Purpose is important. Employees want their employers to be more purpose-driven and as a result, employers will need to be more transparent in sharing what they stand for. A recent analysis by Gartner found that three out of four employees expect their employer to take a view on relevant and trending societal topics, as well as noting that employee engagement can drop by 33% when employees are disappointed with their employer’s stance on important societal issues. We are seeing an increasing need for employees to know that their employer is transparent with their goals and values and driven by a common purpose.

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 Danielle Singer.

Danielle Singer brings exceptional knowledge and experience to her role as VP of Leasing & Hospitality at Madison Group of Companies, where she oversees all aspects of the commercial division including the management of leasing activities for commercial, retail and hospitality portfolios, as well as pre-leasing sales and marketing strategies.

Joining Madison Group of Companies in 2019, Danielle has been instrumental in ensuring oversight and management of Madison Group of Companies’ operations of over 20 commercial properties, which represent +1 million sq. ft of rentable office space across all industries including retail, office and mixed-usage facilities.

Danielle is an honors graduate from Dalhousie with a double major in International Development and History. She also holds a Masters in Comparative Politics and Human Rights for London School of Economics and a Juris Doctor degree from Cordozo School of Law. Danielle is also a board member of CRE8 — Women In Commercial Real Estate.

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. 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 believe that the hybrid model is here to stay. Zoom/video conferences will continue to be a regular part of our work week, although I do think that in-person meetings will slowly reoccur. Remote work is also here to stay. Some companies have been able to do away with a permanent office altogether and may continue to do so, while large companies will continue to have a robust presence in office space, yet will make use of Landlord’s flexible office space/amenities, such as bookable meeting rooms, collaboration rooms, etc. The office will continue to become more of a lifestyle, than just office space. Landlords will have to invest in tech solutions for their tenants, flexible office space, plug in play models that work for a variety of tenants and attractive amenities, such as gyms, collaborative lounges, and lifestyle/health and wellness programs.

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

Focus on your employees. There is a war for talent and the only way to ensure that you attract and retain the best people is to create a work environment that is happy, collaborative and inclusive. The last two years have replaced human interactions with Zoom meetings and it’s not uncommon to have employees feel stressed, isolated and uncertain about the future. It’s important for employers to act with empathy and understanding to create a culture and environment where employees feel heard and supported by their employer.

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 amount of remote work time allotted is probably going to be the biggest push and pull between employers and employees. I see a lot of employers looking to bring the “home environment” into the office. Lifestyle has become more of a focus when thinking about office space — for instance we see more collaborative/lounge settings, instead of rows and rows of cubicles and employers are investing in office gyms and looking to create attractive “employee break” spaces, as well as focusing on mental health. The latter has become more of a conversation and I think it will only continue to be an integral part of the employer-employee relationship moving forward.

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

The pandemic necessitated the Working From Home (WFH) phenomena and showed us that it was possible to WHF or remotely. However, that does not mean to say that the future of work lies entirely in our ability to WFH. While I believe that a flexible/hybrid model has its own inherent advantages, a physical office enables human interaction, face to face collaborations and personal engagement that cannot be experienced through virtual means. The future of work lies in finding a middle ground where we will be able to balance the needs of a physical office with the flexibility of WFH, to arrive at a hybrid model that will encapsulate the best of both worlds.

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?

Work environments can be quite stressful and competitive on a normal day, but throw a global pandemic into the mix and it’s a whole new level of stress and anxiety. As we emerge from the pandemic, employers will have to put long-term policies and practices into place to safeguard the mental and physical well-being of employees and be more flexible and understanding of those who are struggling. Whether it be through counseling sessions, stress management courses or yoga and meditation at work, employers will need to actively support employees to counter the toll of two years of semi-lockdown and social distancing.

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

Firstly, the resilience and adaptability of people, in the face of challenging situations. The pandemic showed us how people were able to pivot their businesses, offer creative solutions and keep going, even when the odds seemed against them. Secondly, the power of digital transformation and the technological advancements that are powering businesses. The level of hyper-interconnectivity, rise of artificial intelligence, virtual reality and the metaverse are all fueling the future of work, and there are so many new and exciting possibilities that they hold.

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?

We have invested in programs that focus on ensuring that employees maintain a healthy work/life balance and have even installed gyms in some tenant spaces, to ensure that employees have access to a healthy outlet. We have also seen employers rent space to hold yoga and mindfulness classes.

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?

Culture is often termed as the “glue” that holds a company together and can be summarized as developing “an attitude of care”. For companies to attract and retain top talent, it will be important to develop a culture that recognizes and understands how returning to work and a new hybrid working environment can affect employees. The future of any business starts with its employees and by working towards creating a conducive work environment that acknowledges the stress and associated tolls of living through a global pandemic, employers will be able to reflect the reality of living with “the new normal” and ensure the happiness of their employees.

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

1. The hybrid work model is here to stay

The successful transition to remote and hybrid working systems during the pandemic made businesses re-evaluate the “traditional” office set-up, that is contingent on a central physical space and many other fixed expenses. It is no surprise then, that many employers are now deciding whether to stay in their current office space, downsize, or become a 100% remote company. With companies like Facebook already offering employees the option to request permanent, full-time remote work and not be required to come into the office, it’s safe to say that we will see a lot more companies formally adopting the hybrid model as the norm, rather than the exception.

2. The physical and mental well-being of employees is critical

The Human Experience Report revealed that a majority of workers feel the pandemic has been the most stressful time in their careers. As people return to “business as usual,” companies will need to be cognizant in how they re-imagine physical workspaces, while rebuilding their sense of community and best practices to safeguard employee health and wellbeing.

3. Accelerated digital transformation and online connectivity

The COVID-19 pandemic transformed the way we do business and forced us to experience years of digital transformation in months. As Vice President, Leasing & Hospitality at Madison Group, a real estate company that has been developing, building and managing commercial and residential properties for almost 55 years, I can attest to the fact that digital transformation and integration was something the commercial real estate industry was only starting to become acquainted with in 2020. So much of our business relies on building relationships, but with the pandemic, the way we do business changed forever. Many digital tools and on-line processes that didn’t exist pre-pandemic, have been developed and launched. Take for example, our Concierge Plus App to assist tenants with requests, which was not even a consideration before the pandemic. And this trend can be seen as the future of most industries — whether it be tele-conference appointments with health professionals or the boom in on-line retail purchases, the effects have been far reaching and there’s no turning back now.

4. Purpose is important

Employees want their employers to be more purpose-driven and as a result, employers will need to be more transparent in sharing what they stand for. A recent analysis by Gartner found that three out of four employees expect their employer to take a view on relevant and trending societal topics, as well as noting that employee engagement can drop by 33% when employees are disappointed with their employer’s stance on important societal issues. We are seeing an increasing need for employees to know that their employer is transparent with their goals and values and driven by a common purpose.

5. Organizations will become more fluid and “flatter”

The businesses that have really thrived over the last 2 years are the ones that have shown flexibility, agility and creativity in how they respond to the consequences of living through a pandemic. The result has been a move towards business models and structures that are less hierarchical and bureaucratic, in favor of a more fluid structure and we will continue to see an evolution of companies with flatter organizational structures.

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?

“Don’t be intimidated by what you don’t know — that can be your greatest strength” — Sara Blakely

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.

Michelle Obama. She is an incredibly intelligent woman who has faced many hardships and I would love the opportunity to speak to her and get advice.

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