How Will We Work? 5 Concepts for the Post-Pandemic Future

by Natascha Zeljko
23 Mar, 2021

The pandemic is remoulding new work. A year ago almost to the dot, we started to transform our spaces, our time management, our relationship with technology. Editor-in-Chief Natascha Zeljko and experts from Hager Unternehmensberatung examine the pandemic work trends that will help us move forward

1. Corporate culture will become a crucial success factor

The COVID-19 crisis has made it clear that good leadership is influenced by several key human factors: trust, social cohesion even with social distancing, compassion, respect, solidarity, understanding, personal responsibility, flexibility and tolerance. All of these ingredients make up the cement that holds us together in such challenging times.

In just a few days, these values became the leitmotif of remote leadership. Supportive leadership was in demand. Issues of workload and time management have taken on greater significance during the crisis. The possibility of working from home has mutated from benefit to necessity overnight. Any corporate culture is characterized by the degree of flexibility and supportiveness with which it reacts to new circumstances. The strength of a culture always emerges if it can stand the test of time in a changing environment. A change in culture is always accompanied by a shift in responsibilities. In today's world, employees have to take even greater personal responsibility, to organize themselves well and manage their energy realistically: how much can or should I expect of myself? The ambassadors of a good corporate culture are employees and managers alike.

A stable corporate culture overcomes crises, ensures that goals are achieved and presents an attractive image to the outside world.

Thomas Wetzel, Head of Training & Coaching at Hager Unternehmensberatung

2. Digital is radical

The technology was already there, but no one was using it. Before Corona, who could have imagined holding workshops and conferences virtually? Or testing out hybrid models? The courage to try things out, to improvise, to fail sometimes and to pivot towards a new direction – that's what's new. This new mindset won't leave us after Corona. And neither will the certainty that everything that can be made digital, should be made digital. Plus, everything that promotes innovation should not be put on the back shelf – despite the old urge to save a buck.

Before the pandemic, virtual events were the exception rather than the rule. But ever since the virus took hold of everything, everyone has realized that hardly any areas are exempt from digitalization. Many entrepreneurs have mustered up the courage and the innovative spirit to venture down new paths, even accepting failure in the process. This change of heart has often arisen out of necessity, but quite honestly, we have all become aware that digital transformation also brings success and, incidentally, has conveniences for many. Therefore, all I can do is strongly advise each and every decision maker not to make a U-turn towards old patterns.  Keep going and going, as my role model Oliver Kahn used to say.

Martin Krill, Managing Partner at Hager Unternehmensberatung

3.           Human-Machine Interaction – a fruitful connection

In the future, the key aspect of tech will not be the technology itself, but man-machine interaction, says Professor Marion A. Weissenberger-Eibl, Head of the Department of Innovation and Technology Management at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT). Technology only unfolds its full potential in its interaction with a modern organization of labor and motivated employees. Professor Wilhelm Bauer of the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering believes that "people and technology will interact much more ubiquitously and substantially change the way we work."

Virtual and augmented reality in man-machine interaction are just now moving from the experimental phase into widespread commercial use.  But this will not be the end of its development. In the coming years, we will see machines grasp and control increasingly complex situations. The consequences of this close human-machine interaction will dominate discourse in the coming years; the opportunities, such as accessibility and the expanded possibilities of human action, but also the risks, such as hacker attacks and misunderstandings in man-machine communication.

Dr. Monika Becker, Business Unit Director Software at Hager Unternehmersberatung

4. The office will be back, only different

We all know by now that the home office is one solution, but not the solution – and especially not the permanent solution. The office as a physical location will by no means disappear. On the contrary, it will even be given an upgrade and a new quality. Concretely, as the central place for meetings and close collaboration, and in its more abstract significance, as the location of each firm's specific corporate culture. It's literally in the air. Anyone who enters a company's office for the first time senses it immediately – for better or for worse. What will certainly change, however, is the interplay of different working formats. People will choose the best option according to individual or situational needs: home office, in-house, co-working spaces or mobile working. Meetings at a café or walk-and-talks: why not? The term "activity-based flexible office" has already caught on in professional literature.

The world of work has changed radically in recent months, becoming significantly more hybrid. More than ever, we have been asked to renew the old. Contrary to some people's preconceptions, the home office has established itself as a reality. There will be no going back to old structures after the pandemic. The future of work will be more digital and more agile. At the same time, we have seen that in the end it’s always the people, the company employees, who make the difference in terms of competition. The integration of modern technologies, the design of offices as social meeting places too, new organizational structures, and a stronger focus on corporate culture will become central issues of the future. They will require the right managers and the best possible team composition.

Ulrich Pohland, Business Unit Manager at Hager Unternehmensberatung

5. Spacious city centers

The pressure on business metropolises has been enormous in recent years, and prices have become astronomical. The pandemic has massively slowed down the Tokyoization of German city centers. Because look, there's another way – a better way. Less traffic, more space in open-plan offices. Less stress, more time for exercise, because we don't need to commute anymore. Who wants to go back to the old madness? For metropolitan suburbs and rural areas, this opens up completely new perspectives: co-working spaces are being created and we're finally investing in better digital communication infrastructure. Being able to live and work in the countryside – if that's not a good prospect, I don't know what is. Overtime, this will also have an impact on real estate prices for commercial or office space. That's not good news for everyone, but it is for most people. And it's definitely good news for start-ups and for Germany as a center of innovation.

Germany and the whole world are experiencing a true transformation. For some it's a positive one, for others it's harmful, but everyone is affected. The center of the metropolitan areas has lost its appeal, because people now have the Internet for shopping, their own four walls to work in, and they can meet in the village for coffee. We'll see whether this will affect office pricing in the next few years: there are still many investors and project developers who invest in inner-city commercial real estate. Therefore, any iron-tight prophecy for future development should certainly be viewed with some skepticism.

Sahar Faraji, Business Unit Manager Construction & Real Estate at Hager Unternehmersberatung
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