Work life integration will be at the forefront — Whether it be a midday walk or flexible hours due to childcare, employees are increasingly seeking more control over their schedules now that the remote work way of life is here to stay. But even beyond that, employees are seeking companies that embody their personal values, as part of the complete work life integration.

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 Dux Raymond Sy.

Dux is the Chief Brand Officer of AvePoint and a Microsoft MVP and Regional Director. With over 20 years of business and technology experience, Dux has driven organizational transformations worldwide with his ability to simplify complex ideas and deliver relevant solutions. He serves as the Chief Brand Officer of AvePoint who has authored the LinkedIn Learning course How to Build Your Personal Brand, the book SharePoint for Project Management, as well as numerous whitepapers and articles. As a public speaker, Dux has delivered engaging, interactive presentations to more than 25,000 people at leading industry events around the world. He also hosts the modern workplace podcast #ShiftHappens that focuses on how leading organizations navigated their business transformation journey. Dux advocates tirelessly for inclusion, using technology for good, and philanthropic initiatives. He lives in Washington, DC with his amazing wife and 2 kids, and in his free time enjoys running along the Potomac River and sampling the most exotic foods ever.

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?

My unexpected career path has definitely helped shape who I am today. I started my career as an engineer and have a more technical background. When I came to AvePoint in 2014, I started off leading our customer strategy and solutions team, and then for over three years was Chief Technology Officer for our Public Sector business. However, I was presented with a unique and exciting challenge to jump into the CMO position when AvePoint set out to scale up marketing efforts. And then, when we chose to dedicate resources to both brand and marketing within the organization, I started in my role today: Chief Brand Officer. Setting out to shape AvePoint’s brand, though challenging, has been a rewarding lesson in the importance of thinking outside of the box and never being afraid to try something new. More recently, working on AvePoint’s #SaaSinstyle ad campaign presented another new challenge for my team and for me. Building and executing this campaign was a lesson in how to expand my creativity, while still maintaining executional discipline. It reminded me too that it always pays off to think differently.

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?

The workplace as we know it is changing, and we’ll continue to see it evolve dramatically over the next few years. We’ve seen widespread improvements to workplace collaboration tech in response to the more flexible work-from-home lifestyle. These digital tools have quickly become our trusted partners in the workplace. With the proliferation of solutions like Microsoft Teams — which now has over 270 million monthly active users, teams now have the power to enhance collaboration while allowing employees to thrive in a remote environment. While we’ll see some sporadic returns to the office, hybrid and remote work is here to stay. As organizations have come to learn, letting your employees adopt a more flexible work and lifestyle balance has proven successful in maintaining productivity and improving overall physical and mental health.

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

Every organization’s future begins with ensuring that all collaboration is safe and secure. It’s essential to secure your collaboration tools to protect employees against ransomware, data breaches, and other malicious attacks. Employers need to make it easy for their workers to do the right thing, so they are not at risk of accidental mistakes that will be very difficult to recover from. 92% of organizational security data incidents are unintentional, and the most common way to expose your personal or professional data is through accidental sharing. Businesses that implement strong policies around securing data will save a fortune, both by avoiding bad actors and by not purchasing tons of cloud storage.

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?

With 1 in 4 employees planning to seek out a new job in 2022, it’s no secret that there is a gap between rising employee expectations and organizational support. As labor shortages continue to climb in 2022, companies should be taking serious measures to protect the health and satisfaction of employees to retain talent and avoid the great resignation’s effects.

Aside from workplace and lifestyle flexibility, it’s clear that employees now value a more open and transparent avenue of communication with their managers. With the workforce increasingly seeking work-life flexibility and potential for upward mobility and job security, employers need to make a conscious effort to increase internal communication around these concerns. It’s critical that companies open a line of communication to prevent their employees from becoming dissatisfied or frustrated with their current work-life balance and environment.

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

The future of the workplace as we know it will continue to evolve as many companies have adopted a “work from anywhere” philosophy. As it’s been proven that work from home and hybrid work structures are successful in maintaining productivity and increasing employee wellbeing, remote work will become a semi-permanent fixture in our work world. We’ve all witnessed the unpredictable nature of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has prompted both employees and organizations to become more adaptable and agile to ever-changing work protocols. As collaboration tools will only continue to innovate and develop, work from home will become established as a mainstay in how we, as a society, conduct work.

In turn, this experience has created a scenario in which many people are now experiencing flexibility and the potential to achieve improved work life integration. To me, that has always been important — and I’ve been lucky enough to work in environments where that is possible. But I feel that flexible work results in more outcome-based performance — where employees are not criticized for working in ways conducive to their lives but instead rewarded for high quality work without caveats.

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?

Making a conscious effort to increase trust between employers and employees will be the key to creating a work environment that is inclusive, supportive, and mutually beneficial. As remote work becomes an enduring way of life for many organizations, increased flexibility simply means having the freedom to seamlessly incorporate work into life. There should be nothing holding employees back from designing schedules that fit their personal goals. Whether it be a midday run to fuel productivity, or devoting more time to childcare, the gap between work and personal life will continue to close.

