Performance Measurement. Based on the first two trends above that speak to more flexibility of work locations and work hours, the way that companies can continue to drive their business will need to change. How we are measuring employee performance can’t just be in hours worked. We will need to start expanding into new systems of determining output and impact vs timesheets or billings.
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 Debbie Vasen.
In her role of Chief Content Officer at LoveToKnow Media, Debbie Vasen oversees the content and SEO growth teams dedicated to the content leadership strategy for the entire company. She has spent 15+ years at LoveToKnow Media, and has held many roles including Managing Editor, Product Manager and Head of Global Content. Prior to joining LoveToKnow Media, Debbie spent the first decade of her career in commerce at major retail and catalog establishments working on the retail buying, merchandising, and inventory management teams overseeing product development, market research and business strategy.
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.
The largest life experience that has shaped who I am professionally today was the decision to leave the commerce retail world and take my career into the digital space. At the time it was clear to me that digital was the future and the large established retail outlets I had been working with were struggling to embrace it. I dipped my toe in through freelance work for many clients as I built up my knowledge and experience. This led me to an opportunity at LoveToKnow Media when it was just beginning. I was able to grow professionally in the digital publishing space while supporting the growth of an exciting young startup.
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?
Work will always be work. Businesses will continue to hire the best talent and strive for growth of audience and revenue. This basic capitalistic component of work will not change in the next 10–15 years.
What will be different is how successful companies morph their workplaces to ensure the basic needs of work are met in a new format. Leaders will need to consider important questions. What motivates the top talent to come work for your company? What tools and types of workplaces will ensure that people can work at their maximum capacity? The most successful companies will be the ones with the right products AND the right workplaces. The digital landscape has made it easier to expand your products. No longer do you have to only sell locally. The same goes for your workplace. You are no longer tied to a certain type of work location or work environment. This may feel like it is opening the door for more opportunities, but the reality is it is opening the space for more competition. Both for customers and talented employees.
What advice would you offer to employers who want to future-proof their organizations?
My advice: Don’t define your company by traditions. The way people consume goods and services has dramatically changed in recent years. Organizations need to adjust their products and services, both for their external customers but also their internal employees. The key is to be in touch with what is happening in your industry both inside and outside — and really listen to the people who are doing the work. Have a forward-thinking mindset and challenge what has worked in the past.
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?
In my experience the biggest problem comes down to trust. There is a perception that people are inherently lazy and if you don’t crack a whip, they simply won’t work hard. This is a fallacy. The gap I see is that employers are unwilling to truly trust their employees which conflicts with what talented, hard-working people want = to be trusted. The best strategy to reconcile this gap is to create a solid hiring process that allows you to find the people you can trust combined with specific accountable goals to define success instead of defining how someone is supposed to do their job. In other words, become a result driven company.
We simultaneously joined a global experiment together last year called “Working From Home.” How will this experience influence the future of work?
The pandemic seemed to speed everything up. Working from home was already a path, but due to necessity during quarantine it became the highway for most businesses. Since LoveToKnow Media was already mostly remote-based, we only saw the benefits of this shift. One of the biggest was that new people we hired already had a remote experience and didn’t have that learning curve in working for us. I do think it has opened a lot of new doors in both how working from home is perceived and in ramping up the availability of the tools to allow it to be successful. I do expect it to force more employees and companies to question their existing workplace processes. At the very least, it will challenge them to consider new and different options.
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?
The biggest societal challenge will be the concept of a work week and workday. Why exactly do we expect people to work 40 hours a week? Why 8 hours a day? Why do people work during certain hours? There can be reasons for all of these, but to reimagine work for the future these concepts will need to be adjusted. The more flexible the workplace is the more likely it will work for a diverse group of people in a variety of new business environments.
What is your greatest source of optimism about the future of work?
In the past, people saw work life balance as a way to compartmentalize work and life — like blocks on a scale. What I am excited about is a more blended view of work and life in the future. Instead of separate work and life blocks, we can be more fluid. Work and life can be intertwined. I see this as a way of truly being engaged in how work complements our life vs. distracts.
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?
People who are healthy are the most productive. This is true for all kinds of health (including mental health). By finding a blended balance between work and life we can focus on health as a part of being productive in all aspects of our lives. If someone is feeling unwell, it isn’t just work that is impacted. The more we can focus on overall wellbeing the better we can be in work and in our lives. If we can shift into thinking of work as a part of who we are, then we can also accept how struggles in work influence us. Companies that incorporate that into their benefit and work culture will see a more loyal and productive workforce. For example, the role of supervisor can be more than a task manager. They can be a coach and a counselor helping to guide their direct reports through all the aspects of who they are to help them be productive.
