New Work – there is probably hardly a term in the working world that everyone has heard so often and yet can explain so little clearly. Many are familiar with the term from the phase in which the initial switch to the home office slowly worked out during the Corona lockdowns and people began to seriously consider whether remote working might not actually become the standard even after the pandemic.
The concept is not at all new
What for many of us is a relatively new movement actually goes back to the 1980s: At that time, the Austrian-American social philosopher and anthropologist Frithjof Bergmann coined the term, then still known as “new work”, as a counter-model to socialism. The aim was for employees to recognize the meaning of their work and therefore enjoy doing it.
According to Bergmann, the extent to which companies or organizations implement “new work” can be measured by five central principles and their degree of development:
- Freedom: in the sense of a corporate culture free of fear, strong networking within the organization and freedom to experiment.
- Self-responsibility: This includes self-organization, assumption of responsibility, but also participation models for employees.
- Meaning: not merely creating value, but enjoying one’s work and thereby recognizing its meaning for one’s own person
- Development: self-reflection, further training, making decisions together for the organization
- Social responsibility: such as environmental and social sustainability.
All this shows one thing above all: New Work is much more than the possibility of working remotely!
Establishing New Work in the company – what is it like at Content Garden?
How do you bring New Work to life in your own company – adapted to the characteristics of your daily business?
First of all, it is of course enormously important that the management level breaks away from old-established working models that – it has to be said so openly – have lived strongly on control. In our case, too, the Corona pandemic was the impetus for evaluating new ways of working – initially with regard to the possibility of home office and the more flexible approach to working hours.
“Quite honestly, you have to admit that under the pressure of the initial lockdowns, there was more movement in the way we worked than we initially imagined. The learning from this should be that when it comes to (New) Work, what is needed above all is courage and trust,” explains our COO Stefan Huber.
Of course, it was also crucial for our management’s openness to new ways of working that productivity and efficiency did not decrease in the home office – the opposite was the case.
What is certainly also a success factor in the implementation of New Work is a person in the company who is dedicated to the topic – in our case, many initiatives for the new way of working come from our People & Culture Manager Patricia. In line with the guiding principles of “freedom” and “development,” however, it is always possible to contribute suggestions regarding everyday work, which are evaluated and implemented by her and the Leadership Team.
“New Work is created by doing, by experiencing, and that’s the beauty of it. For me personally, it’s not a new work concept, but one that is built on appreciation and honest interest in the other person. Especially in the workplace, there is so much potential for development – professionally and personally. It would be a great pity if it remained unused. Also because it has long been clear that there can be no long-term success without a “we” feeling,” says our People & Culture Manager Patricia Höreth.
How we live New Work: Our 10 principles for working together
New Work can look different in every company – this is simply because the daily structures and tasks depend entirely on the business in question and the needs of the teams are completely different.
That’s why we would like to give you an insight into how we live New Work at Content Garden.
#1: How many days do you want to work? After a test run to the 4-day week in 2022 (it has since been proven that this model offers productivity benefits), we were able to choose whether we would like to continue to keep our working hours reduced in favor of a 4-day week or prefer to return to a 5-day week. Some colleagues stayed with 4 days, while others opted to return to a 5-day week (overall, the team is 60% full time and 40% part time). Both models have a place with us and can be reconciled.
#2 Remote or in the office – we have the choice. If you want, you have the option of spending up to 50% of your working hours in a home office. This suits many people in terms of flexibility, family life and leisure activities – at the same time, there are always phases when more team members are present in the office and enjoy the company of their colleagues – after all, there’s nothing like a personal exchange at the coffee machine in between 😉 .
#3 What do we need to work well? Enhancing the workday of team members through easy-to-implement but very effective measures has an enormous influence on the motivation with which we approach our work. The needs are as individual as each team member: For many, it’s the small energy suppliers such as fruit, sweets, coffee or tea that enrich their working day and thus push their commitment. And for others, it’s the shared trip to the beer fridge after work. Either way: For us, meeting individual needs in the team also means New Work.
#4 Working hours – flexibly adapted to business. Today, of course, flexibility is also required when it comes to working hours – for example, for many of our parents on the team, it is unavoidable to work “around” weekly fixed private appointments. Our workday typically starts with stand-up meetings in the morning. When these take place depends entirely on the unit in question; at the same time, they also mark our latest work start time.
