New Year, New Work?

by Isabella Merloni on an interview with Caro Windlin

Everyone is talking about New Work. What's behind it? Is it just a phrase or a revolution in our working lives? 1000 Satellites has taken a closer look at the causes and drivers and developed a solution. With decentralized coworking spaces, they enable companies, self-employed people and others to have shorter and more sustainable commutes and optimal working conditions. Now they successfully spun-off. We interviewed co-founder Caro Windlin to find out how.

What the heck is New Work?

In the past years and months, society has developed a hype around the topic of “New Work”. Globalization, increasing options to work and meet online and a global pandemic have changed the way people can and want to work and are continuing to impact the future of our work. But what is really behind it? In our casual linguistic usage, the term is often overused. Some people for example, throw it in the same pot with agile work. However, New Work is not (only) about scrumming but mainly about self-determination at work.

It describes the fact that the nature of work is changing towards more self-determination of employees, who take clear roles and know their individual contribution to an organization´s goals. Employees are both free and responsible to set their goals themselves and follow up on them independently. And they do it all entirely flexible with respect to space and time.
Based on this, the founders of 1000 Satellites have designed decentralized coworking spaces. These enable individuals and even teams to have shorter and more sustainable commutes, to connect and exchange with others and to work in optimal conditions.

It´s people, place, technology!

To put it in a conceptual frame, New Work evolves around three spheres: people, place, and technology.

When in conventional work settings employees used to have a clear cut between work life and private life, employees mostly focused on their tasks and long-term goals only and followed a hierarchical flow of information and decisions, in New Work settings they enjoy much greater self-determination. Especially with regards to time and space, they value networking capabilities as a key competence, they effortlessly collaborate with technological support and follow less classical structures, but rather contribute to cross-unit projects.

Where workers used to come to the same desk and commute to the same office basically every day (apart from business trips and analogue meetings) flex-desk concepts now offer a choice from multi-local workspaces providing spaces for exchange and inspiration.

Hence: goodbye to desktop devices, local data storage and phone or e-mail communication as the only option and hello to mobile devices, collaboration tools, clouds and virtual reality.

Yet, conventional and New Work settings are not mutually exclusive. It is still important to plan and provide structure in the office space, but at the same time ensure to leave room for diversity and opinions. Thus, other observed changes beside these spheres are rather by-products than essential to the concept of New Work. New Work is 90% a mindset and only 10% a set of methods. It is an attitude towards your employees which ultimately shapes your business culture. It is about respecting their individual needs. It assumes that everybody wants to work but thrives under different circumstances.

Caro: “I believe that people want to develop to the best of their abilities and need the right space to do so. A space encompasses more than just a room with a table and chairs, but also the freedom to choose where and how to work and with whom to interact and network.”

New Work views employees no longer as transactional only but it strives to provide employees with an optimal working environment.

Why is the working environment important?

In 10 years, people will most likely not remember the numbers stated in your quarterly reviews today, but your employees will remember how they felt working for your company. It will shape their work. It will shape your company´s success and the long-term perception of it. The saying goes “workers are attracted by the company and they leave because of the boss”. This illustrates the power of setting the right environment pretty well.

What do your employees need? What motivates them? New Work ideals are of course not perfect for everybody. But being presented the opportunity to work at the best of your productivity and to feel like contributing to something important addresses the need for self-actualization and presents a great source of motivation to most people.

Caro: “At 1000 Satellites we share the vision to change the world of work so that everyone everywhere can realize their full potential.”

The 1000 Satellites coworking spaces bring together people from different industries and different expertise. That stimulates valuable exchange between them. People can motivate each other and obtain new energy from co-working. A change of perspective in terms of people and place can be a strong driver of both, work satisfaction and innovative ideas.

What about Leadership in New Work?

New Work structures do not only affect employees’ working environment physically, but also structurally. This means that a different understanding of leadership is needed which requires revisited approaches on measurement and evaluation of employee performance. Especially when it comes to attributing positive rewards, many companies continue to follow classic incentive schemes. They evaluate individual performance rather than the collective contribution to the company's success. This motivates people to work only on their own tasks and to collaborate less constructively with each other. New Work, on the other hand, emphasizes measuring team success and rewarding employees collectively over individual bonuses.

Leadership in New Work - applied: first-hand experiences

Caro: "At 1000 Satellites, we also try to implement holacracy [1] to encourage collaboration and creative thinking among our employees. But we have also noticed that it is not easy to put this into practice. Markus, Gregory, and I all worked in management positions before. There, we were used to giving answers rather than giving our employees freedom to make decisions."

This difficulty is not specific only to 1000 Satellites. Both large and small companies often struggle to adapt the structure to the ideal of New Work. So, how can companies adapt to those ideals? Practice makes perfect! And most of all, be open! Reassess and adjust KPIs so that they respond to overall company goals rather than performance on individual tasks. Embrace diversity. Every manager needs to think about which goals are relevant and put them into a context that is understandable for employees. It is particularly important to make it clear where the journey is headed. Storytelling, for example, is an excellent method for this.

[1] Holacracy is a systemics that structures decision-making in organizations through all levels transparent and participatory decision-making.

What the future of New Work might hold

Our way of working has changed rapidly over the last few years and even months. Digitization, globalization, and technological advances have turned our working environment upside down. New global trends and a new generation entering the world of work share new values and follow a new set of norms. After almost two years in a global pandemic, uncertainty and disengagement, many people are fatigued and disconnected. As an employer, you should ask yourself how you can help your employees to recharge. Whether this means exclusively remote work, returning to the office, a transition to coworking, or a hybrid of these options is up to each individual case.

Caro: “1000 Satellites allows me to provide space for others, enabling each individual to perform at their best and support each other to develop and act. This principle is also the foundation of the company 1000 Satellites.”

Still can´t quite grasp the concept of New Work? Why don´t you just check it out yourself. Save your spot at one of the 1000 Satellites coworking spaces now!

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Caro's Background

Caro is a psychology graduate and an expert for new work and HR related issues. As such, she has gained professional experience in human resources management and start-up development. At 1000 Satellites, she enjoys expanding her skills in finance and human resources. She pushes the team as calm, organized power woman.