How the pandemic leads us to the original “New Work” thought. And it is NOT digitization.
Many trends and demands converge under the buzzword "New Work", trying to make the workplace more modern, flexible, self-organized. Originally, New Work meant something else - and the pandemic is taking us there. INDEPENDENCE.
New Work according to Frithjof Bergmann
When Frithjof Bergmann founded the Center for New Work in the USA in the 1980s together with General Motors, his aim was to free people from the constraints of wage work (in this specific case assembly line work). People were to become more independent of the wage labor system first of all and work in employment was to enable more self-realization.
Three ways to a fulfilled (working) life
Bergmann thought that this could be achieved in three ways:
1. Everyone does the work he wants to do and enjoys.
2. Technical progress, among other things, makes it possible for communities of people to produce things themselves that allow a certain degree of self-sufficiency and thus independence from employment.
3. With the spirit of new work, people develop products or services independently, that earn money.
The second path is the one that is virtually forced upon us in the pandemic.
Bergmann was realistic in his opinion that we will not all find employment in which we can realize our potential and find fulfillment. With all the passion for the job, with all the employee-friendly measures - work remains work. So, we should try to reduce it to a pleasant level. By coping with correspondingly lower wages. By reducing consumption. By doing things ourselves.
This is where the pandemic comes in.
1) We do the stuff. Hairdressers closed, restaurants closed, no childcare... We cut our own hair, we cook our own food. Bake, and grow vegetables so we don't have to go to the store. Take care of our children ourselves. We spend less money.
We also have more time, either because we save the daily commute to work or because we have temporarily no full employment.
2) Maybe we are professionalizing our hobby. We like to sew, we offer masks to our friends. If we like to do handicrafts, we help others out here. Maybe we offer our self-made cups for sale, detail or fix the neighbor`s car. Help schools to create digital structures.
We develop new possibilities to earn money with what we like to do (and do self-determined).
-> -> -> Maybe we won't have to go back to 100% employment after the crisis.
For some, a new path is emerging that is more self-determined and allows for more self-realization. Just as Bergmann hoped NewWork would be.
And if we (want to) continue to be 100% employed? What can we do for a fulfilled working life?
If we are in employment, then if possible in the places where we
a. have enough freedom in the job and
b. engage in what we enjoy and
c. conduct our work in a way that gives us pleasure, and
d. where we can develop.