A rise in the ‘workcation’ or ‘bleisure’.

The trend and opportunity here is ripe: encourage people to work from where they want when they want, as long as you have a shared understanding for the responsibilities and communication that comes with it. Companies should embrace this flexibility and recognize that employees can engage in travel and discovery, benefit from enriching new experiences, and still remain productive, and perhaps even more inspired.

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 Hannah Kreiswirth, partner and Chief Operating Officer at AREA 17.

As COO for AREA 17, Hannah (she/her) works across the New York and Paris studios and strives to shape a people-first organization where individuals and teams thrive. Leveraging design, technology, and creativity, Hannah connects the people, processes, and partners that work together to bring to life AREA 17’s vision for a more open, resilient, and optimistic world. Hannah and her team collaborate with partners such as the Getty Museum, Neri Oxman, Fondation Louis Vuitton, and the International Energy Agency, to craft brands, products and partnerships with lasting value.

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 a teenager, my parents encouraged me to get part-time jobs to make money to do the things I wanted to do. Whether working as a babysitter, tennis instructor, in retail, cafes, or in law firms, my dad inspired me with a framework to split my earnings into thirds — a third to contribute to my future education, a third to start my personal savings, and a third to actively spend and enjoy. It only dawned on me now, but the general encouragement taught me early the value of meeting new people, work ethic, and contribution, and the framework helped make the connection of work to my life experience and trajectory before I knew how important that was.

Later as a mid-twenty-year-old, a good friend and I were excited by an idea. Motivated and mid-twenties-confident, we quit our jobs to launch a start-up. Out on our own with only our creativity and grit, this experience allowed me to gain a new perspective on business and meet some of the most influential people in my life. But more importantly, it solidified my interest in connecting and empowering creative people. From this point forward, I knew that I wanted to design systems and structures that enable people to do great work. This is how I found myself at AREA 17 where, as partner and COO, I like to think that my job is to make other people’s jobs great.

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?

It’s pretty hard to think about what might be the same or different in 10–15 years. The first iPhone was released 15 years ago, Airbnb and Uber didn’t exist, and just three years ago the thought of a global pandemic that changed the course of our lives would be ludicrous. But, as much as we have so many unknowns ahead, I do think we are at a pivotal point today in resetting how we work fundamentally. Work is made up of people, relies on collaboration and community, and is foundational to our lives and contributions to society. And, as we realize and appreciate how fundamental people are to businesses, we will see the true innovation and opportunity of our time unfold.

The social enterprise model changed the way we think a business could be run — a for-profit with a social mission. Now, I believe that the people-driven business model will give rise to a positive disruption. Like a social enterprise believes doing good is good for business; a people-driven business believes that happier and more fulfilled teams are good for business. This shift will manifest itself through a focus on organizational experience. By serving diverse people with different contexts and interests but shared responsibilities and values, we create flexible systems for work and diverse workforces, rather than homogenous models that force conformity.

Ultimately, if we can listen and learn from each other and all that is happening in this time of change, as business leaders, team members, collaborators and contributors, I think we have the opportunity to make the future of work more human, connected and kind.

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

I think it’s first important to acknowledge that good and lasting change takes time and iterative advancement. Knowing this and the unknown ahead, I would encourage employers to look less out at the world to try to see what to ‘future-proof’ yourself of, and to look more inwardly at what you have control over — your organization and the people connected to it. A couple of specific but broadly applicable pieces of advice I’d share:


In many ways, I would advise organizations and employers to do the same thing that I would advise to individuals trying to find their right professional place — do the work to figure out who you are, confirm what you care about, and make sure your environment supports that. For employees, this means finding the right fit for you. For employers, this means being someone’s fit. It means confirming the vision, mission, and set of values to support the culture you want, inspire the work you want to do and connect your team. These (sometimes intangibles) should become a decision-making framework for how you operate.


