Work from Wherever, is the unstoppable trend with structural effect on average salary, commute infrastructure, urban planification, internationalization, cultural domination, management. The collateral effects will be visible on numerous levels. Most importantly we are at the start of this wave, starting to understand it, and adjust to it. Many examples and data mentioned above are confirming the trend.

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 Gilles Raymond.

Gilles has a simple mission: He wants to connect the business world. Having lived and worked in Europe, Asia and North America, Gilles knows that meeting is connective tissue for business and relationship. As CEO of Letsmeet, he galvanizes his team to build a network, removing the pain of finding the right time to meet, and schedule meetings in one click. Gilles is a serial entrepreneur, his last company, News Republic was providing news every day to 2.5M readers, and has been acquired by Bytedance.Gilles is also the President and Founder of The Signal Networks Foundation, launching international investigations with top tier media and protecting whistleblowers worldwide. He founded In-Fusio, the first company to make downloadable mobile games in the world; he also did his master thesis about Virtual Reality in 1994.

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.

I assume like many of us the birth of my 2 kids shaped my life, my personality, and the sense of responsibility. Overnight, you are suddenly not living for yourself, but you are committed to dedicate your next 20 years -if you are lucky- to someone else. You have an unreachable goal: give your kid all of the personal tools they need to be happy and become who they are.

Five years ago, I also had the chance to sell my previous company, News Republic for $80M. I learned 2 main lessons from this achievement. First it is not about money, but about freedom. It gives you the opportunity to do what you want. The second lesson is that I’m so passionate about setting up a company that I can not stop. It is not about being a work addict, it is about the thrill and the challenge to start with a white piece of paper and make it something useful, relevant, and respectful to many.

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?

We can have a look to the past and see what did not change in the last century. First, the increasing need to meet and communicate. If you look at the big trend for the last 100 years regarding the way we work, they are all about improving the quality and the speed of communication. From the first wired phone to Slack, from the fax to Zoom, from feature phones to WhatsApp. Linked to it, is the pressure to execute fast. What those communications brought on top of the intensity and density of communication, is the speed. When my parents were working, they were communicating with memos, and the expected time for an answer was within a month, and at the end of their career fax pushed down answering time from one month to one week. When I started to work, the main communication stream was email and you were expecting an answer within days. With instant messengers (Slack, Wechat, etc.), you are talking in hours, or even in minutes.

A company is a competitive social organization, and the ability to communicate and to move as fast as possible will always be a key success factor.

It is always very arrogant to try to predict the future, but I see 2 trends:

Intelligent productivity software. 10 years ago, the only software the whole company was working with was Microsoft Office Suite. It was a set of 4–5 tools to know: Word, Outlook, Excel, Explorer, Powerpoint. Today, Explorer is buried and each of us is using more than 20+ tools in our daily work: Zoom, Dropbox, Amplitude, Slack, Adobe, Docusign, Camscanner, Expensify, Notion…and Letsmeet of course. Those tools are still pretty basic in their ability to understand, adjust, anticipate the consumer needs. Nevertheless, we start to see a very early stage of intelligence infused in it. As an example, Gmail proposes to answer or finish the sentence for you. For the moment it is basic. AI will change that for sure.The other structural trend is the work from home. I’m sure you have additional questions about it, so I will save my arguments for later.

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

Humans, and by extension, companies have the tendency to resist changes. I love to say humans are mammals full of habits. When wire phones arrived at work, there was only one phone by company or service, because management thought it would distract people. I saw the same trends on the internet. At the start of the internet, access to the web was restricted, because companies wanted to be sure that employees were not wasting time surfing the web. 10 years later, those behaviors sound absurd.

When you have massive push or trends about the way people want to work, it is counterproductive to fight or even slow down this evolution. It might be disturbing, scary, but you have no other choice than embrace the change.

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?

Work from wherever is the biggest trend, and it is bigger than work from home. It will impact the organization, the management, the infrastructure, the working hours, the commuting.

On one side, you have most of the companies that are reluctant to offer work from home. They resist the push by asking their teams to be at the office “40h a week”, or to be at the office a few days per week. On the other hand, you have a vast majority of the teams that do not want to lose time in commuting and have more freedom about the way they use their time.

As said, it might be scary, disturbing, and challenging, but you have no other choice than to embrace the change. Embracing it will give you the choice to organize and structure it. If you do not, you will face passive resistance, demotivation, legal risk and counterproductive behaviors.

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

I think we experienced and we are still experiencing the WFH. But more than the Work from Home, we have experienced the Work from Wherever. Eight of the 10 largest cities in the U.S. lost population during the first year of the pandemic, with New York, Los Angeles and Chicago leading the way. San Francisco lost 6.3% of its 2020 population, the highest percentage of any U.S. city. On the other hand, house price index in Hawaii moved from 643 in Q1/20 to 800 in Q1/22. Another good example is that Airbnb features the quality of the wifi, and dedicated workspace when you list places. I believe we see a trend that leads to the end of the work from office as the absolute rule.

