Human-centric collaboration software…like Teamflow. Scheduled meetings are computer-centric. Anything that puts people into boxes are computer centric- like Slack or Zoom. Unscheduled, spontaneous collaboration is human-centric. And that kind of design is going to blossom.
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 Flo Crivello.
Flo Crivello is the founder and CEO of Teamflow, the virtual office startup on a mission to replicate the in-person office experience by seamlessly connecting your hybrid team, assisting in creating company culture, and ultimately creating organic connections amongst employees.
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?
When I was 16, I was living in a squatter’s dwelling in Paris. My dad wanted me to study at a school in the countryside that I wasn’t into at all, so I moved to Paris by myself with no money. I found a squat, and I lived there for a year. It wasn’t that bad honestly, but it shaped me. It made me crazy resourceful because it forced me to grow up. If you read stories from 100 years ago, people had to get a job at 12 years old and had to find a way in the world as an adult. This experience was similar for me; I remember hanging out with friends of mine from high school who at 16 seemed like kids to me because I had to grow up so fast.
It turned me into a very financially conservative person. I still kind of have the mentality that I have no money, no matter how much money I’m making. At some point at Uber I was making a good living, but still living somewhere with no kitchen. Right now, Teamflow has over 7 years of runway. This experience just made me into someone who is extremely resourceful, mindful of money, and I am always trying to get every dollar to go as far as it can — though lately, I have to admit, that is something I’ve loosened up on.
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 only thing I have an opinion on is that markets will be 10x thicker. People who will be unemployed in 10 years will spend the worst 15 minutes of their lives looking for a job.
100 years ago, you almost never left a 20 mile radius from where you lived. Today, that’s unimaginable for most of us. 20 years from now, it will seem equally crazy that we only employ or are employed by people in a 20 mile radius from where we live.
Right now, we’re building the first 1-billion person city, and it’s not a city in the physical sense at all. It’s a city that’s in the cloud, and today’s labor market is to the future labor market what a mom-and-pop grocery store looks like compared to Walmart.
What advice would you offer to employers who want to future-proof their organizations?
You have to understand that we’re never going back to the way things were. You’re not going to have your entire company in one place, under your eyes, like you used to even a few years ago. So now more than ever the most important thing you can do as a leader is build a culture that will outlive you. You have to remain humble; one day your company will die. It just will. But if you build a culture of customer obsession and excellence, you can push the date of your company’s death out as far as possible — far past the point of your own death.
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?
There can’t be gaps for very long. Either fill the gap, or die. People expect to be paid what they’re worth, companies that aren’t willing to offer a flexible working environment where people can work from anywhere, do work that’s meaningful, and be treated well, will fail. If you’re not willing to offer that, then you’re going to find that nobody will work for you for very long. Companies are nothing without employees.
Companies have 5 customers: their customers, employees, investors, regulators, and their communities. If you’re not serving all 5 of those customers well, and have a solid value proposition for all of them, you’re not filling the gap properly.
As for strategies to overcome the gap, you have to listen to people. Ask them what they’re not happy with, go find the things that aren’t meeting expectations and fix it. It doesn’t matter the cost or the time it takes; in the end, it’s worth it.
We simultaneously joined a global experiment together last year called “Working From Home.” How will this experience influence the future of work?
It makes labor markets 10x thicker. Right now, companies have to compromise — you may be looking for someone with 10 years of experience but you have to settle for someone with 4 years, just based on the limitations of geography. But in the future, you’ll be able to find the exact person you’re looking for because distance and location aren’t a limiting factor.
Right now, many people have to sacrifice to get the job they want. I had to move from Paris to San Francisco to get the job I wanted at Uber. In the future, you simply won’t have to do that. This is the first time in my life I’m in a company with 0% of people who are on a visa other than me. At Uber, there was a ton of international talent sitting at the lunch table. Now, at Teamflow, that’s still the case — we have employees all over the world — but there are no visas. You don’t have to move anywhere to work here, you don’t have to deal with the bureaucracy.
The first function of a city is to serve as a labor market. There are 5–6 cities in the US that are mobilizing economic growth — Austin, New York, San Francisco, etc. Not for long. You can stay right where you are and work for the best companies in the world. One of my employees, Vincent, lives in Trinidad. He’s a top 1% of 1% engineer. Super smart. But in the old world, he would’ve had to move to take advantage of his skills to the fullest. Not anymore. Now he can stay close to his family, his culture, his country, and still make the kind of living he deserves based on his skills.
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?
I think remote working is the societal change that’s happened already. To support a future where remote and hybrid working is the norm, we’re going to have to reshape a lot. First of all, the vast amounts of commercial real estate in major metro areas will have to be renovated to support other uses; we just aren’t going to need that much office space.
