BLOG: Talking about New Ways of Working

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Flexible working, open plan offices, no fixed address, working from home or on the road or anywhere in the world – the ‘new ways of working’ conversation has become mainstream. What is actually new here, though? KIN members Marleen Huysman, Ella Hafermalz, and Julia Schlegelmilch have been a part of this critical appraisal at three events recently. Here’s a quick peek into what was discussed.


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WORKTECH18 in Paris – Talking about The Future of the Workplace

At the WORKTECH18 conference in Paris, Marleen and Ella were in a lineup of property, design, and technology professionals discussing the future of the workplace.

Held in Paris’ impressive new art deco styled WeWork venue, co-working was a major theme. Attendees from the property and real estate industries were paying close attention to this rapid shift towards flexible office occupancy. Regional manager of WeWork Audrey Barbier Litvak made it clear that the company does not see itself as offering a co-working space, but rather “a community”. Their expansion into early childhood education and co-living is a part of this mantra. Will the next generation grow up in a corporate eco-system that encompasses education/work/life? Is this ‘the new way of living’?

Marleen and Ella shared with the WORKTECH18 Paris audience research that prompts workplace professionals to look ‘underground’ for where work is really taking place in the organisation. This ‘subterranean work’ can be happening in all sorts of digital spaces, including Slack and Whatsapp. The message to managers is that it is futile trying to shut this kind of work down, instead its role should be better understood and supported.

They explained that a workplace should offer a balance of private spaces for concentrated work (sanctuaries) and public spaces for networking and socialising (club houses), while recognising that workers will find a way to build connections with each other through digital ‘underground tunnels’, for example through WhatsApp messaging groups that people use to share early stage ideas and make sense of informal business processes.

It is worth considering whether these types of spaces – both online and offline – are available and in balance in your workplace?


OAP in Amsterdam – Working in the Digital Age with Digital Nomads

The conversations continued at the international Organizations, Artifacts, and Practices (OAP) workshop, which was held at our very own VU in Amsterdam. The workshop theme “New Ways of Working: Rematerializing Organizations in the Digital Age” was perfectly suited to kicking off the event at Deloitte’s stunning Zuidas office building “The Edge”.

Over two panels, Julia, Ella and Marleen debated and shared research on ways of working that are supported by digital technology. The double edged sword of flexibility was raised – many appreciate autonomy in the workplace, but always being available and having little routine (for example having no fixed desk) can be stressful. Ineke Hoekman- van Hassel from Microsoft shared some of the latest efforts from her company to address the stress caused by constant connectivity, for example reducing the default meeting appointment time in Outlook Calendar to 45 minutes to allow for down time.

The audience was fascinated by Julia’s research on digital nomads – knowledge workers who roam the world for adventure, yet also seek out familiar and comfortable co-working environments that help them feel at home wherever they are.


ECIS in Portsmouth – Rethinking Changing Work Practices

At a further workshop in Portsmouth, for the European Conference of Information Systems, Ella argued that with all these new ways of working, we need a new way of thinking about what it means to be ‘in the office’.

It is now necessary to look beyond the four walls of a building to see where work is really taking place – both offline and online. Because these work practices are not always easy to see, managers need to develop their skills and understanding to better support workers in remaining connected without becoming overloaded. At KIN, we’ve been studying new work practices for some time already, but we’re always eager to learn new insights or ideas so don’t hesitate to reach out either through Twitter or by sending an email with your own experiences and thoughts on the topic.