One exciting trend is that companies can now have employees around the entire country and world — broadening the talent pool from just your city. Companies may still be headquartered in a specific location, but their people can work from anywhere, even where there is not physical office space. This makes for an exciting time for recruitment, in addition to a competitive one, but I expect we’ll continue seeing more people choosing to work for companies that have no physical footprint anywhere near them, because they can.

When it comes to designing the future of work, one size fits none. Discovering success isn’t about a hybrid model or offering virtual 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 Derek Streat, CEO and Brett Thompson, CPO of DexCare.

Derek Streat is Founder, CEO and Chairman of DexCare. He is an accomplished healthcare technology entrepreneur and executive, having co-founded and/or been at the earliest stages of six venture-backed companies including C-SATS (acquired by Johnson & Johnson), Classmates (acquired by United Online), Medify (acquired by Alliance Health Networks) and AdReady (acquired by CPXi).

Prior to joining Providence as an Entrepreneur-in-Residence to commercialize the DexCare platform, Derek served as Vice President of Digital Solutions at Johnson & Johnson — a role he assumed after C-SATS was acquired by the world’s largest healthcare company. There he led the charge to transform the organization responsible for training 250,000 surgeons worldwide into a leading healthcare quality improvement and continuous learning institution that directly advanced patient outcomes, provider efficiency, and health system value through digital solutions.

Brett Thompson serves as DexCare’s Chief People Officer. He’s been working in the Seattle area tech industry since the late 90’s, initially focusing his efforts on recruiting and retention, then later expanding to all people operations areas including global Talent Attraction & Development, HR, Compensation, People Operations, Workplace, and Real Estate. Over the course of his career he’s worked in multiple large scale Internet, subscription, licensing, and SaaS businesses that were successful in helping customers understand their data.

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.

Brett: I grew up as an only child, which made me extremely outgoing as I always craved spending time with my peers. Ultimately, this led to my career in human resources — I wanted a role where I could connect with others and interact with a diverse group of people on a daily basis.

Derek: About 12 years ago, my daughter had some serious health issues. At the time, my wife and I had to put a lot on hold, including our careers, to take care of her. After caring for my daughter, I knew I wanted to devote the rest of my career to working and driving positive change in the healthcare space.

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?

Brett: I believe virtual tools for communication and collaboration will continue to play a critical role in how people work in the future, just as they have the past couple years. I don’t believe we’ll ever go back to working fully in-person because of the advantages of a hybrid model for everyone involved. People and companies were forced to adopt a 100% virtual work model overnight because of Covid. This was a revolutionary event that is allowing people, and companies in the right situation, to simultaneously take advantage of the strengths of both in office and virtual models, while at the same time negating most of their weaknesses. Here are a few examples of what I’m referring to.

In Office Model Strengths: Relationship building, teaming, and overall vibrant creative environments.

In Office Model Weaknesses: Commuting, parking, being trapped in a confined space with co-workers 40–60 hours a week.

Virtual Model Strengths: No commute, more flexibility in how work is completed, less overall expense for the company.

Virtual Model Weaknesses: Fewer options to develop close working relationships, feeling disconnected, not as creative or vibrant, and not everyone works the same way at home as they do in the office.

We are thinking about this in a new way because we were born just a little over a year ago, so we had to be fully virtual since the inception of the company. When we were able to finally start getting together in person I noticed this incredible shift in energy where now everyone was excited to see each other, rather than it being just another work event with the same people you’re trapped in an office with 40+ hours a week. It was nothing short of a miraculous experience for us and was the catalyst for the hybrid work model we are testing at DexCare. Here is what we mean:

Hybrid Model Strengths: Flexibility in your work, in office when you want and need to be rather than for facetime waste time, opportunities to be the social, creative, collaborative beings we are, 2ish days a week in the office for people in, “region”, which we define as a, “reasonable commute” from a regional office, flexibility in your hours so you can commute when and how it’s convenient for you, not just the company. Hire people from anywhere in the U.S. and give them a great and compelling virtual experience.

