No bosses, unlimited holidays, same pay for less work: The Berlin start-ups putting workers first

No bosses, unlimited holidays, same pay for less work: The Berlin start-ups putting workers first

Unlimited time off, no bosses, democratic wages, and the same pay for less work. That’s the pitch vegan condom company Einhorn is making to potential colleagues.

Einhorn is a pioneer of what is known in Germany as “new work”: a reinvention of the often hierarchical structures of business to make things more human for workers.

The concept is based on individuals taking responsibility for doing their jobs themselves; job descriptions are not set in stone, nor are working conditions.

When Markus Wörner started at Einhorn, which is German for Unicorn, he joined as “Head of Orgasmic Marketing”, an important position in a company that sets itself apart from giant competitors like Durex through branding. colorful based on crisp packets as well as promoting a more ethical and sustainable product.

But having once worked at a company where he had to punch a card to show when he started and ended his shift, Wörner quickly noticed how flexibility made his life less stressful.

“For example, when I became a dad, I took more vacation days. When people also move, they may want to take a few extra days off. permission to a boss,” he told Euronews Next.

popular advice

Wörner appreciated this new way of working – which gives more confidence to colleagues – and he ended up getting involved in the company’s “People-Rat” (rat being the German word for advice), which Einhorn describes as a democratic way of dealing with human resources.

Having a board like this means that decisions are made by company workers through lengthy discussions, which are more reminiscent of politics than typical business meetings. “We talk a lot. It can be tiring, but it’s part of the whole structure,” he explained.

But it gets results.

Last year, the company decided to try something drastic – moving to a four-day week for full-time employees. It was initially a six-month test, but the results were so impressive that they decided to make it permanent. How did they do that?

According to Linda Preil, Einhorn’s fairstainability manager and fellow People-Rat member, it was by cutting back on meetings.

“Do we really need every meeting? Could we make them last 30 minutes instead of an hour? And every two weeks instead of one week? she told Euronews Next.

The “new job” allows workers to be honest with each other about what they want from their work-life balance. But it can also put pressure on workers because they feel responsible for the company.

That’s what happened with Cordelia Röders-Arnold, who built Einhorn’s sustainable product line, and felt that the hard work and constant responsibility of the company got her down.

She was the second person to take a paid sabbatical from work. At Einhorn, for every year you have worked for the company, you get one month off. So what did she do?

“I have withdrawn a lot into my private life. Before, I was a rather public person, with appearances on stages of entrepreneurship and new work, on my Instagram account or in interviews like this,” said said Röders-Arnold.

“I took great care of my adopted one-eyed horse, took long walks with my dachshund and read books I never had time for before.”

She appreciated the chance to spend more time with her friends and family, but admits she also took a few sabbatical shots.

“I drove with my husband, a dachshund and an electric car to Sicily and went paragliding on Etna – which was really awesome,” she said.

Companies driven by purpose rather than profit

The key to why workers like Röders-Arnold are able to do this lies in the structure of the company, which places this successful start-up in relation to typical conceptions of work, profit and even capitalism itself. even.

Since most companies are shareholder-owned, any increase in productivity would translate into increased profits and dividends for shareholders.

But Einhorn is not a normal business: it’s a “purpose business”. This means that they are driven by their purpose rather than the desire to make more money for shareholders, and they don’t necessarily want to grow to be as big and profitable as possible.

“We have to ask ourselves, ‘How do we justify growth? Do we all just want higher wages or working on our sustainable development goals? How many people do we want to have here?'” Preil said.

Because there are no bosses to make the decisions, these are usually long-running discussions within the company; some workers want to focus on selling more sustainable products, while others want less pressure and a better work-life balance.

A purpose-based company cannot be transferred by either of the two founders who do not own shares. The company effectively belongs to itself, with a few “stewards”, people close to the company and who make the big decisions.

Another Berlin-based company that follows a similar model to Einhorn is Ecosia, an online search engine that donates its profits to plant trees.

“People very often misunderstand this and we need to correct it and say ‘no, we are putting 100% of our profits into solving the climate crisis, and that will be true forever. It is impossible to withdraw profit from the business. It’s impossible to sell the company,” founder Christian Kroll told the GreenTechpreneur podcast.

“The Future of Business”

Both Einhorn and Ecosia are part of The Purpose Foundation, established in Germany in 2015. They follow a tradition that already existed in Germany, with companies like Bosch and lens maker Zeiss all owned by their own foundations rather than by shareholders, as is the California-based Internet browser Mozilla.

Although the founders of The Purpose Foundation had different backgrounds, one of their main motivations was to help companies that had introduced “new work” structures become sustainable by changing the ownership model of those companies.

“They were working with teams that had a ‘New Work’ concept but then the companies were sold and the new owners didn’t want to follow the ‘New Work’ structure. So if the ownership model wasn’t aligned, then you can’t make those structures sustainable. Ownership is where decisions about value creation are made,” Purpose Foundation researcher Maike Kauffmann told Euronews Next.

Their model is one of “responsible ownership” where only those close to the day-to-day running of the business can make decisions, rather than distant shareholders or family members who inherit the property.

The Purpose Foundation now works with 100 companies in Europe, Latin America and the United States, for a total value of 250 million euros.

Outdoor clothing company Patagonia made headlines last September when it announced that “the Earth is our sole shareholder” and that it would dedicate all company profits to the fight against climate change. .

The Purpose Foundation welcomed it, calling Patagonia a “beacon” that could share its radical business model with the world. But according to Patagonia CEO Ryan Gellert, “it’s not woke capitalism, it’s the future of business.”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *