May 18, 2024

Scientific work: science between the home office and the university

How organizational culture should accompany hybrid work

The increasingly mixed world of work places contradictory demands on science managers. On the one hand, they must give their employees more autonomy and delegation, and on the other hand, they must keep everything under control, especially in times of crisis. Expectations of individualizing working conditions must be reconciled with expectations of equal treatment. Managers must accompany change and ensure continuity at the same time, convey the meaning of work and ensure productivity. In order to successfully deal with these contradictory requirements, WG leaders must lead “brightly”, that is, recognize paradoxes, accept them and – depending on the situation in question – respond flexibly to demands and needs.

The sentence “Culture eats strategy for breakfast” comes from the economist Peter Drucker. When applied to the world of mixed work, this means that service agreements related to mobile work (strategy) are not enough, but only contribute to the successful management of new requirements through a corresponding organizational culture. So universities and colleges must keep pace with the cultural change towards a hybrid working world by investing in modern technology and in personnel and organizational development (for example through training of staff and managers).

Justice requires active participation in the mixed world of work

The new world of work can reinforce old grievances. An Australian study of 3,500 researchers during the pandemic showed that working from home, women spent less time researching and writing grant applications, and submitted fewer manuscripts for publication, while spending more time on teaching and administrative tasks than men. One reason for these differences was that women spent more time than men working from home taking care of children, caring for elderly relatives and housework. Politicians are responsible here to ensure that children are taken care of and that the elderly are cared for in order to relieve the employees.

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Home office, mobile working and hybrid teams are not a sure success, but should be actively formed by all involved. Scientists need more self-management. Teams need to communicate better and plan days of co-existence. Executives must learn to deal with contradictory requirements. Universities and colleges must keep pace with cultural change by investing in technology and personnel as well as service agreements. Society must ensure that the new world of work is also a just world of work.