Europa Bendig
Managing Partner STURMundDRANG
10.01.2022 | reading time: 3 minutes


New Narratives: Life-Centered Working

This article first appeared in the September 09/21 issue of "absatzwirtschaft".

Workplace cafeterias and canteens, our research indicates, are currently among the most heavily frequented areas at the offices of German corporations. The office themselves tend to be largely avoided nowadays, with most employees doing hybrid working from home, showing up at the office no more than two days a week. Companies are spiffing up and remodeling their cafeterias, replacing some single-seating areas with collaboration zones, and holding Team Spirit Days to attract people back on campus to the headquarters for monthly get-togethers. The pandemic has brought so many changes, which now we can reflect upon.

It is becoming increasing evident how the lockdown experience has altered our ideas of work-life balance. A mere four years ago, tech giants and start-ups alike were promoting how livable their ultra-modern corporate campuses and office complexes were, as a kind of hive with everything revolving around the workplace. These were designed like little towns offering lots of recreational and socializing opportunities – the only reason to ever leave was to sleep. Now they stand empty. And in fact, the trend is apparently reversing as a new narrative rises to the forefront: work must fit in with private life ... or else.

In the 2021 Microsoft Trend-Work Index Study, 41% of survey participants said they are thinking about quitting within the next twelve months, potentially indicating how the crisis made many people put off such decisions. A large LinkedIn study in fact confirms this trend, in which 74% of those surveyed said the pandemic made them start rethinking their career choices. ‘Lockdowners’, it seems, are not only having trouble envisioning returning to the office; they are not really interested in going back to the old work rhythm in the first place. Can the remedy be found in Company Cafeteria 2.0? It is doubtful indeed, in the face of such a fundamental shift in attitude.

While certain aspects around ‘office fatigue’ remain a matter of speculation, we do now know that working from home often means better work-life balance. No one wants to give up the autonomy they have gained for scheduling their work and choosing where they will be working from. Some believe however that the ‘hybrid’ work model throttles careers and opportunities for professional growth. The tightening post-Covid labor market however holds a host of attractive opportunities for both professional and personal growth, and younger people in particular are motivated by a #YOLO mindset (“you only live once”) in the wake of the pandemic.


Employers see how emotional bonds with employees have become frayed, as a result of which we, in the field of behavioral and cultural research have made out an entirely new set of questions to address. Most importantly: how to successfully foster a magnetic and retentive corporate culture when all companies look the same from the Zoom tile perspective, as formerly substantial ties dissolve in the new age of hybrid working? Also: how is work to be synchronized and planned around employees’ individual life plans? What implications arise for executives as the focus shifts more toward home life? The “new work” is now the mainstream paradigm. A new chapter has opened in modern working life. Story to be continued.


This article first appeared in the September 09/21 issue of "absatzwirtschaft".

Read more about about the reason why it will be highly important over the next few years for managers to leverage new narratives and keep the 'campfires' going as the working world moves further toward and into our digital future.

Image references: Image 1: "Header" // Image 2: "Rooftop" // Image 3: "Woman" // Image 4: "Call"



Author: Europa Bendig

STURMundDRANG founder and General Manager Europa Bendig has been consulting on innovation processes for NGOs and international enterprises for 18 years, primarily in the luxury goods, health, services, beauty, living and social businesses. She specializes in cultural codes and narratives that give brands and portfolios cultural relevance and promote customer loyalty.