Framework for the future of work – 1

By Alexander Klier By Jeffrey Backus Mar 2, 2015
Framework for the future of work – 1

Translation of the Original Article by Alexander Klier

One of the main tasks of the new framework regulations will be to regulate the dissolution of boundaries between work and leisure. And in two directions.
Picture: The Office at home by Fabio Bruna under the license of CC 2.0 – BY (Name).

  In the digital transformation of a company towards a social collaboration, on the one hand an enormous potential with regard to the democratization of work organization is seen. This is understood as an independent working of individuals and teams with substantial participation possibility in the business process. On the other hand, the thing that is thus being resolved is what – besides being a hierarchical structure and bureaucratic obstacle – offered particular protection to employees due to various regulations: the tayloristic business organization along with its activity recording. During the introduction to the Keynote Discussion at this year's CeBIT as part of the Social Business Arena on 16.03.2015, Björn Negelmann therefore formulated, that the future of work needed a reorganization of the framework. He combines this with an explicit invitation for discussion and dialogue! The question I ask here and want to answer in this part is what needs to be regulated at all and why. Only then, we can say anything about how you could possibly regulate it. I will do so in the second part (here), also with an explicit invitation to dialogue.

The scope of the framework

What is there to regulate? Let’s start with the answer to the first question. In order to see something resolving there must have been a fixed reference point or frame for it beforehand. Otherwise it cannot resolve. The same applies to dissolution of boundaries, because only things that have clear boundaries can dissolve. Both the frame and the boundaries can be determined relatively easily. It is the Tayloristic operational organization, which is docked to the Fordist model of society. In Social Sciences, this is usually referred to as the fact of (strict) regulated working hours, legal protection regulations, as well as contractual and binding determination of compensation. The model of “normal work(ing hours)”, although this model was only normal for a very brief period in history (and not even for all). In regards to protection rights this model offered clear advantages, such as a clear separation of work and leisure. Through the employment contract, a pact was made where the employee sold substantial proportions of his lifetime to the employer. As work organization prerequisite, this model also had a strict separation as foundation: the separation of manual and intellectual labor. In the hierarchy this way it was planned what the employees had to accomplish.

The delimitation of the frame

The Tayloristic framework already changed significantly with the introduction of targets, as a typical expression of an indirect control in companies. Even more, however, a real social collaboration will exit this frame, because with that the separation between manual and intellectual work is basically undone. And from the context of collaboration in relevant groups and teams results the claim to be active whenever it is necessary. So, for example, even if others (community members) are working on a problem, but I myself do not work at the moment. The expected availability in the context of the work process is one side of the coin and the one that now most vehemently cries out for regulations. But there is a second side, which should be mentioned here: still only rarely, but increasingly so private times and family matters are being addressed during working hours. At least when there are no other urgent demands pending. The delimitation knows essentially two sides. Both sides are to be regulated.

Side Effects

So why does something have to be changed? Here is the answer to the second question. The side effect of delimitation are diverse and can be observed in almost every company: an enormous increase in psychological stress due to excessive workload, lack of identification with the company, ineffective framework agreements, etc. Paradoxically, the old protective mechanisms do not hold true anymore (to the surprise of many councils), because the employees carry out the new ways to work voluntarily and not because of hierarchical pressure, but the regulations have not yet been adapted adequately. This is inasmuch paradox as the employees conceive laws and regulations – that were actually supposed to serve their protection – as huge obstacles to their work, and bypass accordingly. They are usually well aware of the risks. The philosopher Klaus Peters calls this „interested Self-hazard“. This situation is also paradox, because traditional regulatory mechanisms are being held onto, although they no longer fit to the new framework to a large extent. Regulation is needed especially because the old methods and mechanisms will not fit on the new structures. This clarifies for now what needs to be regulated, and why a new framework is urgently needed. I will answer in the second part of the blog (here) how those regulations might look like.