New Work, New Work Photo: iStockphoto

The coronavirus has turned working life upside down across the world. And the experts believe that there will be long-term consequences. But what does the roadmap to the new world of work look like? The Difference asked this question: In Poland, Germany, Brazil and Turkey.

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Published in November 2020 Author: Markus Scheele

Actually, 2020 ought to have been a year of celebration for WARTA. The proud company from Poland is celebrating the anniversary of one hundred years of existence. But instead of having a party, WARTA donated the festive budget to the country’s hospitals in order to help them in the battle against the pandemic. And instead of enjoying memories of historic moments, the company is organising the Here and Now: the roadmap into a new world of work that will be part of a New Normal.

The pandemic is tearing up familiar playbooks and raising the same questions everywhere. What will work look like in a world after the  coronavirus? What can the experiences of today teach us about the world of work tomorrow? The answer to this question is astonishingly similar, whether the question is asked in Brazil, Germany, Turkey or Poland. Picking up on the words of Frank Sinatra’s song New York, New York: I want to be part of it, New Work, New Work.

Poland: Laptops for everyone

“Before the coronavirus came along, we didn’t have much experience with mobile working,” said Wojciech Kęsik, Head of the Human Resources Department at WARTA. In a few months’ time, the employees of the Head Office in Warsaw are moving into a new building. “We had planned that colleagues from the Head Office would work from home once a week as part of a new work model in the new headquarters building.” The virus turned everything upside down. Within the space of just two weeks, 90 percent of WARTA employees had been moved to mobile working. The company pulled out all the technical stops: It replaced a lot of desktop computers with laptops that employees could also use at home. And it enabled employees to link up their private devices securely with the company network.

“The coronavirus significantly accelerated mobile working,” observed Wojciech Kęsik. Originally, WARTA planned to replace all the desktop computers of employees in Warsaw for the move to the new building. However, the situation now is that all WARTA employees in Poland will be given a laptop by the end of the year, so that they can work in their office and also carry on with mobile working from any location. “The challenge in the future will be to find a new balance between the different forms of working. Instead of promoting mobile work, in future we will have to work harder at making the office more attractive.”

Photo: Bradley Secker
Turkey: Managing a team while Social Distancing

When the statistics for infections were rising in the spring, HDI Sigorta also equipped its employees with laptops and sent them to work in their home offices. Özlem Kalkan, Head of the Human Resources Department at the Turkish company, believes that the lessons learned from this period are important for organising the issue of New Work. “Naturally, the coronavirus is impacting negatively on our sense of community, given that everybody is sitting at their desk on their own at home. This exerts a big influence on our corporate culture. People like working together and having a lot of fun. They also value their friendships at work.”

She continued by saying that one of the first challenges in the new era was to manage a team while Social Distancing. “It won’t be sufficient to simply concentrate on work,” commented Özlem Kalkan. “One of the most important functions of executives will be to bring individuals together, make sure they keep their focus and ensure they are motivated.” She added that the pathway back to the old patterns was pretty much inconceivable. “Our employees are already asking today whether it’s possible to retain mobile working. We will continue to offer this option in future so as to keep our best employees and recruit excellent new staff.”

Germany: Desire for hybrid working

Figures from Germany demonstrate just how much the world has changed. Nationwide mobile working as a result of the coronavirus has also turned into a large-scale experiment on ourselves. A survey of our employees in July highlighted the pros and cons of the new world of work. 86 percent believe that mobile working makes it easier to combine career and family in a better work-life balance. And 70 percent find that they are able to concentrate more efficiently on their tasks. However, 78 percent continue to value personal communication with colleagues in the workplace. These findings are helping to organise the New Work environment. A task force called “NewWork@HDI” has been set up to create a framework for the future organisation of work in Germany. The proposals include making working hours and the place of work more flexible, as well as investments in infrastructure. For example, providing space for collaboration on site at more office facilities. The employer side is now preparing for negotiations with employee representatives.

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Working during the pandemic - How HDI Seguros protects employees
Brazil: Promoting creativity and relationships

“The key issue here is to identify a new model that will enable us to retain the positive aspects of this period,” said Patricia Granizo  Rodrigues, who heads the Human Resources Department at HDI Seguros in Brazil. “However, this model should enable colleagues to continue working in their home office, but also meet face to face. Personal contact is necessary in order to strengthen relationships between people, foster their creativity and energy.”

Patricia Granizo Rodrigues

“Personal contact is necessary in order to strengthen relationships between people, foster their creativity and energy.”

Patricia Granizo Rodrigues

Human Resources, HDI Seguros Brazil

HDI Brazil has already adopted a new working model which will be constantly reviewed so that it can be updated to accommodate any changes. All employees must work in their home office at least two days a week with the possibility of flexible time. There will no longer be any fixed workplaces. This will give employees more scope to decide where and when they work. From now on, employees can use an app to pre-book their work desk to suit their schedule.

Even more flexible working hours, flexible workplace, investments in infrastructure and technology, and also collaboration tools like Microsoft Teams – this is the roadmap into New Work in many countries. There will be no going back – Patricia Granizo Rodrigues from Brazil is certain about that: “Naturally, it would be possible to simply return to the old world. However, it wouldn’t be a good route for our colleagues and the company. More precisely: A step backwards.”

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