… Soft skills like empathy, mindfulness, emotional intelligence, adaptability, and integrity will be crucial factors of success moving forward. Technology has automated nearly every single industry and service you can think of. As a result, skills that technology can’t replicate will be highly coveted.

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 Bianca Padilla.

Bianca Padilla is the CEO and Co-founder of Carewell, the leading and fastest-growing e-commerce resource for caregivers. Bianca and her husband founded Carewell after she experienced the lack of support and guidance available for caregivers after she began caring for her grandmother. A graduate of New York University with a bachelor’s degree in economics, Bianca attended the Disney Institute, formed the Charlotte chapter of Aging 2.0 — for which she currently serves as an ambassador — and was named to the 2021 Forbes 30 Under 30 list.

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.

Becoming my grandmother’s caregiver was absolutely a formative experience for me. My grandmother had always had bad arthritis and she thought hip surgery would provide some relief, but it actually made it worse and nearly immobilized her. I was 22 years old, straight out of college, and I had moved back home to attend a software development program to improve my coding skill set.

I never thought that I would be caring for my grandmother. When I was little, she would take care of me, and experiencing the reversal of roles was very surreal but I was also grateful that I was able to support her when she most needed it. This experience opened my eyes to the overwhelming need there is for caregiver support and was the catalyst that led to the creation of Carewell.

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 we’re going to continue seeing debate about in-person work versus remote, and many companies will choose their preference based on their individual needs. Some may offer hybrid work models, but in the end, companies will lead with whatever their leadership thinks increases productivity even if actual data doesn’t back it.

In terms of what will change, the demographic of the workforce is going to significantly shift within the next 10 years. By 2030, all Baby Boomers — that’s 73 million people — will be 65 and over. As Baby Boomers age and retire from the workforce, Gen X, Millennials, and Gen Z are poised to replace them in the labor market, but the younger generations will also be required to care for the boomers as they age.

This is going to have a huge impact on the caregiver support ratio, which is the number of people available to care for a person during their high-risk years (80+). According to AARP, the ratio is forecasted to fall from seven people for every person who needs care to only 4 people per care recipient by 2030. More employees will assume caregiving responsibilities and the demands of caregiving will force them to choose between working or caring for their loved one, which will have a cascading impact on the labor market.

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

If you want talented employees to stay for the long haul, you must build benefits that apply to them now and other life milestones they may face. For example, parental leave has evolved tremendously over the years. At first, most companies only covered maternity leave, but now we’re seeing more companies include leave for new fathers, and couples that adopt or accept a new foster child.

Caring for an aging loved one is a life event that companies aren’t focusing on enough. There are already 53 million caregivers in the U.S. and at least 75% of Americans will serve as a caregiver for a loved one at some point in their life. As I mentioned, the number of caregivers is only going to increase as Baby Boomers age, so it’s time that companies shift their focus to how they can best support their employees who are or will become caregivers.

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?

Employees who are caregivers, or those that know they’ll become caregivers in the coming years, will expect benefits that offer flexibility so they can balance their personal obligations and their work life. When companies eventually begin to add caregiver support to their benefit offerings, they’ll most likely start with caregiving leave. While helpful in some cases, full-time caregivers are going to need more to successfully balance both their roles and only things like remote work and flexible schedules will be able to provide the support they’re interested in and require. I think companies, especially their HR departments, should have an open dialogue with their workforce to understand what type of caregiver benefits are most helpful and from there create policies.

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 was a new experience for many when the pandemic began. It provided people with a chance to test out remote work and decide whether it complimented their lifestyles. I think more employees are going to expect remote flexibility from employers when and if they need it. Around 35% of the workforce worked from home during 2020 and many did so for more than a year, so there’s going to be pressure on companies to offer remote options since it was something that we were able to sustain for a long period of time.

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?

Working from home helped provide a glimpse into the home lives of our employees — something that we would have never experienced if it wasn’t for the pandemic and video conference calls. It has pushed companies to understand and support the personal needs of their workers to make sure they’re able to reach their potential as employees. I think we’ll need to see more of this, especially for caregivers, if we hope for an equitable future of work.

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

We’re already seeing companies build caregiving benefits into their employee packages. It’s slowly becoming something that companies consider just as important as parental leave. While we’re trending in the right direction, we need more companies to understand the potential impact on the workforce caregiving will have if they don’t create policies/benefits that support caregivers.

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?

For caregivers employers should build a culture that truly supports them and their experiences. This can include creating employee resource groups, offering access to mental wellness counseling, and even encouraging leadership to share their own caregiving experiences. All of these can help caregivers feel less isolated and backed by their company, removing one less cause of anxiety for caregivers.

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?

Companies and employees alike should view the “Great Resignation” and the “Great Reevaluation” as an incredible opportunity and a reset unlike anything we’ve seen previously. Employees have the opportunity to find a company that aligns with their interests and allows them to thrive and grow. In turn, the current labor market allows companies to find talent that is truly committed to their values and mission, which leads to higher employee satisfaction and productivity. As a leader, this is a moment to find the right talent needed to take your business to the next level and cultivate a culture that rewards passionate employees.

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

  1. Remote versus return-to-office. We’re seeing companies continue to debate about returning to the office and whether it increases employee productivity. From the CEO of JP Morgan to the former CEO of Google, large companies are encouraging the return to in-person work, but employees who feel as though they’re just as productive, are pushing back. This will also have an impact on caregivers as many won’t be able to return to the office and will have to decide between finding a company with remote flexibilities or exiting the workforce altogether.
  2. Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Most corporate DEI strategies have focused on developing a sense of belonging for all employees regardless of race, ethnicity, and gender, and promoting a diverse workforce. As time goes on, DEI is going to begin to focus on the personal experiences and needs of employees and how to create that sense of belonging regardless of their own lived experiences.
  3. Employee Well-being. Remote work blurred the lines between work and personal life, which has encouraged companies to focus on the well-being of their employees to avoid burnout and increase resiliency. We’ll continue to see companies build physical and mental well-being perks into benefit packages, like free access to meditation apps and fitness stipends, as studies show that they lead to higher employee satisfaction, productivity, and retention.
  4. Softskills. Soft skills like empathy, mindfulness, emotional intelligence, adaptability, and integrity will be crucial factors of success moving forward. Technology has automated nearly every single industry and service you can think of. As a result, skills that technology can’t replicate will be highly coveted.
  5. Employee Growth. Engaged employees are interested in skill development and growth to get to the next level in their careers. For companies looking to retain those employees, leadership teams will need to provide employees with the tools and opportunities necessary to help them widen their breadth of knowledge and expertise to help them transcend.

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?

“If your dreams don’t scare you, they aren’t big enough.” What we do every day as entrepreneurs is scary. You build something from the ground up, in most cases with little to no support or guidance. Being afraid and uncomfortable signifies that you’re pushing past your comfort zone to achieve your goals.

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 love to chat with Melinda French Gates. Not only is she a pioneer for women in STEM, but she has emerged as an advocate for caregivers. Pivotal Ventures, the company she founded in 2015 to accelerate social progress, identified that the caregiving industry is completely outdated and due for innovation.

From its Move Care Forward campaign to the numerous articles she has penned urging lawmakers to pass national paid leave, Melinda is using her platform to help identify transformative policies and innovative solutions that benefit caregivers. I think a discussion with her about the state of caregiving and the areas that are ripe for improvement would be a huge step in getting us closer to improving the lives of the more than 53 million caregivers in the U.S.

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?

My LinkedIn is a great way to stay up to date on what I’m up to with Carewell. I like to engage with interesting articles and do my best to share trends that we see in the caregiving and entrepreneurial space.

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