Distributed work”, “remote”, “new work”, “digital workplace”… Never before have these terms been used as often as in recent months. And secretly everyone can feel it, the working world as we know it is facing a cultural change. Some even talk about a revolution - or are we already right in the middle of it? We will discuss how Corona is affecting the way we work in the long term and what role New Work plays in this.
Caused by a global pandemic, we suddenly find ourselves in a new reality, in which there is no longer a clear separation between work and private life. For some this might be the long desired ideal, for others it’s a circumstance they just have to come to terms with. Even if we only function in crisis mode right now, it is gradually becoming clear that there will be a “new normal” after Corona. No way back. Companies are facing great challenges, but ultimately this also offers the opportunity to accelerate inevitable changes in our working lives.
Every employee will need some time to get used to this new way of working. There are a lot of prejudices and visions when talking about distributed working. Working from bed all day, sweatpants, screaming kids in the background, distractions at every corner… But what does reality look like? Everyone has to find that out for themselves. Not everyone can cope with the newly gained freedom of working from home or from their current location. Because distributed working means more than just working “remotely”. First of all, distributed working means working with spatial distance, and this could be sitting at the kitchen table or relaxing at the wonderful beach in Thailand (as long as good WLAN is available ;)). Restructuring oneself brings a lot of personal responsibility. But ultimately, not only employees benefit from this flexibility and self-determination, companies also have a larger “pool” of qualified workers available due to the elimination of local ties.
Making this dream come true requires a willingness to reinvent oneself and to break up rigid structures. “New work” is the epitome of this transformation. The central values behind “new work” are self-determination, freedom and participation in community. The most significant aspects are the personal development of employees, as well as the desire to create meaning. Because only satisfied employees, whose strengths are developed and whose needs are met, identify with their employer. Important here is COMMON reflection and constant development of processes and structures. Managers and employees should ask themselves “HOW will we work in the future” and create a new work mentality together.
Great potential (for conflicts)?
In theory this all sounds wonderful, everyone can work where they want (maybe even when they want?), no more need for large office spaces and efficiency reaches an unprecedented level.
But “new work” is not a rigid program, not a “one size fits all” solution. It’s important to find a way with which everyone feels comfortable. We all have those coworkers who thrive on a short chat at the coffeemachine and for whom working together in the office gives that extra kick. There is a risk of employees becoming alienated and working past each other. Especially in companies with a focus on teamwork, distributed working can come with a great potential for conflict. To prevent this, it’s important to compensate real distance with virtual proximity, e.g. with regular short feedback meetings, spontaneous calls, a virtual coffee break or short private exchanges via channels like Slack or WhatsApp. As free and independent as distributed work may seem, it remains essential to create a suitable framework for working together and to check in on the needs of every employee.
Here at Scandio we were also facing difficulties due to Corona and had to cope with a new reality overnight. How we mastered this situation and which tools and tips helped us to get along, you can read here (german only). Even if most things are slowly returning back to normal, we are nevertheless aware that the last few months have brought drastic changes.
In the meantime it’s allowed to work in our office again, but the reactions are rather restrained. Slowly, very slowly the rooms and corridors are filling with life again. Maybe it’s just more comfortable at home. And perhaps many are still cautious. Even though the majority was forced into home office, people got used to the new status quo over time. And you notice a few weeks later, there are still the same few pepole in the office. It appears that two camps have formed: “team remote” and “team office”. After taking a small internal survey, the advantages of each working method became clear: those who work from home usually feel less disturbed and can concentrate better on their work, without being interrupted by colleagues who just drop by for a quick chat. Flexible time management and a better work-life balance are also essential. Office-fans, on the other hand, enjoy the advantages of better equipment (office chair, monitor, coffee machine) and love socializing during their lunch break. And it’s those same colleagues who see the daily routine and the clear separation of job and leisure as a great advantage.
Since we at Scandio live and love teamwork, but also respect everyones needs and personal freedom, there is only one long-term solution: the Scandio-hybrid! We hope to find a good balance between working remotely and at the office, leaving it up to everyone to decide for themselves how to organise their day most effectively. Corona confronted us with great challenges, and we say: challenge accepted! For us, implementing “new work” means perceiving change, reacting to it and changing our views. This is the only way we can ensure that everyone develops their full potential and that we will continue to master all challenges in the future.