Detlef Hollmann / Future of Work

August 2015

Detlef Hollmann, in 2013 you participated in the study entitled “Führung, Gesundheit und Resilienz” (Leadership, Health and Resilience). Would you tell us a little about this? For example, what were the most important findings?

I found two aspects of the study to be of particular interest. On the one hand, the study revealed that very resilient people tend to suffer the effect of burnout less frequently. This is significant as resilience, i.e. how we react to stressful situations, can be trained. Resilience training should therefore be a cornerstone of corporate health management.

On the other hand, the second key aspect concerns the organization or company for which we work. Once again, it isn’t just the nature of the work involved which determines the level of stress, but rather more important in this context is management style. The study revealed that employees are less likely to suffer burnout if they feel in control of their work while at the same time receiving proper guidance from their superiors.

In our recent joint study on the importance of work, it was revealed that 26% of working Germans are very happy in their current job and a further 41% are generally content with their working situation. Did these results come as a surprise? From your point of view, is this a good result or is improvement required? In what areas has potential room for improvement been identified?  

The results did not surprise me. Research into happiness in the workplace has indicated that working Germans enjoy a high degree of job satisfaction and, objectively, it can certainly be said that Germany offers excellent working conditions. Nevertheless, assessing our personal working situation either negatively or positively is a very subjective task and depends on an individual’s personal expectations.

In future it will be necessary to closely observe how the nature of work and the labor supply situation develops. If we are to believe the analyses predicting a rapid decline in the availability of jobs in the mid-qualification segment, such as in the retail and services sector, for example, then we shall have to keep a close eye on how this may affect the nature of work and which qualifications will be important in the future. If I can apply all that I have learned to my job and my expertise is in demand, then my job satisfaction increases as well.

You are also a member of the Expert Commission on Perspectives for Work and Life in Germany (Expertenkommission Arbeits- und Lebensperspektiven in Deutschland). What are the key questions the Commission is asking?

The great advances that have been made in technology and new working, production and communication processes have resulted in many Germans feeling a little lost and also questioning current values in society. Discussions taking place against this background are throwing up questions relating to social cohesion and the outlook on work and life. For this reason, the Bertelsmann Stiftung established the Expert Commission on Perspectives for Work and Life in Germany with the aim of stimulating debate on the following issues: how will changes to the working world and living environment impact social and cultural cohesion and social inclusion? How should work and the working environment in general be structured to incorporate individual life plans and simultaneously future-proof companies? How can new ideas and concepts encourage participation in matters of work, health and training, in political decision-making processes and social engagement? How can we help people take individual responsibility for their own employability and how can they be trained to spot opportunities for personal development?

To finish, a more personal question: how would you describe your own attitude toward work?

Even if we on the Commission have confronted the issue of the future development of the working world, I’m rather more inclined to favor older and possibly more flexible working structures. A good work-life balance is important to me, and I take care to ensure that my professional life doesn’t intrude on my private life too often. I like to keep both spheres as separate as possible.

Thank you for your time!