Employees will have more power than ever before, to demand better work-life balance, better wages, and more location flexibility. When people win, companies win. It’s simple.

When it comes to designing the future of work, one size fits none. Discovering success isn’t about a hybrid model or offering remote work options. Individuals and organizations are looking for more freedom. The freedom to choose the work model that makes the most sense. The freedom to choose their own values. And the freedom to pursue what matters most. We reached out to successful leaders and thought leaders across all industries to glean their insights and predictions about how to create a future that works.

As a part of our interview series called “How Employers and Employees are Reworking Work Together,” we had the pleasure to interview Abdul Zedan.

Abdul Zedan is the VP of People for Fivetran, leading the HR, Recruiting, Compensation, People Development and Workplace Operations teams, which focus on creating the best employee experience for Fivetranners. Prior to Fivetran, he spent over two decades leading HR teams across multiple industries, having previously worked at Facebook, Kaiser, PG&E, The Department of Homeland Security, and even had a stint in the United States Coast Guard. Abdul is passionate about the intersection of people’s happiness at work and workplace productivity and loves working on creative programs that bring both together.

Thank you for making time to visit with us about the topic of our time. Our readers would like to get to know you a bit better. Can you please tell us about one or two life experiences that most shaped who you are today.

Probably my time in the military. When you’re in the military, you come across people from all over the world at various stages of their lives and careers. It’s a great place to absorb valuable life lessons — one of the most important is about servant leadership. In a command and control environment, you report to leaders who don’t need to have sophisticated management techniques to motivate you, aside from telling you what to do. So great leaders really stand out, just as much as bad leaders. It was always those leaders that were in the trenches with their people and practiced servant leadership that experienced long-term success. Those who just yelled orders from afar had short term success, but rarely long term. This experience was instrumental in helping shape the kind of leader I wanted to be, and I think about these lessons quite often, even to this day.

Let’s zoom out. What do you predict will be the same about work, the workforce and the workplace 10–15 years from now? What do you predict will be different?

I think the workforce will continue to become more remote and more mobile. Jobs aren’t just being posted in specific cities but now nationally and eventually globally. More jobs will be replaced by AI, and automation, and there is a lot of evidence that shows increased expansion of contract work for employees who want even more flexibility and ownership of how and where they do their work.

What advice would you offer to employers who want to future-proof their organizations?

Flexibility is the name of the game. Offer employees more control over the work, especially when and where they do it from. Stay ahead of market compensation data and adjust your employees to match. Finally, invest in your workforce, and especially managers with training and development. It pays dividends in the short and long term.

What do you predict will be the biggest gaps between what employers are willing to offer and what employees expect as we move forward? And what strategies would you offer about how to reconcile those gaps?

I think that traditional companies struggle most with flexibility, centered around the following:

  • Remote work vs. in office.
  • Working from states or countries where the company does not have payroll setup.
  • Working non-traditional hours.

Some employers are going to understand the importance of empowering employees with flexible work options and will be able to attract and retain talent. Others will stick to the rigid rules and will lose talent to the more flexible companies.

Finally, we are finding that the newest entrants to the workforce want to work less hours than their predecessors, many even wanting less than 40-hour weeks. If this continues, companies may find that they need to be even more flexible, hiring more part time workers or multiple contract workers for the job one employee would normally perform.

We simultaneously joined a global experiment together last year called “Working From Home.” How will this experience influence the future of work?

To me, it’s looking like we are shifting to a more permanent flexible working world. I think it’s proven to be effective in encouraging more permanence.

We’ve all read the headlines about how the pandemic reshaped the workforce. What societal changes do you foresee as necessary to support a future of work that works for everyone?

With employees moving from hot housing markets to areas that don’t have as much demand, I think housing prices will stabilize in the hot market areas while going higher in traditionally low-cost housing markets. Salaries were traditionally higher in markets like the Bay Area, Boston and New York. Now, we are seeing them move to a national average across the country. Also, there will be more emergence of technologies that help us connect more efficiently virtually.

What is your greatest source of optimism about the future of work?

Employees will have more power than ever before, to demand better work-life balance, better wages, and more location flexibility. When people win, companies win. It’s simple.

Our collective mental health and wellbeing are now considered collateral as we consider the future of work. What innovative strategies do you see employers offering to help improve and optimize their employee’s mental health and wellbeing?

Offering more time off, and especially more company-wide time off. We find that it can be hard for an employee to take time off when work is piling up in the “virtual office.” This is where more collective company-wide days off tend to be better true disconnect days than individual time off. Examples include company-wide mental health days and 4-day work weeks. Other creative solutions involve use or lose time off, encouraging employees to take more time off, switching from unlimited to defined time off plans etc.

I keep quotes on my desk and on scraps of paper to stay inspired. What’s your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? And how has this quote shaped your perspective?

This is a tough one, there are so many great quotes out there. This isn’t my favorite, but it’s one that has been sticking with me in our current world of mass burnout and great resignations.

“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” — Thomas A. Edison

I hear all the time from people who love the work they do, but get frustrated with a specific project, or a coworker, or deadline, maybe their team is temporarily short staffed. Their momentary frustration causes them to prematurely leave right when their hard work was just about to pay off.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He, she, or they might just see this if we tag them.

I am impressed with leaders who put their people first — leaders like Hamdi Ulukaya at Chobani and Dan Price at Gravity Payments.

Our readers often like to continue the conversation with our featured interviewees. How can they best connect with you and stay current on what you’re discovering?

LinkedIn is great way to stay connected, https://www.linkedin.com/in/abdulrahmanzedan/

Thank you for sharing your insights and predictions. We appreciate the gift of your time and wish you continued success and good health.