At the same time, I feel like it’s important to listen to employees and collaborators as individuals. Be curious about who they are — what motivates them, what interests they have, what benefits are important to them, what they want their life to look like, what their sense of purpose is. This can happen through surveys and town halls, but it can also happen organically, by genuinely building a culture that embraces friendships and aims for you to enjoy the time you spend with the people you work with, at every level of the company. To this end I would encourage employers to be more conscious, vulnerable, and interested in what — or, who — makes their workforce tick.

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?

I’m interested to explore if we can move past filling gaps and ask more fundamentally why the gaps exist in the first place. While myriad changes happening in work are at play, I believe these gaps are largely due to the fact that we still actively support the idea that employers and employees are at odds.

What is striking though is that employers and employees are inherently compatible. Businesses are made up of people and people’s livelihoods depend on businesses. Employers should be compelled to learn about and offer whatever employees need to do their job well and live their lives well. Similarly, employees should have better transparency and trust in how a business works, and how their responsibilities, contributions, and fulfillment are intrinsically linked to it. If we can see the relationship as symbiotic vs each serving only their interests, this tension could be resolved and gaps become smaller and smaller. I believe this begins with understanding one another.

In our senior leadership book club, we’ve been reading Drive, which is about what motivates us as people — autonomy, mastery, and purpose. It uncovers that, in our day and age as knowledge-workers, as long as you can ensure people feel well and equitably compensated, that’s where the ‘money-motivation’ stops. From there, people are motivated by a work environment where they can work on what challenges and inspires them, in ways that consistently elevate their expertise, and that offer them the opportunity to contribute to the people and world around them. So, when we’re looking to reconcile gaps, we can look to the root cause; what is motivating the disconnect — ie. shifting from ‘people feel undervalued, therefore pay will skyrocket higher and higher more’ to ‘people feel undervalued, therefore we should focus on fostering an environment where people are valued.’

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

I’ll boldly say that I think this experience has changed how work shows up in our lives forever. Fundamentally, we learned how important technology is to afford the flexibility and connection needed to work remotely together, and that we could be quite productive at home and benefit greatly from the autonomy that came with the “experiment.” What I think is going to be paramount in the next 5 years is to see if we took away the right things from these learnings. In order to truly influence the future of work to be innovatively different, I think we need to better listen to people’s experiences through it, look at the questions and insights from all angles and use the months and years ahead of us to test out different models that can serve people and businesses alike.

To me, it feels like a lot of the conversations today are focused on the wrong thing. They’re asking: should we do remote or hybrid or in-office/ should we do Tuesdays and Thursdays or Monday, Wednesday, Friday/ should we pay unsustainable salaries or lose talent entirely? But, these are not binary questions. If we’ve learned anything in the pandemic, it is that people are different, and our context matters. In the future of work, employers will be challenged to be more mindful of individuals, more adaptable, and perhaps less rigid in their policies and more human in their approach to business. As Reed Hastings coined in his book No Rules Rules, I think employing the principle of “context over control” is the spirit we need for the future of work. If we can craft the future of work together as employers and employees, we can arrive at a future we all may just want to be a part of.

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?

As a society, I think it’s really critical that we focus on the whole person. Instead of focusing only on the transaction — an employee as their job title, salary, how they can be useful to an employer and get compensated in return — we can focus on people as unique individuals whose life should be positively impacted by their work, and whose work can have a positive impact on the lives of others.

This is a concept that I like to call life/ life balance. The phrase we know — work/ life balance — is meant to be a good thing, but the statement itself pits work as something counter to life. On average, we spend one-third of our lives working, which makes me wonder: if it isn’t life, what is it? The reality (and, I believe, opportunity) is that work is a big part of our lives, and being fulfilled, healthy and happy in our lives deeply influences our work. By further recognizing that life inside and outside of work is part of someone’s identity and contribution to the world (big or small), we can ensure that we are setting up the workplace and our workforces for success. If businesses do take a people-first approach, I hope they can also shed the “bad guy” image and become purveyors of people’s potential, fulfillment and life’s work. As a society, I hope we can start to look beyond what the future of work should be and explore what it can be.

