Neue Arbeit is not New Work

Note: I wrote this article as a guest post for the KVD Service Blog in German. I am aware that the German term “Neue Arbeit” translated means “New Work”, but in order to show a difference to what I understand by New Work, I continue to use “Neue Arbeit” when I mean the philosophy of New Work.

What is Neue Arbeit all about? And is this the same thing that is currently understood in parallel by New Work? It seems to me that people talk a lot, but think little. In Neue Arbeit, the focus is on people’s inner need to do something meaningful from their individual point of view. The social philosopher Frithjof Bergmann, who developed this term, does not mean working methods, organizational models or any incentives that companies offer their employees. The only relevant question is what someone wants to do, what they have an inner fire for.

New Work, on the other hand, is the generic term for all changes within the economy. The New is a description of a situation that is characterized by new technologies, digitalization, developments such as automation and artificial intelligence. Lars Voller sums up the thinking error of many New Work gurus as follows: “In business, it’s not primarily about work, but about customer-oriented processes.”

What do I want to do?

I have to admit, I’m hardly interested in New Work. Personally, I find advertising also as digital online marketing boring, I am not interested in meaningless Q&A texts any more than in bots communicating past me, and as a chess player, I have been skeptical about intelligent machines since the days of Deep Blue. What really interests me is what I want to do. And above all to discover that.

The basis for Neue Arbeit is a fundamental honesty towards oneself. Why do you actually pursue an activity? How did this come about? Do I still want to do today what I chose as my profession then? Being so honest is hard. I didn’t have to be that yet, unwanted developments made me have to do things differently and so realize what I wanted to do.

When a blog was a private hobby of mine, I lost my job due to a blog post. Out of spite, I decided to live from blogging. Shortly after that I ran a blog for a company and quickly realized how dependent the editorial staff was on me as a person. So I reorganized the team and the tasks, primarily so that I could do my job from anywhere, as I discovered the desire to travel.

Life never stands still.

In three years, I managed to make a living with blogging, to pursue my profession from anywhere and to do what I wanted thanks to the trust of my boss. However, traveling brought me a new interest, coworking, and I left my own work paradise to start over on a new topic. No incentive could have kept me going. I wanted to do something different and just followed that urge.

It’s not workers who need to be flexible, it’s our employers. They don’t allow us to do anything, but they enjoy the fact that for a while we have the desire to do something for them, to let them participate in our lives. Companies should, therefore, set new standards, especially in knowledge management and recruiting. We come vertically into companies, no longer from below.

How we work says a lot about our ideas about life. I always want to discover something new, both privately and at work. My work is part of my life, not the other way around. For example, a business trip has to leave room for culture, recreation and my friends. My superiors must be confidants who support me and take me forward, but who also stand by me when things don’t go well. They are part of my life.

Inexperienced arrogance?

Martin Gaedt rightly criticizes that there are seven billion ways to seven billion people, but that companies with little ideas are merely looking for (and they don’t find) a skilled worker. None of these companies will see me, but I have found companies like Netzpiloten and St. Oberholz. I worked for both companies because that’s what I wanted (and still want) to do at that moment.

And my superiors let me work like I wanted to do it. I didn’t demand this out of arrogance, because “real” work might not suit me, but because I knew that I wanted to do something that seemed meaningful to me. This is the basis for my commitment and my search for the best solution.

Neue Arbeit means developing oneself, maturing as people and finding out who one is. The inner fire burns throughout one’s life for various topics, one must be able to give in to this impulse and see a new beginning not as a career break, but as an extension of what has been learned so far. His self is the central theme of Neue Arbeit and will always remain so despite New Work.

Header Image: Roman Wache, Frankfurt (Oder) 2018