The acute phase of the pandemic upended the way most of us do our jobs, potentially forever. According to many HR experts, remote and hybrid work are not only here to stay but are evolving into something called New Work, an arrangement in which companies trust their employees to do their work when and how it makes the most sense for them.
Where did the term New Work originate?
In the 1980s, University of Michigan professor of philosophy Frithjoh Bergmann began advocating for a different way of working, a model he coined New Work. He described the goal for New Work as a way to help people “perform work that inspires them and gives them more energy, work that lifts them to higher levels of vitality, vigor and life.”
What does a New Work model look like?
Today, New Work is associated with work environments that features these key dynamics:
- Management trust in employees to make decisions and perform their jobs without micro management
- Schedule freedom that allows employees to get their work done when and where they choose
- Outcome orientation that focuses more on the quality and impact of employees’ work than on the time clock
- Purposeful work that employees feel connected to and motivated by
- Holistic well-being and development that prioritizes work-life balance, continuous learning and physical and mental health
- Openness and collaboration in which everyone is valued, informed and empowered
- Integrative technology that facilitates collaboration, improves productivity and leads to data-driven decision-making
You might also hear the New Work concept referred to as Work 4.0, agile working or total workplace flexibility.
Why are companies adopting this new working model?
As we all know, companies had little choice but to have significant portions of their staff work remotely when the pandemic hit. This proved that many types of work could be successfully performed without being confined to a specific physical location. And the proliferation of digital tools (think Teams, Miro, Slack and Zoom) made it easier than ever to collaborate with teammates no matter their location.
The results of flexible working arrangements have been as big a boon for employers as they have for employees.
One survey of small business owners found that customer retention improved by 79% for companies that offered both remote and hybrid work options. Furthermore, survey participants said the shift to flexible working arrangements had “increased their employees’ availability, productivity and focus—each by at least 59%.”
A second survey revealed that when offered a flexible work arrangement, 87% of employees take it, making it a deciding factor in employee recruitment and retention. Similarly, yet another survey found that 82% of employees feel more loyal to companies that let them have a flexible schedule of some sort.
New Work also helps companies quickly pivot when economic, social or other conditions change. This is something business leaders learned was essential in the early days of the pandemic.
How could a New Work situation benefit you?
Just as Professor Bergmann wanted, New Work benefits employees in multiple ways:
- Work-life balance: When you’re not tied to a set schedule, there is adequate room in your life for non-work responsibilities and pleasures. For example, a working parent can more easily take time out of their day for a child’s school or extracurricular event because their manager trusts that their work won’t suffer for it.
- Non-stagnant environment: Instead of an all-remote, all in-person or set hybrid schedule, you choose which arrangement makes the most sense for you at any given time, such as coming into the office for important team updates and collaboration but favoring remote work when the quiet of your home office is more conducive to producing high-quality output on an assignment.
- Budget boon: If you don’t have to go into the office every day, you save on a work wardrobe, daily lunches and commuting costs, such as public transit fare or gas and wear on your vehicle.
- Skill development: Exposure to new digital tools, which are increasingly the workplace norm, expands your skillset to make you more marketable for new job opportunities. The same is true for the career development programs that companies committed to New Work offer.
- Increased confidence: The ability to make decisions in your job helps you become a more self-assured professional in your field.
Are there any downsides for employees?
The employee negatives associated with this model mostly revolve around the New Work dynamic of schedule freedom. Consider those who are new to the workforce: For them, it might be harder to train for a new job, get to know their co-workers or learn more nuanced aspects of the job that would be more apparent if everyone always worked in the same location at the same time.
Some company leaders also worry about employees feeling isolated if they aren’t physically working beside colleagues. Other experts warn that the lack of set schedules may blur the boundaries between work and home.
So, how do you know if a company you’re considering going to work for is overcoming these potential negatives in its New Work quest? Ask around about its communication style. Companies that communicate transparently and openly with their workforce are the ones most successfully empowering their employees to realize their full potential through the opportunities and flexibility of New Work.
Editor’s Note: While Quorum embraces New Work, flexibility is earned and based on performance and trust. If you are interested in a career with Quorum Federal Credit Union, be sure to discuss flexible work arrangements with Human Resources during the interview process.