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New Work – Basically a Matter of Corporate Culture

Reading Time: 7 Minutes 07.07.2021 Currents & Trends

On the Journey to New Work

The coronavirus crisis has only accelerated what had already begun: the transition to New Work. The success of the new working method strongly depends on the respective corporate culture.

The coronavirus crisis has turned the work life upside down overnight. All of a sudden, the kitchen table at home was not only a place for cooking anymore, but also part of a corporate network.

A shock to many at first, the mandatory closure of offices has proven beneficial over time. As it turned out, the new way of working – also referred to as "New Work", or "hybrid work" where working from home is combined with working at the office – is working quite well. Consequently, more and more employees want flexible working times and the option to work remotely from anywhere while staying in touch with their team.

Flexibility meets productivity

Contrary to general concerns, productivity has not decreased during the remote phase. Studies (German only) show that 41 percent of the interviewed employees felt more productive than before and about one third at least reached the same productivity level as in the office. One reason for this is that tasks can often be completed with more focus and hence more quickly at home. Furthermore, people no longer waste time on the road commuting from and to the office, which quite often amounts to two hours a day.

The increased flexibility resulting from the home-office system provides employees with the benefit of tailoring their professional work to their personal needs, which in turn increases productivity and satisfaction. Of course, employers benefit as well. For instance, office expenses can be reduced, and new staff can be hired more flexibly

New Work means trying and readjusting

The sudden switch to home office has presented many companies with severe technical challenges. Many organizations first had to introduce systems that enabled a productive collaboration beyond the company's borders and regardless of the location. Security and data protection were key here. According to the Data Breach Investigations Report, only 22 percent of all company attacks were related to phishing back in 2019. In 2020, already 75 percent of the companies worldwide registered such attacks.

The experience of the last months has shown that working from home is not always considered a relief. Seven out of ten employees experienced 2020 as the most intensive year of their career by far. More than three quarters of the employees interviewed by Oracle reported that their mental well-being has deteriorated. According to a survey by the Chemnitz University of Technology, about 60 percent of the employees indicated that the lines between work life and private life become blurred in home office. More than every fourth employee perceive this as a burden. This affects mostly working women with young children.

Leaders are also faced with new challenges. A survey by the Institute for Leadership in the Digital Age (Insitut für Führungskultur im digitalen Zeitalter; IFIDZ) has shown that almost two thirds of the interviewed managers feel that the hybrid form of collaboration bears the risk of individual employees feeling isolated. Besides that, more than half of them fear that this will affect the team spirit. One third of the participants find it likely that there might be tension within the team between the employees working from home and the employees working at the office.

Corporate culture as the foundation for every change

proALPHA has already established the prerequisites for New Work back in 2018, both in a technical and an organizational sense. Since then, it has been possible to work up to 48 days a year remotely. "Based on the positive experience and the feedback of the last months, we have increased the number of remote days for the time after the pandemic as well," says Petra Henn, Head of HR at proALPHA. The technical prerequisites are provided by the internal IT department, which also addresses the topic of data protection with due professionalism.

In spite of the good preparation, the sudden switch to home office and distributed teams still posed a real challenge at the start of the pandemic. This also applies to many other companies regardless of their size or the industry they operate in. This is where the probably most important aspect of New Work comes into play: the existence of an empowering corporate culture.

„We have accomplished the transformation – not least thanks to our corporate culture that is characterized by appreciation, trust and the willingness to learn just as well as the capability to learn and to assume responsibility for one's tasks,
Petra Henn, Head of HR at proALPHA

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New Work demands self-discipline and respect

proALPHA is well aware that the transition to the New Work model is anything but a surefire success. But once all obstacles have been overcome, the change in perspective shows its advantages, for example with an increased flexibility and productivity.

This can only be achieved through strategic assistance and customized solutions. proALPHA has therefore introduced a number of effective measures. "It is important to us that the home office doesn't raise the expectation to be available 24/7. One has to establish clear and transparent barriers that separate the free time from the working time," Henn adds. Respect and self-regulation are essential to succeeding with this concept in practice. proALPHA currently supports its employees with three online seminars. This offer is revaluated and adjusted on a regular basis.

  • Work-life blending: home office and mobile working
  • Working in balance true to the motto "Run your day, don't let it run you"
  • Self-guidance in trying times

Leaders, too, want to enjoy more flexible working hours – as has been recently shown by an internal survey – and proALPHA offers them training tailored to their special needs.

  • Virtual leadership: how to stay close to your team from a distance
  • Health is a matter of the management: healthy leading for a higher satisfaction and motivation

The contents of these seminars focus on the applied corporate culture as well as on another central pillar of New Work: communication skills. Head of HR, Petra Henn: "Communication is key. Mostly, but not only, this is up to the leaders. The new work situation can only be successful in the long term if everyone makes a contribution and assumes responsibility."

Besides an informal transfer of knowledge, which is crucial to the team spirit and a positive atmosphere, this can be achieved through video calls, online coffee breaks and virtual get-togethers.

Invest in more freedom

The flexibility proALPHA offers its employees also allows them to take a longer time off. Every two years, the employees may take a sabbatical of up to three months. "To finance these sabbaticals, we have created value accounts to which employees can make voluntary payments using parts of their salaries," Henn explains. "The duration of the sabbatical leave depends on the credit balance, including interests." This credit can also be used for nursing care time for family members, for extra payments during parental leaves or for an earlier retirement of up to two years.

It all starts with the corporate culture

Long before the coronavirus crisis hit the world, proALPHA laid the foundation for a new work life. The pandemic ultimately spurred this development. Today, proALPHA fulfills the technological requirements as well as the organizational requirements to meet the employees' demands for more flexible working times and more personal responsibility.

"We are well aware that the transformation toward the new work life requires the full support of the company's management," says Eric Verniaut, CEO at proALPHA. "Our evolutionary corporate culture, that is characterized by flat hierarchies and transparent processes, greatly contributes to the transformation and helps us to continuously integrate this new work lifestyle into our organization's culture."

„We are well aware that the transformation toward the new work life requires the full support of the company's management“,
Eric Verniaut, CEO at proALPHA

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