Inhalt

What will the world of work look like in future?

16. October 2020, Editorial

Abandoned offices, empty pigeonholes and coffee machines left to gather dust. Life in our offices has been at a standstill for some time now and despite tentative efforts to do something about it, the future of our day-to-day office lives is uncertain.

Thema:

day-to-day office
future
homeoffice
krise
office alltag
Zukunft

Above all, it’s businesses that need to learn from the current situation and implement the necessary measures going forward. The crisis has triggered a technological sea change, altering our society in the process.

From working at home, to Zoom meetings and online shopping. In the world of work, it’s trends like digitalisation, remote working and the gig economy that are making the biggest waves. But what of the social and political changes they will bring in their wake? And how will the coronavirus crisis change our workaday lives?

A book published by the husband-and-wife management consultants and writing duo Anja Förster and Peter Kreuz takes its title from a quotation commonly attributed to former British prime minister Winston Churchill: “Never let a good crisis go to waste” (German title: Vergeude keine Krise!) is an appeal to approach the changes facing our working environments with a mind that is as open as the pandemic-led transformation of the world of work was fast.

Es spart Kosten und ermöglicht Mitarbeitern mehr Flexibilität.

While there’s nothing that can be done to change crises themselves, we can manage our responses to them – that’s the idea in a nutshell. The fact that working from home has its merits and is set to play a bigger role in future is clear enough. It saves time and means additional flexibility for employees. People can focus on the work in front of them and the distractions are relatively limited. And all that peace and quiet, coupled with familiar surroundings, helps to increase wellbeing and, with it, productivity – and revenue.

But there are definitely advantages to going to the office. There are all those spontaneous forms of workplace communication: those quick chats by the watercooler that are such an important part of fostering a sense of togetherness and give rise to new ideas. And there’s that feeling of being part of a team which has a positive effect on most people. For many, it’s a basic social need. So giving up our offices altogether would be a mistake. As Prof. Werner Eichhorst, who is researching the future of work and transformations in the world of work at the Institute of Labor Economics in Bonn, explained in an interview with German broadsheet Die Zeit.

The fact is that the longer we find ourselves in these exceptional circumstances in Austria, the more they will become the new normal. And give companies the opportunity to set up groundbreaking new models and ensure they respond early. With solutions to problems such as managing from a distance, or the increasingly blurred boundaries between work and leisure time.

Here, breaking down hierarchical structures will play a role, as will including employees more in decision-making processes. Open communication between managers and employees is essential. Some employees work better when given clear deadlines and instructions, while others are more productive if they have the freedom to shape their own workload.

Giving everyone the opportunity to work in the way that works best for them.

This is the approach advocated by the keynote speaker Frank Eilers in an episode of his podcast Arbeitsphilosophien. “It calls for flexibility, mutual trust and, above all, diversity of thought,” the expert explains. “As far as work is concerned, what we are seeing right now is that there is an alternative. I hope that this leads to a change in our attitudes: how do we view work now? How will we compensate people for their time in future? Do we really have to go back to presenteeism and 9 to 5? Or do we now recognise that there are ways of working more productively and that we can use the burst of digitalisation that we are currently experiencing to help achieve this? We are also seeing right now what we can do without. Will meetings last an hour and a half in future, or is 30 minutes enough?” In reality, Frank says, we are responsible for deciding which of the various scenarios stays with us.

And even if the future is uncertain, we can look at our lives and our productivity from a completely new perspective. The decisions that we make now and the measures that we take to promote working from home are an essential part of making sure that we are ready for whatever the future holds.

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