This work-life integration format, however, cannot exist without trust. Moving forward, organizations and managers must put trust in their employees to ‘do the right thing’, and remain productive on their own time, no matter the location. By valuing the quality of an individual’s work over the timeframe or method in which it was done, employees gain more satisfaction and benefit from knowing they have the freedom to balance both work and life goals with ease.

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

The future of work will fully embrace inclusion in every aspect. As the demand and clear need for more comprehensive DEI initiatives is increasing, along with employees holding their employers more accountable for their practices, we will continue to see real progress in diversity and inclusion practices and increased equity across industries. It’s critical that organizations do not pay lip service to inclusion — real and measurable change starts with embracing new ideas and taking quantifiable action to alleviate these inequities.

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?

Retaining your best talent starts with prioritizing and safeguarding the mental and physical health of your employees. In a remote work environment, providing your employees with every tool — the processes, HR protocols, digital tools, and support from their team members — will be the key to maintaining wellbeing moving forward. Taking steps to increase the level of transparency between employees and their managers will also prove vital in increasing wellbeing across the board. Seeking employee feedback through regular surveys, and encouraging individuals to voice their concerns regardless of their role will level the playing field and make all voices feel supported and heard.

Part of maintaining wellbeing also includes encouraging employees to find greater purpose and align their values with their work. Organizing initiatives that can unite your employees behind a common cause creates a greater sense of collaboration, purpose, and shared values. For example, AvePoint’s recent initiative to support affected individuals in Ukraine matches any donation up to $10,000 to support a number of invaluable organizations and resources. Mutually uniting behind the cause for peace and prosperity creates a purposeful mission that gives all a chance to do good. Opening the door for employees to engage in work that is purpose-driven and shaped around their personal values has the power to improve wellbeing, foster a positive outlook, and most importantly protect our global communities and do good.

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 biggest lesson to learn from ‘The Great Resignation’ is that employees will only stand by companies that have their best interests at heart. Organizations must keep their overall culture and values at top of mind, to circumvent these toxic tendencies including overwork and burnout, that can drive employees away. Offering incentives beyond compensation, including improved career opportunities, remote work flexibility, and more room for socialization, can have the power to lift employee satisfaction and productivity. Though compensation is still a top priority for many workers — companies must go above and beyond in ensuring a positive work environment in order to attract great talent. Maintaining a company culture that highly values diversity, inclusion, recognition, and equal opportunity, in addition to competitive compensation, has the power to prevent burnout in the long run and foster an environment where employees will want to stay.

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

  • Work life integration will be at the forefront — Whether it be a midday walk or flexible hours due to childcare, employees are increasingly seeking more control over their schedules now that the remote work way of life is here to stay. But even beyond that, employees are seeking companies that embody their personal values, as part of the complete work life integration.
  • Information security will be crucial — By now, we’re all settled in to collaborating digitally — thanks to the work from home lifestyle. However, sharing information across devices poses new security concerns. Moving forward, securing collaboration across teams should be at top of mind for organizations of all sizes to protect their most critical information.
  • Accelerated adoption of AI — Digital tools and software have recently developed rapidly with no signs of slowing down. AI technologies that automate different work tasks will continue to take hold as organizations look to maximize efficiency and eliminate more repetitive tasks in every way.
  • Democratization of talent — Moving forward, allowing all employees to abide by individualized goals and join the conversation when it comes to decision making creates improved engagement and retention, as everyone can feel that their efforts are appreciated, and that their voice is heard.
  • Continuous learning and upskilling is essential: Rapidly developing software and technology means that employees are constantly learning something new. With these new digital tools being introduced at an increasing rate, employees now require constant learning development programs so that nobody falls behind this skill building curve.

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?

Some words I continue to live by, from Sally Krawcheck, help me to give others the benefit of the doubt and always assume positive intent:

“Assume the best intent in others around you. You will often be right, and even when you’re not, people can rise to your view of them. Not always, but enough to be worth it.”

For me, assuming positive intent re-frames my perception from looking for only behaviors that could be considered as taking advantage — into speculating that behind every behavior is a good intention.

It can be hard to assume positive intent for everyone, especially with difficult people or people we do not get along with. Past negative experiences can influence your expectations. Whenever doubt creeps in, the key is to consider all of the possibilities, validate what you’re thinking and then make a conclusion. If someone made you feel slighted or upset, let them know, and still assume their intentions were positive or not malicious.

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.

Kat Cole, who is currently President and COO of Athletic Greens. Her grit, hustle, and perseverance says it all! As a true visionary in the world of branding, I’d love to pick her brain about where she finds inspiration, and what she loves most about her industry!

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?

Go check out my LinkedIn page, where I host Two Minute Tuesday (#TwominuteTue), a video series interviewing inspiring leaders about all things tech and content, as well as my

LinkedIn Learning course, sharing my best methods for growing your personal brand.

You can also subscribe to my podcast, Shift Happens, where I talk with top business leaders and ambitious IT professionals about their most challenging modern workplace projects. Follow me on Twitter here.

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