There will continue to be a need for in-person connection now and into the future, even for jobs that successfully transition to remote and hybrid ways of working. It’s essential for fostering personal relationships, onboarding new employees, collaborating, and building culture.

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 Chris Allsopp.

Chris Allsopp serves as Co-Founder of Grove, a leading, first-of-its-kind platform that enables organizations to efficiently build, manage, scale, and measure workplace culture programs. Grove is about fostering those natural and meaningful connections you can build only through intention. The bleeding-edge platform streamlines all the many and varying workflows an organization’s teams must follow, into a singular operating system that integrates all existing tools. Grove is the framework through which teams can standardize processes with the core goal of bringing employees together.

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.

Shortly after graduating college, I packed up my stuff and moved across the country, leaving behind a community I had established over the course of two decades. Driving my girlfriend-now-wife’s 2006 Hyundai Elantra, I made my way from New Jersey to Nevada. The drive itself is something I’ll never forget (seeing the Rockies for the first time as a New Yorker knocked my socks off), but the impact the decision had on the course of my life is hard to overstate.

The experience established a deeper understanding of the importance of community, which helped fuel my passion for building Grove. It’s common for people to move vast distances for careers, relationships, education, etc. For many, the workplace is where they feel the strongest sense of community. Developing a tool to help companies foster connections at work felt like a meaningful journey to embark on.

Anyway, you should’ve seen that fully-packed Elantra trying to get up a mountain. Still proud of that car…

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?

There will continue to be a need for in-person connection now and into the future, even for jobs that successfully transition to remote and hybrid ways of working. It’s essential for fostering personal relationships, onboarding new employees, collaborating, and building culture. New technology will help fill the gaps, but anyone who has attended one-too-many virtual happy hours can tell you that the experience just isn’t the same at the moment.

A big difference will be the purpose the physical workplace serves. It’ll become less of a place to actually get work done and more of a place to accomplish the connection, collaboration, and community-building elements that are critical for organizational health. We already see that happening now with companies downsizing their office footprints and rearchitecting their workplaces to be more communal.

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

Culture is a nebulous entity by nature, and the process of influencing it through the right programs and operational initiatives is difficult. Authentic employee relationships take years to develop, and with the proverbial “watercooler” evaporating, companies must be intentional about how they drive connections between coworkers.

Even before the pandemic, 40% of people reported feeling isolated at work. For many, remote work has only exacerbated that feeling. In addition to taking a toll on employee wellbeing, it also has serious downstream effects on engagement and retention.

So, to build for the future, organizations must invest in new strategies for connecting employees and bulwarking against the damaging effects of isolation.

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?

Autonomy over where and when one works will likely be a point of friction, though it’ll ultimately trend towards greater flexibility. We’re still in uncharted territory, with organizations carefully executing and iterating on new strategies.

Though, with recruiting being so competitive these days, some companies will make big bets to attract talent. Bolt, for example, with their recent shift to a 4-day work week. The incentives are there for employers to offer as much flexibility as possible.

So it’s really about evaluating how much flexibility your organization can support, which can be extended through the right investments in new strategies and technology. For example, flatter organizations with more project-based work can operate with greater flexibility because they’re not viewing productivity through the lens of time spent working.

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

We’ve come to know the office as the place you go to get work done, but the pandemic showed us that it’s no longer necessary for many jobs. Asking employees to commute every day, just for them to pop their headphones on and type away on a laptop, is a misuse of their time and energy. There’s no putting the genie back in the bottle, and we really shouldn’t try.

Still, the office serves an incredibly important purpose as a place for connection, community, and collaboration. 60% of companies are redesigning their offices to accommodate the shift to hybrid work, with things like desk reservation systems and common spaces.

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?

A greater focus on mental wellbeing, community, and authentic human connection is necessary for a future of work that works for everyone. The recent shift to remote work is just one of many examples of a global trend towards isolation.

If the future of work means we’re leaving the office as we know it behind, new strategies are needed to meet the basic human need of belonging.

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

Focus on employee experience has become much more mainstream over the last few years, with companies listening to their people, building multifunctional EX teams, and developing new frameworks for a better work life.

I’m hopeful the outcome will be a more positive work experience across the board, with more growth opportunities, more meaningful work, and greater access to mental and physical health support.

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 boundaries between work and life are becoming increasingly blurred, and putting programs in place to prevent employee burnout is necessary. Zendesk’s ‘recharge’ days, where everyone takes off the second Friday of the month, is an obvious example.

Broadly speaking, employee wellbeing is a central pillar of employee experience. It takes on many forms, from fostering a culture of psychological safety to providing emotional, physical, social and financial wellness services.

It’s also important to acknowledge that many people lost their primary source of community when the world shifted to remote work, with little over a third saying work was where they felt their greatest sense of belonging. Ignoring that loss is a recipe for disaster.

Many people open their laptops at 9, close them at 6, and that’s their primary source connection for the day. Social health is intrinsic to mental health, and must factor into employer efforts for employee wellbeing.

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?

Invest in your people and you’ll survive whatever great label comes next.

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

  1. Hybrid workspaces

Offices will resemble something more like a clubhouse, where things like networking, collaborating, and relationship building can happen more effectively. The heads-down work will be accomplished at home, ideally but not necessarily in one’s pajamas.

2. Reinvestment of real estate into software

As companies reduce their office footprint, they’ll likely reinvest that money into software to fill the collaboration and connection gaps that physical offices left behind. 74% of Fortune 500 CEOs expect to reduce office space as a result of the shift to hybrid and remote work.

3. Increased focus on employee wellness

Stress, burnout, and isolation have been on the rise amid the pandemic, and while many companies agree that employee wellbeing is a top priority for 2022, a recent survey from WTW found that about half are still in the process of articulating and rolling out their strategies.

4. Greater flexibility of work hours

In an effort to attract talent, organizations will offer greater flexibility into where and when employees can work. Bolt’s 4-day workweek is a good example, but organizations across the board are implementing new strategies to support this change.

5. Flatter, less-hierarchical organizations

Expect a greater emphasis on result-oriented, project-based work, with less focus on traditional “clock-in, clock out” time-based measurements of 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 actually used to do the same thing back in college. I was studying history at the time so a good quote was always close by. One that stuck with me and feels relevant to the conversation at hand was from Albert Einstein: ”We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”

The future of work requires new strategies, new technology, and a whole new way of thinking. The best solutions will arise from those willing to throw the old rulebook out the window.

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?

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