Work-from-wherever. The future of work is not just work-from-home, but working remotely from any location. Digital nomadism is on the rise, as people want to make travel a lifestyle.

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 Courtney Barbee.

Courtney has worked in accounting for 21 years, and is owner/COO of The Bookkeeper, an operational accounting and consulting firm serving SMBs and non-profits around the United States. She lives in Raleigh with her husband and sons.

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 was privileged to have the opportunity at a young age to travel extensively and perform volunteer work around the country in a number of major cities. Not only did I experience the advantages of travel, but I got to see firsthand how people with very different lives faced struggles that were completely alien to me. It drove me early on to want to help the “unseen” people in my community, and to recognize how blessed I was.

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?

Particularly as people retire later and later in life, I think we will continue to have generational “culture wars” in the workplace for years to come. Right now we see disconnect between boomers and millennials on workplace culture, but the future battles may be between Gen X and Gen Z. I do think, however, that our overall societal attitudes towards work and prioritization of work is changing and will continue to change. I believe the COVID-19 pandemic forced a lot of people to reconsider what they want in their work-life balance, and to take a step back from the “rat race”. I don’t know if the United States, as a country, will ever go back to the levels we were before of how many people define themselves by their career and make it their top priority. I believe “working to live, and not living to work” will become the prevailing attitude over time.

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

Employers have to understand what motivates their employees, and to not assume that the employees are the ones in the wrong if they are not motivated by what the employer is offering. If a retail company posts record profits, the staff would probably appreciate a profit-share check more than a pizza party. In a professional services firm where salaries are high, employees might be more motivated by additional vacation days, or a flexible work-from-home policy. However, the employer will never know unless they are asking, and accepting that feedback without judgment or oversensitivity.

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?

Right now, we are seeing a big gap in compensation expectations. Everyone is familiar with the signs showing fast food restaurants offering starting pay of 15 dollars an hour with a signing bonuses. However, if you’ve been in a fast food restaurant lately, you’ve probably seen that they are still understaffed. Right now, people don’t want to work for lower wages; workers have a lot of power to choose their place of employment. To bridge that gap, I believe employers need to be flexible in things like scheduling, remote work, and benefits.

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

There were a lot of people who, once they got used to working from home, realized they never want to go back to being in an office full-time. Now, we’re seeing employees willing to take pay cuts in a new position just to keep a work-from-home option. This is going to have a massive impact not only on individual businesses, but on the economy as a whole. For example, working from home reduces a need for office space, but increases demand for remote IT support services. It also changes the type of management skills we need to see developed in the workplace. Different skills and a different personality type is necessary in managing a remote team, compared to an in-person one.

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?

Something that has been a “soapbox” topic of mine for a long time, and that I think was really brought forward as a clear issue during the pandemic, is the value of childcare and the need for access to good, affordable childcare. So many parents’ jobs were affected by school and daycare closures, and continue to be affected as smaller outbreaks continue around the country. I believe a societal recognition of childcare as a necessity will be important to the future of work, as well as being a current driver of the desire to work from home.

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

My hope and belief is that this great resignation (or, as I prefer to think of it, grand departure from the rat race) will drive people toward work they are more passionate about, and find more rewarding. I believe we could see a modern Enlightenment period with a huge drive toward entrepreneurism and new ideas.

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?

Our culture’s glorification of overwork, couched in terms like “hustle” or “the grind”, is not something that can be overcome with emailed reminders for stretch breaks or adding therapy coverage to an employee health plan. Prioritizing mental health has to be modelled by management, and encouraged vigorously. This can be with something as structured as “no emails after work hours” mandates, or as organic as management reaching out to employees exhibiting stress symptoms.

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?

Before leaders decide to evolve, they need to hear and believe that it’s necessary. There has been a tendency to dismiss the “Great Resignation” (or whatever you want to call it) as a short-term phenomenon. Leaders need to recognize that the culture of work has undergone a permanent change, which cannot be ignored.

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. Work-from-wherever. The future of work is not just work-from-home, but working remotely from any location. Digital nomadism is on the rise, as people want to make travel a lifestyle.
  2. Flexible schedule. Within reason, employees would like to set their own schedules. This can create complications when trying to plan team work or meetings.
  3. Less/no meetings. Everyone in business is familiar with the joke about a “meeting that could have been an email”. Business owners are catching onto this, and finding ways to severely cut back on unnecessary meetings, with some companies going as far as banning meetings entirely.
  4. Avoiding email. Businesses are also cutting back on internal email clutter, by defaulting to more dynamic forms of communication, such as internal messaging apps. (Slack and Google Chat are particularly popular.)
  5. Employees as contractors. Overall, I feel that employees are going to expect a lot more freedom in how they perform their tasks. The gig economy has shown that joy can be found in self-employment, even in tasks that were traditionally considered grueling (like food delivery). Now, many people want the freedom of working like a contractor, especially if it can be paired with the benefits of full employment.

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 use the “Sticky Note” app on my desktop to keep a list of prioritized tasks, and always keep a quote or mindfulness mantra at the top in bold. My current mantra is simply, “Here I am.” It reminds me to stay present where I am in the moment, and the way it feels like a declaration helps me remember that I am enough.

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’d love to meet Allison Lami Sawyer, from the League of Worthwhile Ventures. Not only is she a trailblazing female VC, but her company’s focus on machine learning for underutilized industries appeals to my love of systematization, and a real gap I see in accounting software’s ability to keep with the times in regards to that area.

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?

The best way to connect with us is through our website, We are also active on social media @thebookkeepernc.

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