#5 The working relationship is a give and take. Here, too, flexibility is a key word. For example, scheduling our working hours as flexibly as possible sometimes means that we have to adapt to the rhythm of our customers, so that team members – if necessary – invest an extra hour in a project on one day. In return, these colleagues know that they can start work earlier on another day. We understand the cooperation among each other as a constant give and take – it is important that over time a balance is achieved with which everyone is satisfied.
#6 Empathic leadership is a must. For us, leading a unit means being able to empathize with the team members and know their needs. It also means not being an advocate of “control and command”, but the exact opposite: In our opinion, good heads create the ideal conditions for their team members, remove obstacles for them (or better yet, show them how to get around them themselves) and in this way support them in their further development. Or as management consultant Simon Sinek puts it:
“A leader’s job is not to do the work for others, it’s to help others figure out how to do it themselves, to get things done, and to succeed beyond what they thought possible.”
We are proud that we live this leadership culture.
#7 We work on a one-to-one basis and as equals. That doesn’t mean we don’t have official hierarchies in the company. We have them – because we know from practice that it always takes one person to take the organizational lead of a unit, as described in the previous point. But what hierarchy doesn’t mean for us is acting from the top down. It doesn’t matter whether you are “Junior”, “Senior”, “Head of” or “Chief XY”: In our dealings and communication with each other, we are all “gardeners” and everyone in their position is equally important and valuable to the company.
#8 We share responsibility. Even though there are hierarchies within the company, responsibility for each:n individual is important to us. According to the principle of “own it”, we want everyone to take responsibility for their own projects and stand up for them. Help and support is always available from the team as well as from the respective team leader. We do not want to see constant control and micro-management in our company culture. For us, responsibility also means making suggestions for improvement – whether, for example, we notice that avoidable problems keep cropping up in the daily work process, or whether the office is in urgent need of a makeover so that everyone feels comfortable and can work well. It is particularly nice that we have a lot of long-time colleagues in our team. Their experience helps us to assess many situations, to recognize opportunities and to avoid repeating past mistakes.
#9 Teamwork – focus on what we have in common. This New Work pillar also goes hand in hand with the last point. Although we focus on individual responsibility, no one is left alone with his/her own situation. In formats such as our daily stand-ups (both across units and within units), there is room to talk about creative breakdowns, difficult situations or other hurdles. By the way: After successful onboarding, we hold a feedback development meeting after the first and third month of work to determine where the new team member’s skills lie, where support is still needed, or where special potential is emerging. Even outside of various meeting formats, the general motto is: Together we have mastered every challenge – from difficult initial situations such as the pandemic, to tight deadlines, to demanding customer requests or content-related topics that we first had to work out together.
#10 We pursue a common sense. “But what you like to do, you do well,” is a quote by journalist, philosopher and writer Prentice Mulford, which corresponds to Frithjof Bergmann’s principle of “meaning” for New Work. It is also important to us that all employees:inside are convinced of our company philosophy: To make advertising that people enjoy consuming again because it is unobtrusive, informative, entertaining and offers recognizable added value. Every day, this starting point gives us the basis for the way we do our work and usually provides the right answer to the question of how we want to develop as a company and team.
“One of the most important points for a job that I like to do and do well: trust. It is definitely conducive to motivated and productive work if you are shown this and can also have it in your colleagues. The appreciative, collegial and flexible atmosphere allows us to take personal responsibility and take it seriously – and that in turn makes us unbeatable as a team and in our output,” says our colleague and Senior Content Manager Bernadette Graf, describing New Work at Content Garden.
The important thing is that these 10 pillars that make up our New Work are not set in stone – how could they be, when our way of working is geared to the needs of the team and the business and everyone can always make suggestions for change? New Work is also a process for us – and one that we continue to develop together. Together, we create a working environment that motivates and inspires us, and at the same time is a place where we can feel good. In short: a workplace that we always enjoy coming to (most of the year 😉 ).
Sources and reading tips:
„On The Way To New Work“, Swantje Allmers, Michael Traumann, Christoph Magnussen
„New Work Needs Inner Work“, Joana Breidenbach, Bettina Rollow
„Arbeiten auf Augenhöhe“, Lena Marie Glaser