Productivity will increase. With the continued remote work world, working parents are able to spend more time with their children, younger employees are able to spend time reflecting on their new career, and so much more. Data doesn’t lie, and it indicates that overall remote work has contributed to an increase in productivity.

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 Cameron Yarbrough.

Cameron Yarbrough is the Co-founder and CEO of Torch Leadership Labs. In this capacity, Cameron heads up business development, sales, and marketing, and defines Torch’s strategic vision. He brings 15 years of entrepreneurial experience to his role as CEO, along with a deep background in mindfulness and psychotherapy.

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.

I’ve had many great life experiences that have contributed to making me who I am today, but two stand out as truly defining opportunities. I was lucky enough to go on a 10-day silent meditation retreat in northern California. That’s what got me interested in Buddhism — it forced me to deal with my anxiety head-on. It allowed me to be alone with my thoughts for an extended period of time which was incredibly hard, but I faced my past trauma to better myself. I would also say that working for the San Francisco Zen Hospice has helped to shape who I am today. I spent time taking care of people who were dying, and this opportunity to be so close to death provided me with an entirely different perspective on life. I found a tremendous amount of peace with the concept of impermanence in this life.

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?

In the next 10–15 years, culture will still be the most important theme when it comes to building a high performance company of any kind. And culture will still eat strategy for breakfast. On the other hand, I anticipate that we’ll see a lot of change in a decade. People will work completely virtually from anywhere in the world regardless of time zones. We’ll also likely have virtual offices and virtual meeting rooms that are lightyears beyond what we have today. I can almost picture it — you’ll be able to sit with avatars, planning meetings that feel almost real. Nothing can be perfect though. Time zones will become the only limiting factor because people will need to sleep, but the virtual office experience is going to completely change everything beyond our imagination.

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

I would recommend that employers invest in more conscious leaders. There’s a great Business Insider piece by LinkedIn’s CEO Ryan Roslansky about how much leadership is going to matter in the next year. With the ‘Great Resignation’, businesses need to be a place where people want to come to work. And many companies will need to completely change the way they communicate and lead in order to create that environment. It should be a priority for employers to future proof their organizations by holding themselves accountable to much better behaviors within the business.

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?

The biggest gap between employers and employees is always going to be compensation. Employees want to be paid more and that is consistently the number one issue in every engagement survey, but the data says that people generally don’t leave because of compensation, or lack thereof. It’s important to tolerate the fact that employees will always want more in compensation, and that it will always show up as a deficit in engagement surveys. But it’s crucial to offer employees other motivations to stay in the business, such as development opportunities, a leadership perspective of practicing what is preached, an environment that is aligned with your company’s mission, and the list goes on.

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

Although it was a tough adjustment for many, I believe we’re going to continue working from home moving forward. The pandemic has accelerated what was going to inevitably happen. The future of work has been expedited to see a day where workers get to spend more time with friends and family, doing things they love, and enjoying an appropriate work-life balance. Remote work can have its negative effects on everyone, but as we grow to understand them, we’ll find solutions along the way.

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 pandemic has entirely revamped the workforce. For example, there was a lot of pent up desire from employees to leave their positions, and we saw that go into effect through the ‘Great Resignation’. As a result, we’ll also see that people will land in different places. There will be a common theme of where employees end up settling in the future — places that invest in people development for employees — and we’ll quickly begin to see data on the topic take shape. In addition, our national care infrastructure — including child care and elder care — will need to be more accessible and affordable for people who don’t have paid time or the resources to care for their family, kids, etc.

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

I’d have to say that I channel a lot of optimism from the employee wins in this new universe. We’re seeing such a drastic shift in today’s workplace, similar to when the work week shifted from 7 days to 5 days, in the early 20th century. The employee wins and benefits from the shift to remote work because they have more time with their family and friends and can fit life events, e.g. a dentist appointment, into their work schedules in a much more seamless way. It’s better for employees’ overall mental health and well-being. And even children win because they have better access to their parents who may have been commuting previously when they got home from school.

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 number one thing that employers can offer is to continue letting their employees work from home. As I’ve discussed, it gives them more time that they did not have access to before. I would say number two is to invest in people-oriented learning and support like coaching or access to mental health resources. This can create a space for employees to feel heard and assist them in establishing work-life balance. Lastly, it’s important to provide focused and structured times for people to connect with their colleagues, whether it’s in person or virtual — but with an emphasis on in-person. Employers will need to invest in opportunities for their employees to get together, whether it’s at happy hours, birthdays, or planning sessions, to socialize with one another so they don’t miss out on the irreplaceable benefits of human connection.

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 understand that the ‘Great Resignation’ is an opportunity for them and their business. Employers have the time to reflect on what types of work environments and places attract and retain the best employees, and reevaluate their current ways of working. Does their company’s workstyle align with their business strategy? Have they genuinely checked in with their employees, and are they satisfied? The list goes on. Ultimately, leaders should be connecting with their workers regularly and ensuring their business’ mission aligns with their work.

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. Greater emphasis on in-person events. A majority of these events will be about connection, building relationships and having fun, much more so than strategic planning. They will be a way to reconnect and socialize with colleagues and leaders by gathering for a happy hour or a birthday celebration. Personal relationships with fellow employees are incredibly important, and these gatherings will serve to invigorate them.
  2. Equal hiring across the country. Major urban areas where workers have historically congregated (NY, SF, etc.) will no longer be the primary location where businesses hire. This could be a good thing in terms of diversity. If you’re a San Francisco-based company only hiring people within the city, how are you going to hire Black candidates when there are larger Black communities on the Eastern Coast of the United States? More geographically dispersed hiring will contribute to greater equality and diversity.
  3. Salaries will find an equilibrium. We’ll see geography-based compensations fade. For example, an employer won’t be able to pay someone less because they live in a location with lower cost of living. Employers will be anchored to pay the same rates universally, rather than adjusting based on location.
  4. More and more people will have live coaches and mentors. This change will create connected learning experiences and cultures across organizations. All companies will have connected learning, which is the crown jewel of a leadership and development program and can create a halo effect on all other L&D programs.
  5. Productivity will increase. With the continued remote work world, working parents are able to spend more time with their children, younger employees are able to spend time reflecting on their new career, and so much more. Data doesn’t lie, and it indicates that overall remote work has contributed to an increase in productivity.

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 really enjoy this quote from Nelson Mandela: “Do not judge me by my success, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again”. It’s such a simple piece of wisdom. It reminds me that if you’re going to achieve greatness at something, you have to build failure into the system. No one gets to any level of greatness in leadership without plenty of failures. My version of the quote would be, “If you’re going to face adversity, you’ll go through failure,” — or “resilient people last.” I’m not all about being “tough”, though I do see psychological strength as an important attribute in a leader. I think being “tough” as a leader can also imply resiliency. Resilient people are the people who hang in there through failure and eventually succeed.

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.

There are a number of them, but two that come to mind who I really admire are Stacey Abrams and Jeff Weiner. Stacey Abrams just published a children’s book, called Stacey’s Extraordinary Words, in which she talks about how she competed at the national spelling bee over and over but kept losing. In Stacey Abrams’ style, she didn’t give up and instead kept trying. I respect her commitment to her mission — the woman is just relentless in the best possible way. She has incredible grit that allows her to achieve her goals. And what I love about Jeff Weiner is his deep authenticity and belief in the power of empathy. He has brought empathy, emotional intelligence, and transparency back into the mainstream for corporate CEOs. They’re both great role models in the leadership industry.

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?

I am constantly sharing my thoughts on my Twitter, @yarbroughcam. Definitely a great place to hear my perspective on industry trends.

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