WELLBEING CULTURE: The pandemic has taken its toll on employee mental health. So too has the ‘Great Resignation’; as people quit their jobs in record numbers, the workers left behind are having to pick up the slack and take on more responsibilities. The upshot is that employee burnout is a very real issue that threatens the happiness and productivity of the workforce. In the future, we’ll see smart businesses take a more strategic and intentional approach to workplace mental health as they look to balance profit with worker wellbeing.

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 David Morel.

David Morel is the founder and CEO of Tiger Recruitment, an independent, global recruitment firm headquartered in London and with offices in Dublin, New York and Dubai. David set up the company in 2001 and since then he has grown it into a trusted provider of business support, private household, technology, HR, financial services and hospitality talent.

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?

There are a couple of experiences from my school years that stand out as having shaped my attitude to work and business. I’ve worked in London from the age of 15 in various sectors and roles, which is where my strong work ethic comes from. I helped out at a top recruitment business, I was a kitchen porter and a waiter, I worked in the student union when I was at university, all of which taught me about responsibility and the satisfaction of a job well done. As for my entrepreneurial streak, you could say it runs in the family. I have five older siblings and they all have their own businesses, so it was almost inevitable that I should follow a similar path.

Also worth mentioning is my passion for endurance sports, long-distance running and triathlons in particular. I ran my first race when I was just seven years old and have been running ever since. It has given me a solid grounding in resilience and perseverance — valuable skills for my role as CEO.

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?

That’s a difficult question. A lot can happen in 10 years. Just look at how much change we’ve witnessed in the last two. What I can say with confidence is that the flexibility and work/life balance employees have come to expect will remain in some shape or form. Regardless of where we all end up working — at home, in the office or a combination of the two — I think that’s one very positive legacy of the pandemic.

The pandemic has also reset the relationship between employers and employees. Employers are realizing that working long hours is not the route to productivity and success; it’s about putting employee wellbeing first. This bodes well for the future workplace.

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

There are three main areas I would advise employers to focus on for their future success:

Crisis readiness and resilience: With scientists warning that the risk of a new pandemic is higher now than ever, businesses need to be prepared. Of course, future crises may come in other forms — financial crises, cyber-attacks, natural disasters. The key is for businesses to learn from their pandemic experience, to identify potential threats and have a plan in place so that when the next disaster strikes, they’re ready to respond.

Talent pipeline: To prosper and grow, businesses need to be able to attract and retain the right talent. That means offering a fair wage and having clear plans and policies in place that reflect the issues that matter most to workers — flexibility, wellbeing, diversity and sustainability. Employers that actively recruit from diverse talent pools will be in the best position for future success. If businesses only employ people from a certain background with a certain education, they’ll only get one type of input and output. But drawing on different cultural experiences and gaining different perspectives brings a diversity of thought.

Cyber security: Our growing reliance on technology, which the pandemic has only served to increase, creates new opportunities for cybercriminals and leaves businesses vulnerable to attack. To avoid the disruption, cost and reputational damage of a security breach, and to protect the data they manage and store, employers need to have the right cyber defenses in place. It’s all part of building a resilient organization.

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?

I think we’ll see the biggest gaps around where people work. Employees crave flexible, hybrid working but employers in some sectors — notably, financial services — are intent on people returning to the office. At one end of the spectrum, the CEO of Goldman Sachs refers to remote work as a “temporary aberration.” At the other, employees tell us that remote work is the biggest positive to emerge from the pandemic and they’re leaving and turning down jobs that don’t offer the flexibility they’re looking for. To close the gap and remain competitive in the war for talent, employers will have to meet employees on their terms.

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

When it comes to the future of work, the pandemic has stretched what’s acceptable and indeed possible. Today the conversation is mainly around where work gets done. In the future, I think we’ll see an even greater focus on how work gets done, with four-day working weeks being introduced and piloted and asynchronous working gaining traction. Suffice to say, the pandemic has shaken up work as we know it and the future will be more flexible because of it.

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?

It’s true that the general move to remote working has created opportunities for people previously excluded from the workforce, such as those with caring responsibilities, disabilities or chronic illness for whom traveling to an office every day simply isn’t feasible. In theory, remote working can help keep more mothers in the workplace, but that’s on the proviso that they have access to quality, affordable childcare. Childcare is important; it’s the reason why large numbers of women left the workforce during the pandemic and its high cost and inaccessibility is preventing many thousands from coming back. Better funding and better support from business are what is required.

Long-held attitudes to the workplace also need to change. There’s a risk that traditional perceptions of the office are so deep-rooted that even in organizations that embrace hybrid working, those who work primarily off-site are seen as less committed than those who choose to work from the office. For flexible working to work long term it needs to be accepted.

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

Thinking of traditionally office-based businesses, the newfound trust between business leaders and their employees is encouraging. During the pandemic, when everyone was working away from the confines of the office, leaders have had to trust their teams to get on with the job. And it has been a positive experience in the main. If people feel trusted, they feel empowered and are typically happier, more productive and more loyal to their employer. I hope that this spells the end of micromanagement and the beginning of a more empowered future of work.