That will have follow-on effects for the businesses who made a living providing services to the armies of in-office workers in those areas.
What is your greatest source of optimism about the future of work?
You can work for anyone, anywhere, anytime. This is the greatest equalizer of economic opportunity in human history. The shift to remote is a bigger economic transition than the industrial revolution. In a way, we’re going back to the cottage industry, but instead of working for your little town you can work anywhere. It’s going to lift so many people out of poverty. It’s going to unlock so much opportunity for people who are underserved now just based on where they live. And rightfully so! Why should you make 1/10th of what you’re worth just based on where you were born? We’re on the precipice of a great equalization that is going to reshape society and I am extremely excited about it. I’m extremely proud to be a part of it. And hopefully Teamflow will help make that possible.
Warren Buffet used to talk about how he won the womb lottery just by being born in America in the 20th century. Now, there’s no more womb lottery that picks winners and losers based on where they live. It’ll all be based on what you can do — and that’s how it should be.
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?
Remote work is dominated by text. And text is good for computers, but it’s not good for humans. We didn’t evolve in a text-centric world. We evolved from an oral tradition, an oral culture, that is deeply embedded in our brains. Our brains are hardwired to deal with visual and auditory stimuli. But we suck at text; that’s why text exchanges can become so vicious so fast. People say things over text they would never, ever say in person. And that’s just because we aren’t made to do it!
So whether the conversation is having on Slack or Email or whatever, it correlates to Twitter in a way — conversations on Twitter hit rock-bottom almost immediately, because they are text-based. Why bring that into the workplace? Companies need to have a strategy that minimizes text-based communication and maximizes visual and audible communication to keep people happy, because that’s how we were evolved to work together.
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?
It’s a brave new world out there and people have options. Economists call this monopsony power. Monopsony is where you have a monopoly over demand, monopoly is where you have total control over supply. It used to be that you had to accept a job based on whatever the market would pay in the area that you lived. Not anymore.
In a way, you could say that remote is the ultimate unionization. It restores the balance of power in the hands of employees. You don’t need to unionize when you have so many options. You need to unionize when there are only 2–3 employers in your area. But now, when you can work for anyone, anywhere in the world, your power is in your agreement to work for someone at all.
We’re seeing this now. There’s a subreddit blowing up now called Antiwork, and it’s fascinating. The top-performing messages there all call out the sick and twisted cultures that have spawned because of a lack of options in the workplace. Bad workplace cultures can only survive when people don’t have options for where they can be employed.
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. Human-centric collaboration software…like Teamflow. Scheduled meetings are computer-centric. Anything that puts people into boxes are computer centric- like Slack or Zoom. Unscheduled, spontaneous collaboration is human-centric. And that kind of design is going to blossom.
2. Worker power. Workers have more power now because they have more options.
3. Global wages. It’s going to take a decade or so, it’s just a question of supply and demand but wages are going to equalize globally in a big way. As more employers realize that there are skilled workers all over the world, and as competition for those skilled workers increases, the wages for those people are going to go up. That’s the way it works.
4. I think the consumerization of enterprise software is a big trend, too. Gone are the days where you could have bad software, sell it to the CIO of a big company, and have him push it down to his employees. Consumer software has become so good that people won’t stand for bad products anymore. Employees will ignore your bad software and find their own solutions that they’ll sign up for, download, and use — whether it’s your official company solution or not.
5. I have low confidence about this one, but as vendors and apps multiply, there will be a need for software that’s kind of like connective tissue. Zapier may be an example — an API of API’s. You need connective tissue applications. We’ll see more and more apps whose entire function is to help you manage your notifications and data across a variety of tools and applications that you’re using. It’s almost like the cable TV providers of old that bundled a bunch of different services together. You’re going to see this in the future where applications bundle notifications and data from disparate sources.
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?
Deng Xiaopeng said, “It doesn’t matter whether a cat is black or white, as long as it catches mice.”
For whatever reason, that stuck with me. And what I took from it is that entrepreneurship is an exercise in pragmatism. Whatever preconceived notions you had before, scrap them — because as long as it gets the job done, it’s the right solution. Keep an open mind, be ready to kill your darlings and burn your idols and do whatever works. Let reality be your guide!
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.
Elon Musk. I know it’s cliche, but his name will go down in history. His main accomplishment isn’t Tesla or SpaceX, but it’s that he inspired people to dream bigger. I wouldn’t do everything he does, but I appreciate his unapologetic craziness. We’re lucky to have him around.
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Thank you for sharing your insights and predictions. We appreciate the gift of your time and wish you continued success and good health.