New way of working places higher demands on managers
Even before the pandemic, the labour market underwent a change from traditional offices to open-plan offices, activity-based workplaces and working remotely. Researchers at MDH are currently investigating how the change in the physical office affects the workplace and believe that the new way of working is placing increasing demands on managers.
The pandemic has accelerated the progression from traditional office spaces to alternative workplaces. For an increasing number of companies and organisations, it is no longer a matter of course that the job should be carried out from their own office premises. But what does the change in the physical workplace mean for employees? And what demands does it place on the managers? Researchers at MDH who are working with the DIGMA project (Digitalised Management) want to find out.
"Our research shows that the new way of working places increasing demands on managers," says Lucia Crevani, Head of Research at the research specialisation Industrial Engineering and Management at MDH, who is involved with the project together with her colleague Claudia Manca.
Lucia Crevani explains further:
"A workplace is more than just a physical space. It creates a context and a framework that governs our work. It disappears during remote working and activity-based offices. You don't know who's sitting next to you, what they're doing, where your colleagues are, or what's going on in your division. Even though the traditional office has its limitations, it creates a clear connection. With the new way of working, it is up to the manager to compensate for that.
The researchers believe that we currently need to find out more about what the workplace means for us, as a "container of work".
"Activity-based offices have been focused on activities, creating rooms that work for different activities, but where the actual workplace has been dismantled. If you walk into a boardroom or a church for example, you historically know how the furniture is going to be laid out, where you should go and how to behave. These are things that have been implicitly negotiated over time by people who have been there time and time again, and who have repeated their actions. Over time, we take for granted what the place means. Every person who comes in and acts brings a sense of meaningfulness to the place," she says.
According to Lucia Crevani, with an activity-based office, you remove everything that has been previously negotiated and has created a meaning:
"It's a way to break barriers, but it also removes the context for employees. If the manager does not step in and create a context, a sense of security and social interaction, there is a risk that we will create an individualised way of working, instead of collectively working in the same direction so that one does not lose the bigger picture. The collective is important for us to achieve a sense of meaning, which in turn leads to an increased chance of achieving common goals.
New ways to create social contexts
According to Lucia Crevani, managers need to find new ways to create social contexts that aim to help build relationships for their employees and find a structure to include this. Here, various types of digital, social tools can be an alternative solution.
"These requirements are automatically superimposed on the manager's regular duties, which can be a challenge. At the same time, it is important to set limits for the entire division. It’s important to clarify how and to what extent employees need to be available to managers and colleagues. An open climate of conversation where the rules of the game are agreed on together will be the key to success," says Lucia Crevani.
Global sustainable development goals
MDH is conducting research in all of the UN’s global goals for sustainability. This project is clearly linked to Goal number 8 Decent work and economic growth.