A focus on mental well-being over anything: The pandemic forced employees into remote work overnight, without any real choice or option for employers to safeguard their employees against overworking, which inevitably leads to burnout. Employee mental well-being is the key to the future of culture, productivity, longevity, and avoiding burnout.

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 Arran Stewart.

Arran Stewart is the Co-Founder and CVO of blockchain-powered recruitment platform Job.com. Arran has spent over a decade working to disrupt the recruitment industry with innovative, first-of-its-kind technology. His expertise on hiring, recruitment, technology, and macro job market trends has been featured in Forbes, Inc., Reuters, Wired, Fortune, and Nasdaq, among others.

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.

The town and subsequent environment I grew up in was the driver for why I chose a career in human resource technology and the recruitment industry as a whole. I’m from a town called Luton — a fairly large working-class town — approximately 25 miles north of London in the UK. Similar to many other areas during the 1980s, much of the manufacturing and job opportunities disappeared, which catapulted the region into low economic activity, with high crime and drug abuse. I witnessed, firsthand, the negative impact that lack of opportunity had on people and their community. Without the basic principles of structure, routine, and being able to provide for their families, all of which jobs provide, disorder would be the inevitable outcome.

Believing that everyone who wants a job should be able to find one has driven me to dedicate my life and career to solving this as best I can — in part by developing technology that is designed to remove friction from the hiring process wherever possible and increase the throughput of successful talent into companies. My mission is always to help as many people feed their families and pay their bills as possible.

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 predict that work will still exist. There’s a deep concern that the displacement of labor through automation, AI, and robotics will be so extreme that a good portion of the workforce will be left redundant. However, when I consider lessons learned from past mistakes (such as those in the automotive industry), I firmly believe that the process of reskilling and redeployment of labor towards other job opportunities — in many cases job roles and titles that do not exist today — will provide the opportunity to shift labor and skill sets.

For the future, I believe that payroll may be offered in multiple asset classes, such as cryptocurrency. Also, there may very well be avatar jobs within the metaverse. Not to mention the abundant opportunities that come with space exploration — both colonization and Helium-3 mining will become more prominent. The rate of acceleration that clean energy and solar system exploration offers, will drastically expand the employment opportunities of the labor force as well.

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

There are several key areas including focusing more on retention of great staff, using digital and AI as an asset to predict more of the internal movements within the company, while also predicting possible exits. Also, invest more in diversity, and encourage a labor force that is more reflective of the wider society across all levels of seniority.

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?

There will be a skills gap due to the education system always being one step behind technological advances. This will inevitably create labor pool shortages, which will result in increases in pay as well as compensation and benefit packages in order to attract from the limited talent pools. Ultimately, this will stimulate the shift and training of workers into those job titles to fill the gaps that are created.

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

It has stimulated the “work from anywhere” thought process, with technology removing many of the communication barriers and project management being easily conducted through platforms. The only question remains — how to define anywhere? We could be looking at an ever-blurred international borderline when it comes to work. Offshore may soon disappear as global talent remuneration levels up and levels down in accordance with the supply of more easily accessible labor.

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 freedom to choose the way we work according to our well-being, family commitments, and personality. Some people genuinely enjoy solitude and the ability to simply get along with their work in their own environment. However, others crave peer interaction and use this to accelerate their own careers. Either way, society has now removed the constraints of old methods and allowed the freedom of movement within the labor force, so that people can choose how they work best.

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

The consciousness that we have about the future of work and how important it is to plan ahead. Did this consciousness exist 60 or even 30 years ago? No, it didn’t.

It’s the reason we saw the pursuit of profit cloud our understanding that humans are the economy — the pursuit of profit will always be short-lived without an economy behind it, stimulating profit drive and consumer demand. I know mistakes will still be made and nothing will be perfect (it’s human nature on a macro scale) but I do believe we have learned a great deal from the mistakes of the past and will do a better job of providing opportunity to the labor market — with less focus on displacement. Our total addressable market is about to expand exponentially with clean energy and space exploration.

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?

The first step to better mental health is employers acknowledging its importance. We have seen many leading companies become aware of this; especially as remote work has taken precedence in working habits. The adoption of apps that are designed to have a human touch with the advice and support they provide, by focusing on simple mindfulness practices (including breathing techniques and gratitude), all showcase this desire to improve employee mental health. The goal is to make people feel more human and connected, especially if their exposure to other people is drastically decreased with their work practices.

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?

Leaders need to recognize that there has been an awakening of the labor force. The market now realizes their worth and knows that they have greater power as a collective. Companies can no longer treat labor as a commodity — the “war for talent” exists at every level of seniority and sector for businesses.

Let’s get more specific. What are your “Top 5 Trends To Track In the Future of Work?”

1. A focus on mental well-being over anything: The pandemic forced employees into remote work overnight, without any real choice or option for employers to safeguard their employees against overworking, which inevitably leads to burnout. Employee mental well-being is the key to the future of culture, productivity, longevity, and avoiding burnout.

2. Hybrid work conditions: All major tech companies have moved to this work condition and rightly so — we have seen firsthand that work from anywhere has offered increases in productivity, happiness, and, most importantly, work-life balance.

3. AI augmentation of humans: Let’s not displace, let’s not replace, let’s enhance. There is a lot of work to do in the future of work, and AI should be a tool that serves to improve people’s ability to complete tasks. It would be ideal for AI to help people be more productive in a shorter amount of time so that the workforce could enjoy benefits like the four-day workweek and more time for leisure activities.

4. Transferable skills: There will be so many new job roles that we won’t be able to necessarily predict all the education required for each one. This is where skills will play a massive role, especially when it comes to transferable ones, or a person’s ability to reapply pertinent knowledge from one role to another.

5. Gig-to-Career blend: Factors such as wages, cost of living, and property value have not risen in line with one another. However, gigs offer an opportunity for workers to have careers while still earning additional cash in their own time. This is especially true for jobs and careers that don’t offer additional income opportunities such as overtime, bonuses, or commission.

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?

Rather than a quote, it’s a story or parable that describes the difference between heaven and hell in terms of how people interact with one another. Given its lesson, I have purposefully lived it within my philosophy and practices. The story is as follows:

There’s a table with a great banquet and many people sitting around — all with the opportunity to feast and interact in peace for eternity. There is one condition for sitting at this table, you have six-foot long serving spoons which you must use to eat. With these, it’s impossible to pick up the food from this perfect meal and enjoy what’s in front of you. At one end of the table, best described as hell, occupants try their best to feed themselves for eternity, but their efforts are all in vain — they’re unable to recognize a way to enjoy the goodness in front of them. Whereas at the other end of the table, the occupants have figured out that these serving spoons are perfectly effective at feeding the person opposite them. At this section of the table, described as heaven, they take turns feeding each other, enjoying the feast and one another’s company — living in this position of satisfaction for eternity.

I do my best to live by this principle — the more people I help, the greater satisfaction I have. The universe will always feed you if you help feed others.

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.

Julie Sweet, the CEO and Chair of Accenture — what an incredible leader! With family, business, and equality being her three main points of focus, I don’t think that I could agree with her more. The main reason I would love a private breakfast with Julie is so that I could bring my eldest daughter, Caitlyn, who’s interested in pursuing a career in leadership. The wisdom Julie could share with both of us — especially about female leadership — would be unparalleled.

As a father blessed with four daughters, I naturally want them to find happiness in their adult lives and would love to see them represent female leadership in all the channels that they could possibly pursue. Female leaders, like Julie, represent such substance and vision — they’re fantastic role models for younger generations as well.

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?

Feel free to follow me on Nasdaq, LinkedIn, or Twitter.

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