-- Weglot --
For the last few 100 years, working practices have remained relatively unchanged, although everything else in the world has progressed rapidly. Who knew that one day, we'd be able to join meetings with people from the other side of the world or send emails instantaneously?
However, even with these technological advances, organizations are still very hierarchical, with clear lines of authority and communication. Most employees still have a job with a fixed location and set hours, there's limited room for creativity and innovation, and productivity levels are often low.
Nowadays, the new generation of workers is questioning the traditional boundaries between work and home life. They want more flexibility, freedom, and control over their lives and are no longer willing to sacrifice their personal time for their professional lives.
This is where the New Way of Working (NWOW) comes in, and companies that continue to operate as if nothing has happened will be left behind and lose the war for talent.
So, what is the meaning of NWOW? Let's take a closer look.
The New Way of Working (NWOW) is all about breaking down the traditional barriers between work and life. That includes management styles, workplace design, communication, and collaboration.
The aim is to create a more flexible, agile, human-centered, and collaborative way of working that supports employees in achieving their full potential and leads to improved productivity and satisfaction levels while ensuring the retention of top talent.
In other words, it's about creating a work environment where people can be happy, healthy, and productive.
There are four key pillars to the New Way of Working:
There are many different forms of the New Way of Working that businesses are starting to adopt. Here are some of the most popular:
Flexible work arrangements are becoming increasingly common, with businesses offering employees the ability to work from home, follow the hybrid work model, or take advantage of flexible scheduling in terms of when they start and finish work.
However, in their literal sense, flexible work arrangements are meant to be alternate arrangements to the standard working day and week.
So, if an employee wants to work four 10-hour days instead of five 8-hour days, that would be considered a flexible work arrangement. Similarly, if an employee wants to work 5 days for one week and then take 2 days off the following week, that would also be considered a flexible work arrangement.
While we're seeing that companies are on their way to offering more flexible work arrangements, there's still a long way to go. Most companies are still taking "fixed working days" as their starting point and adding some flexibility.
What we need to see is a more fundamental shift, where businesses are offering true flexibility instead of just making minor changes to the status quo.
Managers still very much value "presenteeism," and people who are out of sight are easily forgotten. This creates a situation where employees who are serious about their careers often don't adopt flexible work arrangements, as they feel it could be detrimental to their career progression. That shouldn't be the case.
Another form of NWOW that's becoming popular is "smart work" or "agile work." Smart work is all about working smarter, not harder. It's about being more efficient and effective in your work without having to follow the standard approach to getting things done.
There are a few key principles of smart work:
Agile work is a form of smart work, and it entails teams choosing the most efficient and effective way to get a task done, regardless of whether it's the "normal" way of doing things.
For example, if a team is working on a project and they realize that they can get the job done faster by working on weekends, that's what they'll do. Or, if a team decides they can get the job done more effectively by breaking it down into smaller tasks and working on those individually, rather than as one big project, they'll do that instead.
The key to agile work is that teams are given the freedom to choose the best way to get a task done without having to follow predetermined rules or procedures. This allows them to be more innovative, productive, and effective in their work since the full control is shifted to the employees.
Too often, businesses are still stuck in old-fashioned ways of working, where they value face-time over results and think that the only way to get things done is by following the same rigid process that's been in place for years.
But, with smart work and agile work, businesses are starting to see that there are better ways to get things done, and they're giving their employees the freedom to choose the most effective approach.
For the agile way of working to be successful, it's important that managers stop measuring inputs (hours worked) and start measuring outputs (results). This requires a leadership style that empowers employees and instills trust, so they feel comfortable taking risks and trying new things.
Inevitably, with the world becoming more and more connected, we're seeing a rise in crowdsourcing, and the reason is that the future of work will ultimately be more result-focused rather than process-focused, so companies will need to find the best talent, regardless of location.
Crowdsourcing is the process of allocating tasks to people anywhere in the world by issuing a request for work. The beauty of crowdsourcing is that businesses can tap into a global pool of talent and only have to pay for the work that's done (rather than paying a salary or hourly rate).
While this form of work has been around for a while, it'll only become more popular in the future as companies need to find ways to be more cost-effective and efficient.
For example, imagine a company needs a new website designed. They could hire a full-time web designer, or they could post a request for work on a crowdsourcing platform like Upwork or Fiverr. Once they receive the proposals from freelancers, they can then choose the one that best suits their needs and budget.
That means we're expecting to see a rise in the number of contractors, freelancers, and part-time workers, as well as a shift to more flexible working arrangements where people can be employees of multiple companies.
Activity-based working (ABW) is a style of work that's becoming more popular as businesses strive to create more collaborative and productive work environments.
Under the ABW model, employees are no longer tied to specific desks or offices but rather have access to various different spaces where they can carry out their work. This could include dedicated areas for individual work, teamwork, and socializing/networking.
The goal of ABW is to create a more flexible and productive workplace by giving employees the freedom to choose the best environment for the task at hand.
For example, if someone needs to concentrate on a specific task, they can go to a quiet area where they won't be interrupted. Or, if they need to collaborate with a team, they can go to a more open area where they can easily discuss ideas.
ABW requires a lot of trust from managers since there's no way to monitor whether or not employees are actually working. But, if done correctly, it can lead to better work-life balance and higher levels of employee engagement.
Of course, with any major change, there will always be some challenges that need to be addressed. There are two main ones:
The first challenge is change management. As mentioned, the future of work will require a lot of changes from businesses, which means there'll need to be a well-thought-out plan to ensure that these changes are implemented smoothly.
This will require buy-in from all levels of the organization and a clear understanding of the goals and objectives. It's also expected to witness some level of resistance since change can be difficult for people to adjust to. That's especially for middle management, who might see this as a threat to their position since they'll need to adapt to a more collaborative work style.
Communication will be key in managing this transition, as employees will need to be kept in the loop about what's happening and why these changes are being made. Businesses will also need to provide training and support to help employees make the transition.
If businesses take the time to properly plan and execute their changes, they'll be in a much better position to succeed in the new world of work.
The second challenge is the blurred line between work and life. With more people working remotely or on a flexible schedule, this can lead to employees feeling like they're always on call, which can lead to higher stress levels and burnout.
The "always-on" culture is already a problem in many organizations, and it's only expected to get worse as the lines between work and life become more blurred.
This is something that businesses will need to be aware of and address moving forward. They'll need to create clear boundaries between work and life, and they'll need to give employees the freedom to disconnect from work when they're not working.
Otherwise, they run the risk of losing their best employees to burnout.
The new world of work is already here, and it'll only become more prevalent in the years to come. Businesses need to be prepared for this change and start making the necessary changes now. Otherwise, they'll be left behind.
Big giants are already setting the stage for this change. Netflix, for example, is a company that trusts its employees to control their own work patterns and doesn't track the number of hours they work. This allows employees to have a better work-life balance and leads to higher productivity levels since they're not chained to their desks.
Not to mention, they enforce a "no policy" arrangement for vacations because if they're not tracking the hours people work, then it doesn't make sense to count the days people are on leave. All Netflix cares about is the end result, which is great work, not the process.
This is a philosophy that more and more businesses are starting to adopt, and it's one that will likely become the norm in the future.
So, are you prepared for the new world of work? It's time to start making some changes to make sure you have a future-ready workplace.