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Cooperation and New Work: Trends and challenges 2021

Dealing with COVID-19 on top of the already existing daily challenges has been overwhelming for most of us. As for big changes, I'll go with Bill Gates, who once said, we tend to overestimate its impact in the short term and underestimate it in the long run.

I have seen many different ways of thinking among the members of our network in Europe and North America when it comes to new work and the design of the future workplace. What I've heard from many is that they miss the personal interactions very much - they make us human after all!

How do you rate the virtual-first approach of some companies that would like to do without physical workspaces provided by the company even after Corona?

It's very interesting to see how companies take remote work to the next level. How do we combine the best of both worlds, the old and the new? Obviously, making Zoom calls all day long is quite stressful. Committing social events via video calls is also far from ideal.

Example of social events in remote form: the byte5 Christmas party - © byte5

Many companies are now considering whether they still need that much office space. Some even canceled their rental contracts. This trend is likely to continue, but I still see the need for local and inspiring places to meet in person. This can be smaller offices, co-working spaces, museums or completely different places - wherever employees can come together, work together and interact with their colleagues.

What is often forgotten in the discussion are the many people who simply cannot work from home: the teacher, the truck driver, the carer. What is the new normal for you and how do we ensure that your workplace of tomorrow will also be improved? It is clear that the digital world is associated with limitations - especially when it comes to creating a common culture and a sense of togetherness.

What can cooperation look like in 2021 if there are still many employees sitting alone in the home office?

Boye & Co Conference 2020 - © Boye & Co.

Collaboration is key and we've seen some really interesting experiences and experiments in remote work this year. We have to ask ourselves: what is the right mix of video conferencing and face-to-face meetings?

Collaboration can only really work if it is based on trust and authentic relationships. This requires a not inconsiderable investment of time. When do we meet in person, when do we use digital communication? Due to the pandemic, many have had to rely solely on digital tools like Zoom and while we have seen many positives, the inadequacies of such tools have also become apparent.

A trend among some of our members is to modify pre-Coronavirus routines - such as daily stand-ups, looking back, and the like - to suit a situation where many are working from home. Some are trying to make work less linear and take advantage of the pandemic to improve the meeting culture as a whole.

Still, these are the early days. The days of never-ending breaking news, the days of various forms of lockdown - these are anything but ideal conditions for collaboration. It is also the early days of fully understanding the massive changes. As soon as the situation has significantly eased, we will have to see which trends in terms of collaboration are really lasting or emerging.

Everyday work for many during the crisis - © Unsplash

How can the corporate culture be successfully maintained with increasing remote work? What new formats are there to protect and strengthen the sense of togetherness?

In fact, some organizations like Automattic (the company behind Wordpress), Elastic, and others have relied entirely on remote working for several years. The main difference with them is that they could meet before Corona if necessary or at least hold their regular summit meetings. This year's travel restrictions made such meetings impossible and also clearly challenged these corporate cultures.

Corporate culture is never static. As humans, we adapt, we watch the boss, we navigate to do our best. In 2020 we had a lot of conversations about how to deal with increased pressure, newfound flexibility, an unprecedented form of workload. All of this has an impact on corporate culture.

A general trend among the members of our network is the increased focus on communication, especially internal communication and thus also on internal community management. My observation is that companies are now much more willing to invest in the home office on behalf of their employees and to invest more time in order to strengthen the feeling of team spirit and togetherness.

I've also seen some innovative and even entertaining formats where internal meetings were spiced up with messages from famous actors or other stars. It is always possible to make a difference with small things - and those are the details that shape a corporate culture.

Dear Janus, mange tak for the interesting assessments and stay healthy!

We are excited to see what New-Work has in store for 2021 and wish our readers a good start into a successful, healthy New Year!