Why The New Way of Working is no fairy tale

The New Way of Working (TNWoW) has been around for a few years now. It was introduced as the miracle solution for traffic jams, a perfect opportunity for a good work-life balance, and the most efficient way of working. It is good for employers and great for employees. Organizations would be foolish if they did not participate in this revolutionary way of working, right?

Call me a fool, but I don’t think TNWoW is perfect. I will try to explain why I am skeptical towards this modern day fairy tale about the ideal workplace.

Is the new way of working good?

First of all it is presented as the best thing that can happen to anyone with a job, while it can actually be very dangerous for some. Companies supplying the technology to work anywhere we like, and organizations looking to save money on work space, waste no time convincing people that working at home or on the move is best for them. “You get to organize your family life around the things you have to do for your job and can work when you are inspired to work, instead of when you are supposed to by traditional working hours.”

None of them mention it can be really dangerous for people to work at home at irregular hours. While most people might be able to keep a nice work-life balance working at home, some will experience more stress and will have a higher chance to get a burn-out. Several researches have reported the increased chances of stress related illness while working from home. And while some employees might enjoy working at home, recent studies have shown that more then half of the people still prefer to work at an office with colleagues on a regular basis.

Second, it can be harmful for your company culture. A company culture is formed by the interactions of the people working for that company. These interactions consist of many different forms of communication. Since most of our communication is done non-verbally, actually seeing someone while they speak is very important. Modern technology has come a long way by providing HD webcams and good software to support meetings, it is still not as good as actually meeting someone in person. This is even more so when we look at meetings with several people in multiple locations at the same time. So while some forms of communication, like writing an email, can be done from home, others are more difficult. This will have an effect on your company culture.

Another possible harmful effect on your company culture is that managers are pushed towards managing people by judging their output. Don’t get me wrong, it is important to look at the output of your people. I do however think there is more to being a good employee then just creating output. It is hard for managers to keep track on how a person is actually doing, when all they see is the work they send in every day. It is very hard for them to coach people on anything else then their work. While this may seem efficient to some of you, I think a company culture which revolves around helping people with more then just the project they are working on, is more beneficial in the long run.

Is there anything positive to TNWoW?

There you have it; I don’t believe in The New Way of Working fairy tale. However, I am very happy that the story is being told. It convinces more and more companies to move away from the traditional way of thinking and opens up discussions on how we organize work. Employers are becoming flexible in how work is done, and are more open to provide bespoke solutions for employees.

The hype shouldn’t be about forcing people to work at home or about new technology, it should be about being flexible in the way organizations work.

So, even though I don’t believe TNWoW is as perfect as some would like us to believe, I do think it is good we are becoming more flexible because of it. Each organization should implement the parts of this flexible philosophy that benefit both the company and the employees. All the while keeping a watchful eye out for possible dangers, which just like in fairy tales, do exist.


Dutch blog posts that inspired me: Commercieel ExcellerenHNWB, MT Magazine.