Today, what is the reality of the daily office experience?

Employees commute 56mn per day on average and arrive at the office where 50% of the company is not there. His/her teammates are not here, the manager is not here; And the irony is that he will meet many of his colleagues through hybrid meetings. On the other hand, if she/he stays home, it saves 1 hour of subway or traffic, he/she can have lunch with their kids, can have a quick game with the dog, and receive the Amazon delivery. What life sounds the best to you?

I have probably spoken to more than 50 professionals. It strikes me that whatever the level of the person from C level in a fortune 50 company, to young developers in the office, they are all facing, seeing or doing a passive push back to not come back to the office. When Tim Cook has to write a letter explaining why the Apple workforce needs to get back to the office, it says a lot about the pressure needed to have everybody back to the office. Not even mentioning Elon Musk’s email.

BTW, Sales force has been in WFW for the last 2 years, with a market cap at $168B and a revenue going up from $21B to $26B. WFW works.

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?

If you look at the big picture, a company is very similar to the school system. You have a pressure to arrive on time, you must justify yourself when you are late or not here. You report to your manager. You explain what you have done, and you have frequent evaluations. You can see how companies have extended the school system. Things have been changing a lot, but the comparison is still valid.

I think we are, and we will give more freedom, more autonomy to the people. It means more trust, an approach based more on objective and value added than time spent.

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

It is a very positive trend! We are offering more freedom and a higher autonomy, for a more balanced life. I’m very optimistic. We are moving in the right direction. Nevertheless, we are talking about a certain category of the population, highly educated, and mainly in the western world.

I want to believe it will also ease the level of diversity and inclusion.

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?

2 messages are sent, and we’d better listen to them because they are defining the future of our civilization.

It’s not only about money: The inspiration of a certain category of the population is not anymore to increase their wealth. They want to give sense to their life, have it balanced, and work for good. They are ready to review their standing of life to reach those 3 goals. It influences the recruitment, the mission of the company, and the expected dedication to the job.

Share the wealth: With 1% of the population having 32% of the wealth, and increasing every year, it will be naïve and very dangerous to think that it is a sustainable situation. You cannot disconnect the wave of nationalisms we see in all democracies from Europe to South America, from US to Asia with the increase of the social gap. When you are part of the last tier, it is hard for you to believe in the system.

The tension on the job market gives the means for many of the employees to look for a better job, more paid, more balanced. They pick the industry they want to work for.

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

  1. Work from Wherever, is the unstoppable trend with structural effect on average salary, commute infrastructure, urban planification, internationalization, cultural domination, management. The collateral effects will be visible on numerous levels. Most importantly we are at the start of this wave, starting to understand it, and adjust to it. Many examples and data mentioned above are confirming the trend.
  2. Intelligent productive tools. We are piling productivity tools, and the acceleration of the trends is impressive. As mentioned above we moved in a few years from 5 tools to 20+ software. They have for the moment limited capacity. Artificial intelligence will change that, it will write basic emails on our behalf, set reminders, build to-do lists, and define the best process.
  3. Internationalization. It is a major collateral effect of the WFW. If you allow people to work from wherever, it also means you can recruit people from wherever. In that case, why would you recruit a developer at $100K if you can have one at $50K. Outsourcing to third parties abroad has been in place for decades. The new wave is the recruitment of full-time employees from all over the world, not as external consultants but as full team members. It will reshape the labor market, redistribute the wealth between different countries, decrease the pressure on rare skills.
  4. Socialization: from pro to private and from real to virtual. We met most of our social network during college and at work. Spending less time at the office will impact our social interactions in quantity and quality. Virtual connections to initiate social interaction will be more and more successful. As a reminder, in April 2020 — start of the lockdown in many US cities — 19% of the 30–44 yo population had an active account on Tinder.
  5. DEI : Diversity, Equity and Inclusion will be a key element to appreciate the ethics of the company. VC, HR, are tracking in detail the indicators regarding DEI. Internationalization should ease this trend.

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?

I’m a big fan of philosophy, and more specifically Nietzche. I read all his biographies, and most of his books twice. In “Thus spoke Zarathustra” Pindare says “Become yourself”. It is the goal of a life, it means that you understand who you are, go beyond your fear, your illusion, remove your armor, ignore social pressure and be yourself. I believe it is the recipe of happiness. At least it is mine. It has been shaping my daily life for the last 20 years.

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’m amazed by what Kevin Systorm built, and his constant humility. Instagram has impacted the life of billions of people, it became a source of inspiration for so many and is now even shaping the architecture and urban landscape. Kevin is one of the few in the world to have nailed the network effect. I would love to listen to what he has learned in terms of product, but also what it brought to his personal life.

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