Asynchronous work. Offices were distraction factories, where everybody should be able to answer to everybody. Remote work helped to design a better way to work.
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 Anna Likhopyorskaya.
Anna is Chief Operating Officer of Solar Staff. Her company simplifies international contracting and compliance and makes it easier to work with independent teams. For the past six years, Anna has been actively exploring the future of work, while helping businesses from around the world build relationships with freelancers.
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?
Thank you for inviting me to the interview. I am the Chief Operating Officer at Solar Staff. Our company simplifies international contracting and compliance, helping businesses to work with independent teams. We have had 600+ clients from 120+ countries for the last seven years.
I have a technical background, but when I started to work with Solar Staff, I realized that the future of work is my true passion. This was especially noticeable when I moved to Amsterdam a few years ago and began working with European clients.
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?
Human capital is becoming more expensive in the West. It is unprofitable for companies to hire people to do tasks that can be automated. However, it’s hard to automate two particular functions when there is insufficient data: creation and decision-making. To answer your question, we will come to a point where human labor in Europe and America becomes more focused on creative processes rather than functional.
I also think the Asian approach to work will be different in the future. In China, for example, people do low-skilled work, which is unlikely to change in the future because the population is enormous and the cost of human labor is low. Yet similar to the West, China needs talented people to do high-skilled work, which can’t be automated. It seems that globally speaking, middle-class employees like managers will fall out and be replaced with systems and algorithms.
What advice would you offer to employers who want to future-proof their organizations?
They should be more flexible when it comes to their employees’ preferences. Many people want to have multiple jobs, many people work from Home, and many want to work as freelancers. One of Upwork’s research findings highlighted the emergence of a new career path, with half of the Gen Z [age 18 to 22] talent pool choosing to start their careers in freelance rather than full-time employment.
I think the biggest challenge for companies is the ability to adapt to the new working habits of this generation. For example, remote-only companies now exist, but this work model is not essential — a hybrid model is preferred. For many people, especially C-level managers, it is still easier to react to problems in person rather than remotely. In saying that, this increasing, young workforce has already learned about remote communication while growing up. Companies must start preparing changes to their work model for future talent and skills.
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?
People will want more freedom in how they do their jobs. This will manifest itself in the choice of schedule, location, and several projects. Unfortunately, companies don’t always keep up with the changes; to do that, they need to pay more attention to employees’ behavior. This is a crucial task for the HR department for sure.
We simultaneously joined a global experiment together last year called “Working From Home.” How will this experience influence the future of work?
Working From Home perished the old corporate culture, which employees have interpreted as fake values; for example, treat your company as your family and share the company’s successes and failures. Once people started to distance themselves from the office, it helped them visualize their situation from a different angle — should I treat the company as my family if it demands overtime work without giving anything in return?
With the change to Work From Home, people began to spend more time with their family instead of the company — making their life much better and highlighting what they value in terms of lifestyle and for whom they work. Employees now understand how fast and effectively they work out of the office, which helps them improve their performance. They also understand which work they want to do. This revaluation may have been dramatic and stressful for employees, but now they dare to change, and it’s incredible.
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?
The development of the future of work correlates with introducing a basic income. It has been hotly debated over the past decade. A basic income would help people leave unloved jobs, get rid of neediness, and, as paradoxical as it may sound, find a new place to earn a steady income. The pandemic showed that today’s states are already prepared to shoulder their social obligations to society. In the United States, throughout the pandemic, the state paid $1400 per poor and middle-class family member.
What is your greatest source of optimism about the future of work?
There are plenty of them.
First, the future of work is connected with globalization, and it’s cool that today’s companies have more international teams. Diversity helps bring new ideas, create worldwide products and make work more engaging because, in such groups, everybody has a different cultural context and experience.
Second, I think the future of work gives more opportunities for individuals to become entrepreneurs. People who choose to be independent specialists can invite their acquaintances and become one super team headed by a freelancer-manager. This is more than being a freelancer, yet smaller than an agency. This is a liquid team.
Third, it helps to keep the company on its toes. If a company wants to attract A-list talent, they should think about the work environment more than ever. Otherwise, their competitors from the other side of the globe will poach their teams.
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?
As human capital becomes more expensive in the future, companies will pay extra attention to the team’s mental health, which is a good thing to do. I think it is essential to focus on the psychological profile when hiring because people work differently. The irritation of workflow is annoying — people with a slower pace begin to compare themselves with those who work faster and get depressed, and people who work faster feel that they are being slowed down. This is uncomfortable and especially felt when working remotely.
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?
Unfortunately, The Great Resignation continues even though many considered it a short-term trend that emerged from the pandemic. For example, Willis Towers Watson’s 2022 Global Benefits Attitudes Survey shows that 44% of employees in the USA are seeking a new job. Company culture should evolve in three dimensions to solve “The Great Resignation” dilemma: capabilities, money, and values.
First, many people leave their jobs because they don’t see opportunities to grow or don’t understand how working in their company can improve their professional lives. It is necessary to show open opportunities for horizontal and vertical growth because everybody has their own needs. Companies should introduce a coach for their employees and assign talent to a more correct and preferred role in the company. For example, someone may want to take on more responsibility and become a team leader, but at the same time, some people want to do a job faster and better, which is another career track. A coach can listen to the employee’s needs and advise accordingly.
Second, research shows that employees mainly leave a company for money. PwC research recently revealed that 71% of the workforce are ready to change their jobs for a 5% salary increase. It’s a shocking truth, but now companies should constantly re-evaluate how much they pay. It is worth changing the evaluation criteria and paying people for a specific result. In this case, it will be easier for companies to increase wages, get more benefits, and always keep track of an employee’s professional growth.
Finally, companies need to set up their values because employees don’t want to do their work only. They want to influence their environment. It is especially seen in the new generation. Zoomers, who are just starting in their careers, have become increasingly selective: they pay attention not only to salary but also to how companies treat politics and the environment.
Let’s get more specific. What are your “Top 5 Trends To Track In the Future of Work?” (Please share a story or example for each.)
1. Asynchronous work: offices were distraction factories, where colleagues had to be there in person to answer one another. Remote work has helped to design a better flow.
2. The value of qualified managers: hybrid and remote teams operate under different rules; without highly-skilled managers, they will fall apart.
3. Multiple jobs: Companies must be ready to accept that their talent will work for other companies because this is how a person can accomplish their need to get more experience and earn more in their careers.
4. Changing how we evaluate performance: companies can pay for a result rather than the employee’s time.
5. Even greater globalization: companies are used to hiring remote workers from developed countries, but in the future, this will also apply to talent from the third world. It no longer matters if a person is in Mexico, Ireland, New York, or Bangladesh. What matters is how great a specialist that person is. Such opportunities for growth anywhere in the world are very inspiring.
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?
“It’s easy to be a gloomy and unclear person. But it’s tough to be kind and clear”. For me, it means that despite the difficulties that arise in life, you have to keep going with your head held high and focused.
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 would like to have dinner with the Beatles. Their music is entertaining and pleasant!
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?
You can always reach me via LinkedIn or Twitter. If you want to know more about Solar Staff, you can email me at [email protected]
Thank you for sharing your insights and predictions. We appreciate your time and wish you continued success and good health.