Flexibility and supporting a variety of work styles, with a focus on results over how work is done.
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 Alex Groesbeck, President of Fooda.
Since joining Fooda in 2014, Alex has been primarily focused on scaling the sales and operations of the organization. Prior to Fooda, Alex was responsible for a 300-person sales organization as well as led the national expansion efforts at Echo Global Logistics. Alex earned his BBA in both Management and Cultural Anthropology at Western Michigan University.
Thank you for making time to visit with us about the topic of our time. 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?
As the next generation enters the workforce, seeing a greater purpose in their work and trusting that their employer has a mission statement in action is going to be their standard, rather than something new. We’ll see continued transparency and accountability both internally and externally.
There are also fewer folks entering the workforce, so we’re seeing more power in the hands of employees and I believe we’ll continue seeing employers responding to those needs. Headlines recently have been so focused on whether we’re in the office or at home, but the hybrid work experience is here to stay, and I believe the future is about setting teams up for success in this new scenario. Much of the success of our economy has been driven by improving productivity. The question now is how do we sustain the work/life balance while maintaining productivity gains. Beyond that, how are we creating a sense of community, at home or in the workplace, knowing that there will always be a desire and need for human connection.
What will change? Well, our work from home “tech” was much more successful than predicted but Zoom calls from the basement aren’t the future of remote work. Tech fuels and empowers flexibility and it’s going to evolve to better support our hybrid needs. And because tech won’t replace in-person events, there will certainly be an increased focus and investment in those communal moments since having the whole team together from nine to five, five days a week is no longer a reality for many organizations.
What advice would you offer to employers who want to future-proof their organizations?
Coming out of a Pandemic, it feels naive to suggest that anyone is capable of future-proofing. But what I can say with certainty is that your team is a the most instrumental part of your future success so you must be highly critical of the decisions you make that impact your team both directly and indirectly. Just because we’re in a dynamic period where you are inclined to make swift changes doesn’t mean we should forget that employees desire transparency and consistency. Of course, you can try new things but always be transparent about whether it is an experiment. Uncertainty and instability are detrimental to morale so try to be thoughtful and selective when you are making choices for the 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?
Without question, employers want to welcome teams back into the office and are exploring all avenues of how to make that desirable to employees. What it comes down to is a new shared perspective on what productivity looks like and how we value one another’s time. For many, deep, hyper-focused work now happens at home while creative collaboration happens in person at the office. And both are such critical, equally important functions! I believe the biggest way we can reconcile the gap is by creating and respecting work/life boundaries while doing more to support collaboration in the office. How can we create a more dynamic workplace with a social feel that’s even enjoyable? What are we doing to build the workplace community and encourage meaningful interactions? Are we being flexible not just on the days in office but arrival and departure times? This is how we can show that we value everyone’s time and efforts and ultimately maximize productivity.
We simultaneously joined a global experiment together last year called “Working From Home.” How will this experience influence the future of work?
Hopefully it solidifies a better work-life balance with clearer boundaries for everyone. At Fooda I’m proud that we’ve worked really hard to navigate through some challenging moments, while also being recognized numerous times as a “best place to work.” In doing so, we’ve also gained a lot of perspective on what achieving success looks like and it’s much less about how or at what time of day you get it done and all about the results.
On a more macro level I don’t believe we arrived at our pre-pandemic workflows because they were ineffective, and therefore it doesn’t make sense to completely reimagine how we work. But what became clear in the past couple years is that some folks thrive in a traditional office setting while others find success working from home. Our job as leaders is to find a consensus that allows people the freedom to work how they choose and find ways to bridge between the different styles of work. We need to ask ourselves how we can best support all varieties of productivity.
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?
Finding ways for more types of workers to enjoy the types of flexible scheduling and modern benefits that many white-collar workers enjoyed even pre-pandemic. In our field specifically, I have seen that perks historically reserved for office workers are now becoming more prevalent in environments where people work in shifts and by the hour. With the current labor shortage having the potential to be with us for years to come, employers are thinking critically about how to both attract and retain employees across the entire spectrum.
At Fooda, we’ve seen that a broader range of clients recognize the importance of making food available in the workplace. Food programs worth bragging about were once for salaried office workers but now include a broader chunk of the American workforce including healthcare, our military, distribution centers, and manufacturing. It’s a step in the right direction towards making jobs more sustainable from both a financial and wellness perspective.
Bottom line, there needs to be awareness of the needs for ALL workers and sustained efforts made to ensure we do not take any part of the workforce for granted.
What is your greatest source of optimism about the future of work?
The pandemic provided an opportunity to rethink everything. I’m not one to think that everything we had been doing up to that point was the wrong way, but I certainly think there are great opportunities in the future for companies to do better. I’m motivated by the opportunity to leverage technology that allows for greater flexibility and find new ways to provide experiences that challenge employees to grow personally and professionally.
Our recent data shows that 91% of employees feel a positive emotional connection to someone at their workplace and 79% feel a positive emotional connection to their organization. And that tells us that employers are listening to the needs of their workers and we’re recognizing that human connection is more important than ever. As simple as it sounds, knowing that we’re all making efforts to reconnect and reunite is incredibly encouraging.
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?
We’ve always believed in the power of breaking bread with a colleague (our business depends on it!) and the data tells us that most tend to agree. In another recent survey, an overwhelming majority of respondents expressed that sharing meals together helps them feel more engaged at work. In response, we’ve seen a huge uptick in employers subsidizing food at work for employees. Not only do employees feel good about supporting their local restaurants, but it encourages stepping away from your desk and sharing a meal with coworkers. During a time of “lunchflation,” a subsidized meal also lessens the financial burden, which is one more stress reducer.
It seems like there’s a new headline every day. ‘The Great Resignation’. ‘The Great Reconfiguration’. And now the ‘Great Reevaluation’. What are the most important messages leaders need to hear from these headlines? How do company cultures need to evolve?
First as someone who likes to build new things, I love that this evolving era is yet to be designed. Any people leader today knows that employee engagement will be key to solving today’s challenges and shaping the future. Headlines can be hyperbolic and good leaders understand that making sure employees are valued, seen, known, and appreciated is at the center of setting your organization up for long term success
Top 5 Trends To Track In the Future of Work
- Flexibility and supporting a variety of work styles, with a focus on results over how work is done.
- Rethinking how to maintain your culture in a dynamic and changing work environment.
- Perks historically reserved for office workers becoming more prevalent in environments where people work in shifts and by the hour.
- Being mission driven becomes table stakes for most good employers who need to compete for talent.
- More investment and focus on creating social moments in the workplace.
Questions for Alex
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.
Trying to climb the corporate ladder early in my career, I was a bit too willing to look for shortcuts to success. At one point I was fortunate enough to have an executive early in my career scare me straight. They advised me that there are no shortcuts to success and ever since that time, I’ve lived by the motto of “one foot in front of the other” to keep me on task and grounded.
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?
I graduated from college with a degree in cultural anthropology, so I suppose it is not surprising that a quote that has inspired me was from a one of the great anthropologist, Margaret Mead.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
At its core, the directive is to simply be thoughtful and take action, regardless of external circumstances. It has proven to work for us in the early startup days, during the growth days, the deep pandemic days, and now, with our business growing again at a fast clip.
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 find Lina Kahn, Chair of the FTC, to be incredibly impressive. She has progressive thoughts on the highly complex topic of antitrust and data privacy, and I would be fascinated to understand more.
Thank you for sharing your insights and predictions. We appreciate the gift of your time and wish you continued success and good health.