New Work According to COVID-19
By Hans Gaiser and Tanja Matt
COVID-19 has taught us a lot. We got a good idea of what the future of work could look like. The crisis has forced us to set up home offices, to introduce new methods of cooperation, to deal flexibly with different family and professional challenges and to give room to digital solutions. And that was often easier than initially thought.
From a work organisation point of view, we are doing quite well in the current corona pandemic. But what does that mean for the future? Which changes have proved to be successful and should be taken into everyday working life in the future? What are the biggest hurdles? What exactly will New Work look like in the future and what do we need to be successful in it?
Fields of action for the New Normal
Our study "New Work according to COVID-19" deals with (co-)work during and after COVID-19. The aim is to find out how workers - especially knowledge workers - (co-)work during the COVID-19 pandemic, what lessons learned can be derived from it and what is important in the New Normal in the future.
To this end, we spoke to customers and partners and conducted guideline-based interviews with company representatives from various functions and industries. We analysed the content of these interviews and summarised the results in seven subject areas.
The following fields of action can be derived for these:
- FLEXIBILITY: The dose makes the poison! After switching from one extreme (presence) to the other (home office), we will need a hybrid working model in the future that combines both extremes.
- INDIVIDUALITY: Where employees are able to organise their working day independently, satisfaction and productivity increase.
- STRUCTURE & ORGANISATION: With more flexibility, also with regard to working hours, it is no longer a question of balancing between life and work, but of integrating life and work.
- COLLABORATION: What is really missing is the coffee machine! We need to create spaces and opportunities for spontaneous, random exchange - in our office space AND in remote work.
- AGILITY: An agile mindset and agile methods have proven their worth in a crisis, especially due to their high compatibility with virtual work. Based on these experiences, it is important to further roll out agility in order to be prepared for the future.
- LEADERSHIP: Virtual leadership means more leadership! Leaders must be there for their employees in content and personally, even if they are not together on site.
- LEARNING: Learning on Demand - Learning must be timely and demand-oriented. Consequently, learning becomes an integral part of the work.
Going for agility pays off
We want to take the topic of agility as an example: An interesting result of the study is that companies that have already invested in agility and self-organization for a longer period of time are able to cope much better with the remote work caused by COVID-19. Thus, the agile (software) development teams of two interviewees can continue their (collaboration) work remotely without major losses in processing speed and quality of the work results. And also teams outside of software development, which design their collaboration according to agile principles and use agile elements such as kanban boards and dailies, have benefited from this from the perspective of the interview partners in the context of the switch to full remote work.
Figure: Key Statistics on the Population (Source: Detecon)
In the IT department of one of the companies, which had not yet worked on a mobile basis for the most part before COVID-19 and had to retrofit hardware and software on a large scale in the short term, an agile mindset helped to master this exceptional situation. The agile values and principles such as early delivery, courage, In-spect & Adapt and self-organization came into play here. Even virtual PIP's, the planning session for the next program increment, were carried out remotely.
After the crisis is before the crisis
In addition to COVID-19 and other global disturbances, disruptions in the sense of erratic innovations, shortened product life cycles and the digitalization of products and the working world are part of everyday life in today's VUCA world. All of this brings with it changes and upheavals to which companies have to react - or better still: which they have to anticipate proactively.
The study shows: It pays off to rely on agility already today. Where agile work has already been done, COVID-19-related remote work serves as a trial by fire. Here, action in the corona crisis should be evaluated in order to make evidence-based adjustments and emerge from the crisis stronger with proven findings. Other companies can use the crisis as an opportunity and agilise their cooperation model to be prepared for future crises, but also for cooperation in the New Normal.
The next crisis will come - and the central question is: How is your company prepared for it?