New Work

NWX 2022: "Cultural change is tomorrow's turnover"

24 June 2022
Purpose, self-efficacy, contradiction culture - lessons from New Work Experience in the Elbphilharmonie

Around 2,000 delegates from German-speaking countries attended this year's New Work Experience (NWX) Monday (June 20, 2022) in the Elbphilharmonie after a pandemic-induced interval. Emphasis was on the present working world and in future on the heels of coronavirus-related upheaval. Early in 2022, four out of ten people employed in Germany were thinking of changing jobs and even every second employee in the 30-39 age group, according to a survey conducted on behalf of Xing E-Recruiting. Hosted by New Work SE, the Hamburg-based operator of the Xing career network, NWX is the leading event on the future of work. More than 100 keynote speakers on over 10 stages offered insight into corporate culture. 

From society of work to society of meaning

Delegates soon forgot their early-morning fatigue after a sing-along in the Grand Hall followed by a keynote given by Richard David Precht, philosopher and best-selling author. The world is experiencing the end of work as we knew it, he pointed out. "We are evolving from a society of work to a society of meaning. In the past, it was only for the nobility to do what they really wanted." Today, everyone is allowed to do so. Coronavirus has turned many long-established attitudes to work and career upside down. "Everyone has the right to a purpose," Precht stressed. However, the current pension system does not match the New Work movement as it is still based on a society of gainful employment.


Richard David Precht, philosopher

Purpose and nonsense 

But what exactly is purpose? And does it involve too much nonsense? The value of purpose, i.e. meaningful work, was the theme of a discussion with Petra von Strombeck, CEO of New Work SE, Petra Scharner-Wolff, Member of the Executive Board of the Otto Group, and business psychologist Prof. Dr. Ingo Hamm. NEW Work's purpose is essentially to motivate and offer orientation like a "guiding star", said von Strombeck. "Every single employee needs a meaningful task.  It is about winning over people with the same mindset," she added.


Cultural change 

The term "purpose" has resulted from a process, according to Scharner-Wolff. So-called Cultural Change 4.0 has been pushed in family businesses since 2016. Thus, purpose must be "tangible and lived every day". However, employees can ask critical questions. Cultural change at Otto is "tomorrow's turnover", she stressed. 

Heike Bruch, presenter, Petra von Strombeck (New Work SE), Petra Scharner-Wolff (Otto Group) and Prof. Dr. Ingo Hamm, business psychologist (f. l. to r. )

Need for culture of contradiction

A sole purpose does not exist, according to Hamm, and distinguished between a moral and an individual purpose, i.e.  that concerns the employee. "We need a culture of error and contradiction. Employees should dare to contradict a company's moral values, if they do not agree with them," said the business psychologist. All three panellists came out in favour of "doing what you really, really want to do," as Prof. Dr. Frithjof Bergmann, who founded the New Work movement, put it.


Micro-breaks for more self-efficacy - and mental health

A panel led by leading Austrian neurologist, Dr. Bernd Hufnagel, dealt with the link between work and health. Symptoms of stress, attention deficit disorders and mental illnesses are on the rise and employees' resilience and motivation are waning. Permanent digital employment means days are akin to an endless to-do list. Work is imposed on people without understanding the meaning. That hinders self-efficacy or being able to influence and control one's own life. Micro-breaks can help people regain that, he said, and called for a change of perspective: "Make an appointment with yourself. Sit down for five minutes a day and do nothing. Let your thoughts pass you by and stand back from everything for a while." This little exercise can prevent operational blindness in everyday life, Hufnagel remarked.

Buddhism meets New Work

Shi Heng Yi, the master of the Shaolin Temple Europe, took things a step farther in his keynote. Buddhist philosophy is important for people in the modern working world, and pointed out: "Relaxation requires tension. It's about discipline, as well as mindfulness of others, oneself and one's body. Either you are master or slave of your thoughts." The idea, which is among the main beliefs in Buddhism, can also apply to the modern working world, said the monk, who is also known for his TED talks. Organisers now have plenty of food for thought and are already mulling the theme and date of NWX 2023.


Shi Heng Yi

Sources and further information

New Work SE

Founded as openBC by Lars Hinrichs, the career network was renamed Xing in 2006 and New Work SE in 2019. The company has been listed on the stock exchange since 2006. New Work SE is headquartered in Hamburg and has branches in Munich, Vienna and Porto and a workforce of around 1,900 people.

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