New Work instead of Homeoffice

Entrepreneur Ingrid Wächter-Lauppe reflects on her experiences (already made in the last century) with New Work and mobile working. What is her opinion today? Enthusiastic about New Work (although the realization can be quite exhausting), but definitely critical of home office, in contrast to the prevailing opinion in the media today.

Wonderful memories of New Work in the last century, less wonderful ones of the home office

Personal responsibility, self-determination, definition of one's own tasks, flat hierarchies, teamwork, agility, flexibility - everything that is touted today under the term New Work, I was able to realize at my first employer many decades ago, including the occasional home office. I took advantage of this offer when I needed to formulate a strategy. This was achieved much more effectively in the seclusion of our domicile in the countryside. The company was extremely successful with this New Work culture - and so was I!

However, after ten years, many great projects and always new challenges, I had made enough of a career (and was tired of being called a "raven mother"). I agreed with the company to say goodbye to being an employee in the office and exchanged it for sole responsibility in the home office. I gained time by no longer attending internal (power) hedging meetings. But then I met the same fate that threatens part-timers and home office advocates today: New colleagues no longer knew me, old clients forgot me when a project needed to be filled quickly. I only learned about visions - if at all - after a long delay. I missed the informal exchange with colleagues, the inspiration from a casual remark at the coffee machine. But I especially missed the creative collaboration, the team spirit and the passion for the common goal. As a result, at some point we parted ways.

Working at the kitchen table, I hoped (like so many people these days) to achieve a better work-life balance. Unfortunately, this hope did not come true for me. Even then, long before Corona, the tasks as cleaning lady, cook, assistant teacher, keeper of order and hobby chauffeur for little athletes and musicians ate up far more than the time saved and resulted in stressful night shifts. There was no time for real "quality time" in the family and joint conversations....

A fascinating exhausting experiment

At that time we found two organizational solutions: On the one hand, the creation of a student group in which a salaried educator took on the task of junior manager for five children of career women from the neighborhood, and strictly reserved family time from 5 p.m. until bedtime, during which no thought was wasted on the job. On the other hand, the establishment of our own family business with a New Work concept, in which we brought together people with a wide variety of perspectives to develop creative marketing solutions for our customers. And those solutions with which they move great things in their companies!

We are still constantly refining our corporate culture, our collaboration models, agile process techniques, flat organizational structures and freedom for employees. Team spirit, purpose, a culture of learning and courage, and a high level of transparency are our vested values that help us realize New Work concepts. We work with employees and freelance partners located anywhere in the world - occasionally also in a home office. Trust-based working hours and mobile working helped me then, as they do now for our employees with children, to cope with morning school absences and other emergency situations.

"New Work is hard backbreaking work," writes S. Risch in the 2018 Brand Eins Edition, "It takes time, energy and money. "And it's a wonderful experiment" in which each company and employee must find its own way. I also learned this while building our company: freedom and self-determination are not equally suited to all tasks and employees. Some people need firm guardrails and rules. Others postulate that they want to work in a self-determined manner and act in an entrepreneurial way, but shy away from the responsibility that comes with it. Many a hierarchy fanatic is reluctant to let go, has difficulty saying goodbye to perfectionism, practicing fault tolerance and understanding the company as a learning organism. And even with the best will in the world, it is often impossible to reconcile conflicting demands for agility vs. quality or bad-weather management vs. self-determination.

Home office is good, social is better

The home office has experienced an unplanned acceleration as a result of the Corona crisis: Even the last doubters have realized that presence control does little good. Hard-working employees don't suddenly turn into slackers at home. People who already work self-directed are often more productive at home. And even those who work according to precise rules can perhaps pick up the pace in the solitude of a quiet, undisturbed home office. In that case, however, it is likely that a robot will sooner or later complete these tasks even faster and better. But even for jobs not threatened by AI, the same still holds true despite improved technology: Mobile working is not always practical and does not bring the hoped-for relief for every person and every company.

Typical challenges

  • Social contacts suffer: Previews in video chat and strictly timed online meetings do not replace human proximity in any way.
  • Top creative performance requires teamwork: at least at the beginning and end of a creative process, employees come up with better ideas faster when they sit together with their colleagues. We see this regularly in our freelance creatives.
  • On-the-job training works best alongside experienced colleagues: You copy a lot of things, prick up your ears or ask spontaneous questions.
  • Team spirit is difficult to develop via video telephony: the common search for meaning and identification with the mission requires passion and personal interaction.
  • The informal exchange in the tea kitchen or canteen is missing: from the short chat not only great ideas develop, but often enriching friendships.

The disadvantages of social distance weigh heavily for us. Therefore, we offer our employees the possibility of remote work, but are happy about everyone who still likes to go to the office. For this we try through agile organization, meaningful task distribution and our lived courage and learning culture to make the professional life of our team members as lovable and livable as possible.

Ingrid Wächter-Lauppe's picture

Ingrid Wächter-Lauppe

Geschäftsführende Gesellschafterin der Wächter & Wächter Worldwide Partners