The Concept of New Work – A Keynote by Michaela Peisger

Michaela Peisger speaks about New Work at KPMG at our Global Female Leaders Summit 2019

The world of work changes like the weather in April. It may be unpredictable – sunny days are followed by a rainy storm – but in the end, we all hope that the new work will change our life for the better. Some of us are not even realizing that work is changing, especially when we are busy in our everyday tasks. But if we shortly hold on and take a brief look into the past, we will see that the working environments, norms and laws have changed immensely over the past years.

Michaela Peisger, CFO of KPMG Germany, made change as her main drive in life. Change is that one thing that inspires and helps her grow and push her boundaries. Over the last four years, her focus was on the digital change that KPMG Germany was undertaking in the finance organization.

She experienced many things that did go well in that transformation – but also countless that didn’t. This made her realize that our work environment has changed over the last 20 years – and after recapitulating her past working behavior, she even recognized her own development.

At the Global Female Leaders summit 2019, she shared her knowledge about the new work principle. What is new work? Where does the development have its beginning? How does it help humans to be happier with their work and life in general? Is this actually the case? You can find the answers in the recorded keynote video on our YouTube channel or read the summarized version in this article.

Change is my life. One of my biggest nightmares is to be bored.

Michaela Peisger, CFO at KPMG Germany

The new work question is: What do we want? 

Michaela Peisger explained that the new work concept was already established in the ’70s and ’80s – a time where manual labor in automotive factories was replaced by automated plans. Leaders all over the world had to ask themselves: What to do with those people replaced by machines? Should we make them redundant or find another work for them? Of course, the latter is the better option – that’s why the new work model was established.

It was a one-year experiment. A bunch of workers spent six months on their regular jobs and another six months they were forced to find out what they would love to do in their life. Which purpose did they have? And how could they make a living with that? The first time in history, people were not predetermined to do a certain job. No parents forcing them to make a defined career. No society pushing them in a certain direction. Just the simple question: What do I want? This is the question that got the ball rolling. At the same time, it is the hardest question we are trying to answer today.

Millennials ask themselves this question more often than any generation before. It goes even further: They ask themselves, why they are doing certain jobs. What do they contribute to a better world with their job? The generation’s expectation for their life is freedom, flexibility, and friends. But that is not the new work experience actually perceived.

New work perception vs. reality

Reality shows that with more transparency of work, the perception of less autonomy comes up. Due to technological developments, we work longer and have less free time. Digitalization provides the possibility to be available 24/7 and for many employers, this isn’t only an option. It is an unwritten law. Moreover, smartphones, notebooks, etc. can be used for multitasking. The workforce may assume that it would make them more efficient – but in fact, they are less productive.

The new work is highly complex, constantly changing, technology-dependent, globally distributed, hyper-connective and massively collaborative.

Michaela Peisger, CFO at KPMG Germany

Therefore, the concept of new work is not only dominated by freedom and technological advance. It also keeps “old” work concepts in it. Today’s workforce is actually likely to do a job that has limited responsibility and clear workflow. Especially in finance, Michaela Peisger experienced that many workers love to come into the office from nine to five and do specific tasks with clear boundaries. For this group they found out that flexible work is not an advantage – it is extra pressure.

If employees are exposed to this pressure, mental issues like stress, anxiety, burnout and depression increase. Often people simply don’t realize that their problem comes from too much work and less free time – because flexible work seems to be the dream. If you are working here and there in the evening or early in the morning, you don’t even recognize how much you work in total. But holding on and reflecting often shows that these mental issues come from too much work. The result is higher numbers in sick leave, less motivation, and lower performance. No leader wants to force that.

How Michaela Peisger manages new work at KPMG

With more than 20 years of experience at KPMG, Michaela Peisger experienced the old way of working and has been part of the change to new work. Back then she was used to manual calculator and tons of papers, whereas today she uses her smartphone and the newest software. While she has been working in New York for a while, the concept of new work hit her for the first time. That was the moment she couldn’t forget about it anymore.

The last few years taught her a lot in that field. During her Keynote, she explained the new work concept on the basis of a pyramid figure. If you are interested in that, you should definitely have a look at the YouTube video. As a leader, she figured out difficulties coming along with working in a remote team. Personal meetings with clients became old fashioned, so they needed to focus on technology – which distracted the team as much as it supported communication.

You may be the boss, but if your team does not give you the power you cannot be successful in a digital world.

Michaela Peisger, CFO at KPMG Germany

The main learning point she wants to share with other leaders is that a personal connection is key. In order to give your team confidence and delegate authority as well as information, you have to know them. So no matter where you are leading a team, even if you just build your startup company – don’t just Skype or call your team members. Go and grab some drinks together!

New work is far more complex than any article could fully explain. It is a concept that needs to be experienced and improved every single day. We cannot really predict how the new work actually is going to look like, but let’s build it together!

Review 2019: Collaborating to Build a Better World

Once again, remarkable women and influential leaders from all over the world convened under one roof to share their expertise, perspective and acumen on how the world we live in is developing and what everyone can contribute to make a positive impact. Learn more and download the offical review 2019!


Isabella Beyer

At Management Circle, I am part of the content marketing team. Amongst others, I manage and oversee the Global Female Leaders blog. I am also responsible for the topics secretariat & assistance on the Management Circle blog as well as our social media accounts. I am delighted to inform you about current topics, trends and creative ideas.

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