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New Work and Requirements for Contemporary Leadership

The Corona pandemic has led to an openness towards more flexible working models that offer employees more freedom, whilst also demanding more personal responsibility. Many organizations are embracing core elements of New Work. Is this a temporary trend or a significant necessity in an increasingly volatile business environment?

New Work

New Work and Requirements for Contemporary Leadership

The Corona pandemic has led to an openness towards more flexible working models that offer employees more freedom, whilst also demanding more personal responsibility. Many organizations are embracing core elements of New Work. Is this a temporary trend or a significant necessity in an increasingly volatile business environment?

New Work - a temporary hype?

New Work has been one of the most hyped buzzwords in organizational development, and not just since the Corona pandemic. Countless training formats, professional articles, or social media posts celebrate New Work, Work 4.0, agility, organizational resilience, and similar buzzwords as a promising answer to dealing with increasing complexity in the environment of organizations of all sizes. Often, this is accompanied by a trivialization of organizational contexts, which we as systemic organizational consultants view with skepticism. Yet, the attention these terms are currently receiving characterizes a serious development problem of our organizations that needs to be specifically addressed and worked on.

At the latest by the middle of 2020, it became clear in the vast majority of organizations that our working world has not only already changed, but that different working models will also be needed in the future in order to keep pace with the increasing complexity of our environment.

New Work goes far beyond mobile working, digital tools, and creative workspaces: The concept describes a fundamental change in our working world, which offers new opportunities but also places demands on the organization, the managers, and the workforce.

What does New Work mean in practice and for the organizational division of labor? Is it absolutely necessary to have flat hierarchies? Can managers cope with relinquishing their power? How can employees work more independently? How to ensure that they make decisions according to their own discretion and at the same time in line with the strategic goals of the organization? How do you empower employees to take more personal responsibility – and how do you empower management to hand over more responsibility?

Arrange a free online dialog with S&P Consulting’s consultants for Corporate Culture and New Work. Find out to what extent elements of New Work and modern forms of work can be implemented in your organization in a goal-oriented manner and what challenges need to be considered.

Virtual and meaningful leadership are two sides of the same coin

Work-life blending has long since replaced work-life balance. The classic nine-to-five model has had its day. We live in an age in which a clear separation between private and work life is becoming increasingly difficult – and new, more flexible solutions to organize work are required. The former industrial societies in the Western hemisphere are now more accurately described as knowledge societies. Knowledge work requires different logic than assembly line work and a changed understanding of leadership.

Our work is becoming increasingly hybrid, the mobile office is becoming a matter of course. More than one in two companies would like to stick to more flexible and hybrid work models even after the Corona pandemic (see, among others, the press release of the ZEW).

But how does virtual leadership succeed? What constitutes contemporary leadership?

For many organizational scientists, it is clear that trust in the self-organization abilities of employees is needed, as well as shared, well-communicated and attractive visions of the future that motivate employees to make their own contribution to achieving strategic goals.

Instead of control and management, modern management relies on participation in defining goals and on transparent and shared criteria that can be used to measure the achievement of goals. Structures that enable transparency with regard to jointly defined goals and their achievement generally relieve the burden on managers by supporting the self-organization of employees, regardless of where they work, and thus create space for interpersonal management tasks, including via virtual communication media.

New Work - definition and classification

Originally, the term New Work goes back to the social philosopher Frithjof Bergmann, who used the term towards the end of the 1970s to try to establish a counter-model to the Taylorist control of work processes and to criticize classic patterns of values and behavior in capitalist societies.

Bergmann saw organizations in the transition from the industrial age to the knowledge age as facing the challenge of enabling greater independence, freedom, and community participation on the part of employees. According to his assessment, changed social structures demand the development of work into a meaningful area in which people can realize their potential.

For a long time, New Work was condemned as a social utopia. Globalization, automation, digitization, academization, competition for skilled workers, and increasing complexity in economic endeavors have strengthened the approaches and increased their importance in a changed context.

Today, New Work – although there is no uniform definition – is understood to be a kind of summary of methods and endeavors that unites the current reality of employees’ lives with organizational structures.

The term Work 4.0 is often used synonymously with New Work. Without a doubt, the two terms have much in common. However, they look at the requirements of modern working environments from different perspectives.

New Work in a Micro- and Macroeconomic Context

© 2023 S&P Consulting | For more information, see our digital presentation on the topic.

Richard Hebstreit, CC BY 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

“For most people, work is like a mild cold.
You can tolerate it until Friday.”


– Frithjof Bergmann

* December 24, 1930, † May 23, 2021
Founder of the New Work movement
Professor of philosophy and cultural anthropology, University of Michigan
Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Why is New Work becoming increasingly important?

Today, processes and structures of the conventional world of work partly contrast with the structure of democratic societies and restrict the creative freedom to develop one’s own potential in a self-determined and self-responsible manner.

In the past, many employees struggled to find secure employment. Today, in industries with a shortage of skilled workers, there is active competition for potential employees. People choose where they work and want to have a say in how they work.

Technologies such as smartphones or cloud solutions that can be accessed from any device make our everyday lives easier. In organizations, employees often cannot and are not allowed to use these solutions, which we use privately every day, in the same way.

Today, it is less about control, performance improvement, or operational excellence, but rather about the question of how employees in an organization can be empowered to contribute to the achievement of organizational goals in a self-responsible and self-determined manner. For a long time, it has no longer been a question of who comes to the office and when, but rather an adequate evaluation of the results.

At the same time, globalization, digitalization, demographics, the decreasing half-life of knowledge, and climate change are increasing the demands on organizations to be adaptable and respond to the dynamics of the markets. This requires employees who can classify and question the meaning of their activities within the framework of the organizational value chain.

The understanding of leadership is changing. The question of meaning is becoming central.

Today, employees need and want to understand why they are doing a certain job. In the organizational context, it is no longer enough to explain a work assignment and its meaning well – ideally, the goals of an organizational area are also developed together with the team and its contribution to value creation is defined collaboratively.

Digital presentation on New Work and Corona

The Corona pandemic has led to an openness to more flexible working models. The crisis-driven digitization push is promoting new work structures characterized by work-life blending, remote work, agile working methods and a greater awareness of organizational resilience factors.

Get our presentation on New Work considering the specific challenges for organizations after the first phase of the Corona pandemic. The digital presentation includes brief assessments on the importance of New Work elements in terms of communicating organizational strategy, connecting organizational and workforce development, and effective leadership in the current situation.

Download the digital presentation free of charge using the form below.

    Further consulting services related with New Work

    Within the framework of our consulting approach, we assume that profound changes in organizations can only be achieved and sustainably anchored with the help of an effective interlinking of strategy, organizational, and personnel development.

    Existing organizational structures play a decisive role here, as does the consideration of corporate culture – and thus also New Work. The organization-specific implementation of appropriate elements of New Work is therefore usually closely linked to our service offerings linked below.


    Develop Corporate



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