Because of everything that’s happened over the last couple years and the new way of working it’s created, I predict this hybrid approach to work will become the standard for many companies. Right now, I think this revolutionary change will first benefit new and/or small companies that don’t already have billions of dollars invested in office space. Large companies will have a much harder time adopting this new way of work for many reasons. My advice to all new small and/or new companies is this is your chance to take advantage of a key weapon in the war for talent. This window will only exist for a few short years so take full advantage of it while you can, because large companies are already reacting to what’s happening and will catch up with us.

Derek: The work environment will become more trusting in a sense. Many employers are now allowing their employees to work within a hybrid schedule and decide their own hours. For this approach to be successful, company leaders will have to trust in their employees to get the job done. I think hybrid work will ultimately lead to stronger, more dynamic relationships, and hopefully greater satisfaction, between employers and employees.

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

Brett: Employers need to offer more flexibility and choice to their employees. If companies want to be successful in the future, they can no longer force their employees into a one-size-fits-all model of work.

Derek: I’m in agreement with Brett. Since the onset of the pandemic, employees have come to expect greater flexibility in terms of work, location and hours. The notion of work-life balance is really at the forefront now, so in order to attract and keep employees, employers will need to allow them greater flexibility and autonomy, or someone else will.

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?

Brett: Employees have really always hoped, expected, and deserved, to be paid the amount of compensation that they need to in order to support their families and maintain their current lifestyle. I believe employees are going to have a much lower bar of tolerance when it comes to insufficient salary moving forward, not only because there are likely ten other opportunities waiting for them, but because of the growing transparency around salaries and salary gaps in the workforce overall. Negotiating salary is not a reflection of how much someone wants to work at a company, nor should it be looked at with negative intent. Employers need to be more open and honest when it comes to having conversations about salary and we need to remove the stigma surrounding wage negotiation, because at the end of the day we’re all human and we’re all working for a reason.

Derek: If we can start having these honest conversations, the gap should naturally close between what employees want and what employers are willing to offer. If we can turn conversations about salary into conversations about what is fair, we can reconcile the issue.

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

Brett: Employees will expect greater flexibility and with that will come increased expectations that employers offer positions that encourage work-life balance.

Derek: When everyone suddenly began working from home, we were all forced to quickly adopt new virtual tools for work and communication. I think this experience will serve us well going forward — we now know how to learn new skills, adopt new technology, and adapt to whatever work environment we’re thrown into.

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?

Brett: Society will need to be accepting of the ‘new norm’ for work. What that entails is evolving as we speak, but I would expect many industries undergoing a dramatic transformation in alignment with the workforce.

Derek: Generally, I think society will need to be accepting of progressive solutions that work for employees, like hybrid schedules and greater transparency around wages to support a sustainable solution that can work for everyone.

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

Brett: I’m very optimistic about the growing diversity in the workforce. Creating the right environment for an inclusive and diverse workforce — not just in terms of race and gender, but also in personality, life experiences, and styles of work — will greatly benefit a company. This change starts with the Chief People Officer, and I’m honored to be leading the charge for DexCare.

Derek: I’m optimistic about how employees will become more empowered to have greater autonomy in their careers. If you believe in your employees, generally the reciprocity is magnified and you start to see real productivity and better outcomes within the company. Additionally, with more remote opportunities than ever, employees are exposed to opportunities to join more companies, enter new industries and try new fields that may have been out of reach before. I think this brings new excitement and fresh talent to the workforce.

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?

Brett: As I mentioned earlier, we need to start having more open conversations about compensation. Salary is a major source of stress for many employees, but ensuring that employees actually get what they need to sustain themselves will relieve some of this stress, improving employee satisfaction and ultimately mental health. Paid time off and a robust vacation policy are also critical part of our support for our people.

