It can be felt everywhere: after months of working from home, the call for a return to the office is getting louder in some management circles. But should we strive to return to the “old” pre-COVID-19 working life? Kai Anderson doesn’t think so. In his Talking Heads column in HORIZONT Online, the board of the people management consultancy Promerit explains how New Work can become a win-win-deal for companies and employees and why command & control was the operating system of the 20th century.
“Corona has achieved more for the digitization of our economy than all public funding programs and digital strategies put together.”
– Kai Anderson
Literally overnight, it was possible to work virtually and the realization that ‘Yes, it’s possible!’ was asserted even amongst the most skeptical management teams.
The big question right now is if and how you can use the momentum of the crisis; or if you will quickly revert to old working and thinking patterns. Some companies have managed to use the current situation as a strategic exercise to redesign their working environment. The potential is huge – just think for a moment: Reduction of business trips by 30 percent, reduction of meeting time by 20 percent, reduction of office space by 20 percent – cautiously estimated, this can add up to millions in terms of efficiency gains, even for medium-sized companies. That beats any economic stimulus program (even if you somehow manage to benefit from one).
Best of all: if done right, it’s a win-win situation for the company itself and its employees. The preference for flexible working has been growing for years, and with the COVID crisis we are experiencing an outright flexible working hype.
“The lack of flexible work options is becoming an exclusion criterion for many critical target groups on the labor market”
– Kai Anderson
What if not everyone wants or is able to work from home? What about the many jobs that require presence at the workplace such as in manufacturing, hospitals, construction sites and supermarkets? Doesn’t virtual collaboration have risks, such as estrangement from the team and company? Yes, all this is true. And that’s why we need to strategically approach shaping the new working world.
Relying on the idea that we have already found the right degree of flexibility is reckless. It puts the considerable potential created by the current situation at risk. In many organizations, far greater efforts have been made, for much less progress.
The challenges are sizeable. Do wage structures and company agreements leave limited wiggle room? Co-determination at many organizations is far more progressive than you might think – at least if you involve the relevant representatives early in the process.
The argument “we need employees back at the office, because otherwise we can’t control them” doesn’t count anymore – especially in the post-COVID era. Command & control was the operating system of the 20th century. The maxim of our time is trust, no matter how difficult that may be. Cementing trust as the basis of a new work culture takes time; time that we should take. It wouldn’t be so bad if a more sustainable working model for everyone was developed in Europe for a change.
Read the full article at HORIZONT Online here (in German).
Do you have questions about shaping the new working world at your organization? Contact us!