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?
When people experience big changes or big losses, they tend to pause and evaluate their priorities. The pandemic was this for the entire global nation. If you look back at history, it is times like this where big societal changes happen quickly. People are rethinking how they work and live. Some things will stick, and some will change — but it is all going to be shuffled for a time. Leaders who are keeping their ears turned to the conversations and the pulse will be the most successful. We can’t overreact, but we should listen to trends. The trends I am seeing are a push back of work traditions. I see a lot of people (especially millennials) who are asking important questions about why we work the way we do. I don’t believe there will be one universal answer. But a good leader will consider what their employees are saying. How can we shift in a way that will allow both employees and companies to have the most impact and success together? Think of this like you would when you user test your product. Consider workplace changes and “user” test those with your employees. Allow them to be a part of the process and they will feel ownership of the new work environment. This engagement can lead to a commitment to the success of shifting work processes.
Let’s get more specific. What are your “Top 5 Trends To Track In the Future of Work?”
- Work Locations. Some people love to work with others, and some prefer to work alone. Some people need to get out of the house to be productive, and others hate commuting. Even though I have worked from home for over 20 years, with the last 15 being at a remote-first workplace — it is not an environment that works for everyone. When hiring, I never wanted to bring someone in that didn’t have experience in a remote company. It isn’t just about being extroverted or introverted. It is a different kind of culture. People don’t truly understand it until they have experienced it (due to the pandemic, more people have now!). You must be truly committed to remote being a part of the company culture vs. just an initiative slapped on top. Certain company cultures and workplace arrangements are right for certain types of people. The clearer that is in the hiring process the more likely you are to find the right people. Lots of very talented people are not successful because of the workplace arrangement — so matching this up is critical especially as workplaces start to expand how they define work locations.
- Work Hours. Are you a night or morning person? When are you most productive? What time zone are you in? The times that people work should become more fluid. If we can allow for variance in work hours, we open the door to not only working with people across the globe but also to allowing people to work when it is best for them and thus, the work hours they put in are the most productive. This also relates the hours in the work week. A traditional workplace might expect people to be in their office 8 hours a day… but were they working? What if they could get the same amount done in 6 hours a day? Do the hours worked translate into work impact? This is a metric to begin to further evaluate.
- Performance Measurement. Based on the first two trends above that speak to more flexibility of work locations and work hours, the way that companies can continue to drive their business will need to change. How we are measuring employee performance can’t just be in hours worked. We will need to start expanding into new systems of determining output and impact vs timesheets or billings.
- Digital Growth. The pandemic helped us all to see how critical the internet is in our society. Computers are commonplace and the use of digital equipment has become a standard. This is true for both employees and customers. How can we use this to our advantage? If your customer service representatives are using a similar digital platform to your customers, they should be able to provide a higher level of service. How can we use this digital growth to our advantage in the workplace? We should be thinking about our customers and users — meeting them where they are and ensuring our workplaces match.
- Innovative Tools. As we all know, Zoom quickly became a household name. But it is just the beginning. If we want our workplaces to change, then we will need technology to make it happen. When I first started working from home, we had all our meetings on conference calls. Switching to video was at first incredibly scary! But now I can’t even imagine not having it to work. Being able to interact and read your audience is a critical part of a business leader’s role. There is so much more we can do to really make a more fluid workplace be successful through innovative tools.
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?
The quote that sits on my desk is “Live Well, Laugh Often, Love Much.” It is a quote that I apply to both work and personal pursuits largely because I don’t see them as different. My career is a part of who I am. My company is like a second family. If I feel productive at work, then I am personally happy. I am more likely to be productive if the people I work with are also happy and engaged. I believe in staying connected to all aspects of your life which is what this quote means to me. Don’t be complacent. Be involved. Be engaged. Live life to the fullest.
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.
Oh! I would absolutely love to personally meet Susan Wojcicki (CEO of YouTube). She and I attended the same high school in Palo Alto, but she was a few years older than me. Her career has been amazing to watch. As a woman in the digital tech space, it couldn’t have been easy. She is an inspiration! Having the opportunity to chat not only about our similar upbringing, but also her career path would be a true blessing.
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?
Definitely following LoveToKnow Media on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/lovetoknowmedia/
You can also follow me as well: https://www.linkedin.com/in/debbie-vasen/
Thank you for sharing your insights and predictions. We appreciate the gift of your time and wish you continued success and good health.
Thank you for the opportunity to share my insights into the future of work. I have been fortunate to work at a company for over a decade that was ahead of its time. I enjoy being able to help guide others on creating a true work life balance.