People are doing more than one thing. Even people who have not left their jobs in the pandemic, or had their jobs leave them, are finding new ways to achieve fulfillment and engagement. The “side hustle” is common now, giving people an opportunity to do something that interests them even if it doesn’t pay all the bills, as they work to live instead of live to work.

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 Shor, co-founder and chairman of World Back to Work.

David Shor is a serial entrepreneur, technologist and user experience planner who leverages technology to create improved experiences for customers of his companies. As co-founder and Chairman of World Back to Work, North America’s leading COVID mitigation service for businesses, schools, festivals, and live events, Shor has assembled a cross-disciplinary team of scientists, medical experts, technologists, and managers to develop and implement plans to allow clients including Disney on Ice, the Life is Beautiful Festival in Las Vegas, colleges, and traditional office environments to bring employees, customers, and guests back through the doors safely.

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.

On my 21st birthday, my family met for lunch in Westwood near UCLA, where I was in school. We had a great time, until my father pulled me aside as everyone else was enjoying their gulab jamun and told me that his business partners had executed their buy/sell option and locked him out of the company that he had founded. They weren’t going to pay him anything. He was 50 years old, and had invented an industry…and now he was cast aside thanks to an over-generous buy/sell agreement. Ten years later, dad was still scraping by while his former partners sold the company for 300 million dollars.

I knew I had to find a way to control my own destiny. That’s been a tentpole for me as I pursued my career.

Following that desire to control my destiny, I approached every challenge as needing to prove something to myself — so much so that when I took the leap in starting my own marketing firm, I named the agency We were doing things in the digital marketing world that no one had thought of or tried yet, and so we were perhaps a little scary, a little nerdy, in the eyes of the clients we served. But we were doing new things, and we hit it big really early. As we got started, we were among a very few companies in our space. Over time, more people thought they knew what they were doing in the digital space, so the industry got more crowded and more commoditized. The lesson I took from this was to leverage my knowledge and my network to stay ahead of commoditization, and to always strive to offer something new. Something innovative.

World Back to Work is the perfect synthesis of the lessons I’ve learned. We’re innovative. We’re necessary. We’re helping organizations control their destinies, rather than allowing circumstances to decide. And our mission-driven values ensure that even in an industry that’s seeing more and more commoditization, more and more snake oil salesmen, we’re trusted and able to deliver. And that’s what keeps me motivated and inspired.

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 know no one wants to hear this, but COVID won’t be the last pandemic we have to deal with in our lifetimes. Climate change leads to the emergence of new viruses, so businesses need to learn lessons now to be prepared for the future. I certainly hope that a key element is the adherence to basic best practices — masks, vaccine checks and testing where those options exist, allowing remote work where possible, regular workspace disinfection — these are all things I hope stay the same. What will be different is that through the planning and work we’re doing now, we can ensure that businesses can stay open through whatever comes next.

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

Listen to your employees and customers, and listen to the science. In the live entertainment vertical, for example, we’re seeing that venue operators who establish a policy of proof of vaccination or negative testing are seeing 10–20% higher attendance rates than those who don’t. Vaccinated people are less likely to show up if they don’t think unvaccinated people are being tested before the event. The same psychology exists for businesses, and we may find that Omicron makes it more likely that vaccinated people will need periodic testing as well. Protect your business by protecting your staff and patrons — it’s really that simple.

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 employees want to feel that their employers value them. One clear way to show that is for employers to protect employees as best they can. Give time off to get vaccinated, and plan for possible recovery time. Have hand sanitizer and extra masks on-site in case folks forget theirs. Bring on third party experts to implement your health and safety policies, so that employees don’t have to police one another. This isn’t a new set of ideas–but it’s the set that works.

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

A lot of businesses realized that folks can work from home and be just as, if not more, effective. But a lot of organizations can’t do that — factories, restaurants, retail, distribution centers, schools, arts organizations, and so on — need people to gather in order for the organization to function. So, working from home will continue for some, as it should. But for others, they’ll need comprehensive and responsible plans to mitigate health risks in person.

We named our group of multidisciplinary experts World Back to Work because we believe in helping those who cannot simply work from home. People need to be able to enter their workplaces safely, whether they’re in an office or a factory. People deserve to be able to congregate safely, whether at a festival, a concert, a Broadway show. And so, the future of work depends on the future of employers putting the health and safety of employees at the top of the list.

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?

Again, employers need to value and respect the health and safety of everyone walking through their doors whether they’re staff, customers, vendors, or other guests. I certainly hope that if there’s a silver lining to the COVID crisis, it is a shift towards companies caring more about the people that make them successful.