Derek: Companies that offer sustainable wellness programs that are translatable to the hybrid employee will become a necessity. Considering creative ways to ensure employees are engaging in wellness offerings is imperative to employee and company success long-term. And overall, really, employers have no choice but to acknowledge and address employee’s mental health moving forward, and much of this will be listening to employees, asking them what they want and need, and being willing to work with them to ensure their needs are being met. I think the mental health conversation helped remind all of us that employees are also humans and peers, and with that comes life challenges we’ve long ignored in the workplace. Work is a big part of life, and I think more openness, communication and give and take will be important for employers to implement moving forward to keep employees happy and healthy.

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?

Brett: It’s important to be aware of the headlines, but we must also read the fine print to really understand what’s going on, why it’s happening, and how it might impact all of us. There is a “great resignation” in the workforce as a whole, especially in the healthcare provider realm, but it may not be in your specific industry. Of course, recruitment and retention is critical now and always, and we must take those initiatives seriously, but you also need to trust in your employees and their choice to be on your team — having doubts can create conflict among your organization.

Derek: The most important message to take away from these headlines, is that leaders need to have conviction in whatever their organization does. There is always uncertainty about the future, and leaders are going to make mistakes — it happens to everyone. However, having conviction even in the face of ambiguity is what is going to separate organizations that come out of this “great reevaluation” successfully versus the ones that struggle.

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

Brett: One exciting trend is that companies can now have employees around the entire country and world — broadening the talent pool from just your city. Companies may still be headquartered in a specific location, but their people can work from anywhere, even where there is not physical office space. This makes for an exciting time for recruitment, in addition to a competitive one, but I expect we’ll continue seeing more people choosing to work for companies that have no physical footprint anywhere near them, because they can.

On a similar note, we’re already seeing the trend of companies upping their investments, focus areas and organizational initiatives to grow more and more diverse. Because employers can recruit from around the world, they now have the ability to create a much more diverse workforce — from different cultures, backgrounds, schooling systems, societal experiences and more. Flexible work allows for more opportunity, and I think the push for diversity will only increase.

Another trend I’m seeing is employee interest in working from home and having an office presence. Prior to the pandemic, working in person was just the norm, and many resented it. Now, because people are so used to working from home, they look forward to going into the office sometimes, both as a change of scenery and a chance for personal connection with coworkers. It’s hard to really connect and engage through a screen, so it’s nice to see employees coming in, even if it’s just once a month, to catch up and meet face-to-face. I think the choice to be in-person makes the time spent in person that much more valuable for employers and employees, too.

Additionally, as mentioned before, the adoption of new virtual tools to support a hybrid workforce will be a trend for more companies moving forward. Tracking what technologies take shape to accommodate these changes will be important to consider.

Finally, a trend that has been prevalent over the last few years and as mentioned previously, is the need to remove ambiguity from the wage equation. As companies vie for top talent, transparency surrounding the wage negotiation process I predict will become standard. Especially as trust and transparency comes to the forefront for prospective employees, being open about what’s wanted and what’s possible will be important to at least let employees know you hear them and are willing to try and get them what they need.

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?

Brett: “Anything said with enough belief is believable.” I’ve conducted enough interviews to know this is true. You can use it for good or bad, but either way, it’s important to keep in mind.

Derek: I don’t have a specific quote in mind — I find myself more inspired by speeches than individual quotes. I love Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. I’m also moved by President Kennedy’s “Man on the Moon” speech.

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.

Brett: Elon Musk. My reasons for picking him are about as atypical as he is, because my one and only question would be how can you be so brilliant in some ways and so inept in others? If he asked me what I mean I would give two examples, his inappropriate tweet about one of the Thailand cave rescue team members and now offering to buy Twitter. Why Elon, why?

Derek: I would love to sit down with Zelensky. The whole world is watching him right now, and the level of respect he has commanded while his life is on the line is extremely impressive. I think he’s an inspiration for what you want every leader of every country to be.

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?

Brett: You can check out the DexCare website and LinkedIn, and I’m also on LinkedIn personally.

Derek: I am also on LinkedIn.

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