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 employees’ mental health and wellbeing?

The fact that we’re even talking about the importance of mental health and wellbeing is a major step forward. As tough as the pandemic has been, it has removed the stigma around mental health in the workplace and led to a new openness.

I think businesses have realized that consistently working long hours is detrimental to mental and physical wellbeing, so I’m always impressed by employers that are actively encouraging their teams to take time out and find greater balance in their lives. Mazars USA is a good example of this; it gave employees an extra day’s salary if they took five consecutive days of paid time off this summer.

In terms of collective action, I’m always struck by what employers in Dubai are doing. The Dubai Fitness Challenge started 5 years ago and is now an annual event when the whole city is encouraged to do 30 minutes of exercise a day for 30 days. There are races, classes and all sorts of fitness and wellness-centric activities going on for free. Lots of companies support it and encourage their employees to take part, recognizing the positive impact of physical health on mental wellbeing. I would love to see more cities replicating this.

Closer to home, several companies in the UK are embarking on a four-day working week trial. Employees will work for 80% of the time for 100% of the salary but will be expected to maintain 100% productivity. The hope is that having more free time will boost mental health and wellbeing. It will be interesting to see if that turns out to be the case.

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?

I think these trends show how much employees’ priorities have changed. They’ve seen that a new more flexible way of working is possible, and they don’t want to give it up. If their job doesn’t fulfil them or offer them the work/ life balance they crave, they will vote with their feet.

The message for employers is clear: if they are serious about attracting and retaining the best talent, they need to be prepared to meet workers’ demands. In today’s candidate-short market, they can’t afford not to. This is a worrying and challenging time for employers, many of whom are struggling to find the staff and skills they need. However, the availability of quality talent is improving (certainly, that’s what we’re seeing in the UK), and the ultimate result will be a much more employee-centric world of work.

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

  1. THE WORKING WEEK REIMAGINED: At the start of the year, the UAE introduced a 4.5-day working week for government employees (private companies can choose whether to follow suit) while numerous companies are introducing or trialing four-day working weeks. Some companies such as Salesforce are going one step further and giving employees complete freedom over when, how and where they work. The traditional working week as we knew it has gone. What will take its place remains to be seen but it will have flexibility at its core.
  2. THE BORDERLESS WORKFORCE: With the rise of remote working and the increase of digital nomad visas, the future workforce will be more international and dispersed than ever. Pre-pandemic this might have seemed implausible, but we’ve seen that, with the right technology and communications, remote working can be successful for many roles. With quality talent at a premium, smart employers will expand their talent pool by hiring staff beyond their borders. The question will be how remote they’re willing to go.
  3. SUSTAINABLE BUSINESS: Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) issues are rising up the corporate agenda with the growing recognition that businesses don’t solely exist to make a profit. More and more, investors are factoring ESG performance into investment decisions, while consumers are seeking out brands whose values align with their own. Employees too are looking for employers that are socially and environmentally responsible. The future of business is purpose-led, and companies will be judged not on their aspirations but their actions.
  4. DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION: My hope is that in the future, the current talk around diversity, equity and inclusion will translate into real business action. This will be driven in part by employees, with recent Glassdoor research showing that DEI is an important consideration for today’s jobseekers. Businesses too will see that recruiting from a diverse talent pool is not only an effective way to address talent shortages, but it’s also good for business. Supporting diversity in all its forms — from race and age to gender identity and sexual orientation — leads to richer ideas and solutions, making businesses more innovative and resilient.
  5. WELLBEING CULTURE: The pandemic has taken its toll on employee mental health. So too has the ‘Great Resignation’; as people quit their jobs in record numbers, the workers left behind are having to pick up the slack and take on more responsibilities. The upshot is that employee burnout is a very real issue that threatens the happiness and productivity of the workforce. In the future, we’ll see smart businesses take a more strategic and intentional approach to workplace mental health as they look to balance profit with worker wellbeing.

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?

It has got to be ‘carpe diem’, written by the Roman poet Horace over 2,000 years ago but still as relevant today. It literally means ‘pluck the day’ but is usually translated as ‘seize the day’. That’s my philosophy in life and in business. The temptation can be to put things off, particularly difficult decisions, uncomfortable conversations or opportunities that take us out of our comfort zone. However, I believe that the art of being a good CEO is making astute decisions quickly — and being right 95% of the time.

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.

Given my interest in sport, I would have to say Sir Alex Ferguson — undoubtedly one of the greatest managers in British football history. He’s a prime example of how to manage a successful ‘business’ for many years — almost three decades in the case of Manchester United. I admire how he built and inspired winning teams, developed young talent and always had the club’s best interests at heart. He was never afraid to let players go, even some of the most high-profile, in the belief that the long-term view of the club is more important than any individual.

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?

Readers can find me on Twitter @DavidCMorel and LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/david-morel/

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