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The more digital working life becomes - the more important good leadership is

Delphi study on New Work by leadership expert and Dean of the Continuing Education Center Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Güttel

New Work Space

What will our future working life look like?

Vienna, June 2021 - The pandemic accelerated the transformation of the workplace: After being forced to work from home during the lockdown, most companies will continue to rely on home offices and expand digital collaboration in the future. But how exactly will our workplace shape up in the post-Covid19 era and what does this mean for managers? The research team led by Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Güttel (leadership expert and Dean at the Continuing Education Center of the TU Wien) examined this question in an explorative Delphi study.

Since previous research on the megatrend of new work has paid too little attention to the organizational, legal and technical framework conditions, Güttel and his team focused on these three topics in their study. They interviewed 20 HR managers from Austrian companies in the areas of HR, IT and law in two discussion panels and then analyzed the results.

Hybrid working blurs the boundaries and challenges managers

The discussions revealed that leadership is becoming a key factor, especially as hybrid working becomes the norm and work and leisure become increasingly blurred. Depending on the situation, managers must therefore create trust even at a digital distance, keep employees in the team and establish a culture of collaboration.

It also became apparent that the increasing personal responsibility in the home office increases the demands on employees, who have to keep an almost entrepreneurial watch over their resources. In addition to well-trained managers, the study participants therefore considered both suitable spatial and IT solutions to be important in order to be able to switch more easily between the different work contexts.

Legal frameworks continue to be a source of great uncertaint

As far as the legal framework is concerned, companies and executives will also continue to be very challenged to compensate for missing and inadequate nationwide regulations. At present, the legal basis for New Work is perceived to be extremely poor and is in urgent need of further development. The study participants saw one solution in company agreements, which could replace the missing regulations. In addition, managers must define gray areas in their areas of responsibility in a meaningful way and create legal frameworks for dealing with data or IT solutions.

Promoting new technologies and further training

There is also agreement that the need for collaboration and communication will continue to increase in the New Work era. In order for a company to support flexible working, not only must the appropriate technical tools be made available, but the cultural embedding of the digital transformation must also be ensured. Managers should therefore provide their employees not only with clear rules of conduct for dealing with new programs, but also with regular opportunities for further training.

Wolfgang Güttel sees an increasing need for new skills and knowledge for both managers and employees. "In hybrid forms of work, they require significantly more strategic background knowledge in order to perform in a goal-oriented manner. At the same time, managers are faced with the challenge of not only having to orchestrate their employees at different working times, but also of no longer being able to fine-tune work processes at short notice. Missteps therefore go unnoticed for much longer and can thus lead to striking wastes of resources and frustrations."

As beautiful as the new workplace may seem at first glance, it is also very difficult for managers and employees to deal with the new freedoms in a constructive way.

For more information on the study, see the management summary (only in German):