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

People want to work. We all want to feel like we’re accomplishing something, that we’re contributing and useful members of society. Some, like me, might be lucky enough to have a job that they love where they get paid to work on a mission they believe in; others might work a job just to get the income to support their families or pursue their interests outside of work — but either way, whether it’s work you’re being paid to do or not, we all have a drive to contribute in our own way.

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?

Health and wellbeing are the name of the game at World Back to Work. Employers must prioritize employee mental health, just as much as physical health, and they need to practice compassion with employees. The best bosses will ask themselves how they can be more flexible, how they can receive feedback, and how they can adapt the workplace to suit the team. We know that every business will have a mix of vaccinated and unvaccinated people. It doesn’t matter what someone’s reason is for not being vaccinated — businesses need to plan to adapt for that eventuality regardless. So, part of the compassion workplaces need to show is developing plans to accommodate the entire team with testing services, rapid infection mitigation protocols, and transparent communication so that everyone there feels safe and welcome and able to thrive.

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?

The main consistency of all these conversations is again, do your employees feel valued and cared for? Do they feel effective? If not, they’re going to seek that elsewhere. Throughout the pandemic, society has made a big show of celebrating front-line workers — retail and restaurant workers who are usually the lowest-paid members of the workforce. Everyone has had enough of the platitudes — it’s time for employers to show their commitment to employees by doing whatever they can to keep them as safe and healthy as possible.

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. People will do what they’re interested in doing. We’re seeing more and more that people are willing to sacrifice a lot of the benefits of a more traditional employment model, in order to gain more freedom and self-fulfillment. Over the last 5 years or so, people have been looking at their careers and their personal lives and re-evaluating their priorities. We’ve seen folks leave high-paying, prestigious jobs to try something new because they felt a need to change their communities and themselves, and the grave threat to our lives that the pandemic brought emphasized that realignment.
  2. Partnerships rather than employment. As people venture out and explore their interests, they’re finding ways to make those interests profitable. More and more, people are forming partnerships in order to offset startup costs and give like-minded folks a chance to collaborate as equals, turning the traditional employer-employee relationship on its ear.
  3. People are doing more than one thing. Even people who have not left their jobs in the pandemic, or had their jobs leave them, are finding new ways to achieve fulfillment and engagement. The “side hustle” is common now, giving people an opportunity to do something that interests them even if it doesn’t pay all the bills, as they work to live instead of live to work.
  4. A backlash to the gig economy is coming. Gig workers are getting fed up with the erosion of benefits, protections, and pay offered by faceless, humanity-free giant corporations. They have no ability to unionize, and so collective bargaining is an impossibility. Throughout the pandemic, in a number of cities we’ve seen companies like Uber and Grubhub raising prices on consumers because they can’t attract enough gig workers to keep prices low, and we’ve seen demonstrations against these companies from the general public.
  5. Speed of innovation will only escalate. This is an exciting time for entrepreneurs as innovation is changing the landscape of business at record speed. This phenomenon is what allowed World Back to Work to come into a brand new space and become very good, very quickly. And even within our own company, innovation continues as the shape of the pandemic changes — first people were worried about securing PPE, then there was a demand for testing, then a demand for a software solution to track vaccinations, now companies are worried about cash flow in future pandemics — World Back to Work has continually innovated to offer new services as the needs arise.

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?

Robert Fulguhm is best known as the author of ‘All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten,” but as a young 20-something, I picked up his “Uh-Oh: Some Observations From Both Sides of the Refrigerator Door.” The main thrust of the book is to learn perspective and remember to step back before reacting to something. The word “uh-oh” can be used in such a wide range of situations, from a baby who just spilled some milk, to a CEO looking at the books and realizing there’s disaster looming.

Just that simple word, “uh-oh,” took on new resonance for me and I think about it nearly every day. It’s led me to create my own mantras, including “know the difference between a problem and an inconvenience,” and “be hard on problems, soft on people,” which have served me well throughout my career.

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’ve always been drawn to people who understand how to scale. One of my favorite podcasts is ‘Masters of Scale” with Reid Hoffman — I’d love to talk about scale with him, because he understands how it can work for so many different and unique businesses. I feel like, if you’re going to spend an hour of time on something, make it something that will have a big impact — make it scale. In my own value system, that translates to doing something that can help people, and as we work to continue to scale World Back to Work, our core mission comes from that ideal — we want to spend our time making an impact helping as many people as we can.

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?

There are new things happening in our field daily. Readers should absolutely keep themselves as informed as possible as what we’re doing and learning can help save businesses and even lives. Follow us on Twitter at @worldbacktowork, or me at @dgshor, and check our website at for the latest updates. And, organizations can set up a time to talk about their current COVID plans and what they may need moving forward to ensure a safe workplace.

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