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

In many ways, what gives me the most optimism about the future of work is that we’re talking about it at all. Whether looking at an individualistic-capitalist environment or a community-driven environment (like a kibbutz), work is seen as fundamental to society and people’s lives. To me, this global experiment we’ve had as a response to the pandemic simply opened our eyes to what it can truly be if we embrace technology, listen to people, afford greater flexibility and trust, and have the courage to try something new. I’m optimistic that fostering a dialogue that includes diverse perspectives will allow us to further embrace work as an intrinsic and valuable part of our lives.

For so many years we didn’t challenge the status quo — we challenged this or that specific issue, but never had the opportunity to see what big, holistic shifts could really be possible and offer. In this conversation, employees have realized their place and power, and businesses their opportunity. To be confronting it now is both necessary and exciting because work isn’t going anywhere, but we can certainly make work work for everyone.

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?

Focusing on an employee’s health and wellbeing is central to being a people-first organization and embracing life/ life balance. While grounded in being the right thing to do, for employers this can be underlined by the fact that happier, healthier and more fulfilled people do better work and make businesses thrive.

My view as far as optimizing and improving is that we need to take a more comprehensive view of culture, compensation, and benefits. Yes, we need to ensure access, equity, and value in the baseline of compensation, through our salaries, bonus structures, healthcare, etc. And, we need to better understand the needs of the whole person — what is their individual context, and how can our environment and experience best serve them. If we can think more holistically about what contributes to an employee’s mental health and wellbeing (e.g. burn out, challenging dynamics, relationships or projects, feeling a lack of belonging), we can work to go beyond robust (and still necessary) practical benefits with programs that aim to offer a proactively inclusive and supportive environment and experience for a diverse workforce.

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?

While there are definitely interesting insights and lessons to be learned in these articles, my main advice would be to look beyond them. Steadfast to my view that work is fundamental to our lives, I think these alarmist headlines are just shining big lights on the challenges we’re facing at this moment but that will course-correct as the pendulum swings back; as we learn more about what we need and want as employees, and how we can better our businesses by directly serving these needs.

I always like to think that if I am in a room — a party, a bar, a conference, a trip — that there could be someone just like me in that same room. I become a precedent. I think that we can take that mentality and extend it to businesses. If you create a reason for like minds to find each other — to be in the same room — you should be able to elevate above the trends and dramatic headlines. By being values-focused and people-driven in our approach we can focus on the long-term strategic plan that keeps us relevant and unique — an organization worth being part of.

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

I think there are some really exciting themes that stand out in the Future of Work discussions — the need for balance, organizational flexibility, embracing people-driven organizational design, elevating purpose, and crafting the future of work together. In relation to those themes, here are 5 trends I’m actively following:

  1. A rise in the ‘workcation’ or ‘bleisure’.

From Hyatt, to Marriott to Accor, various hospitality companies have seized the opportunity to cater to a new clientele of globe-trotting workers, offering day passes that allow workers to change their scenery and enjoy amenities. There are also examples where local governments, such as Madeira in Portugal, or Hawaii back in 2020, offered incentives for temporary relocation and contribution to the local economy.

The trend and opportunity here is ripe: encourage people to work from where they want when they want, as long as you have a shared understanding for the responsibilities and communication that comes with it. Companies should embrace this flexibility and recognize that employees can engage in travel and discovery, benefit from enriching new experiences, and still remain productive, and perhaps even more inspired.

2. More companies adopting recharge weeks.

After a successful experiment with company-wide wellness weeks in 2020 and 2021, Coinbase made headlines in January when they announced they were increasing their 2022 recharge weeks to one per quarter, in addition to offering flexible PTO. Recharge weeks collectively combat burnout, one of the driving forces behind ‘the great resignation’. This increased focus on mental health and wellbeing recognizes that living to work is not sustainable and that by offering company-wide time off, it not only nudges employees to find the balance they require but does it in a structured way you can plan for as a business.

Similarly, I think there are really interesting builds on ‘recharge weeks’ when we think about opportunities for sabbaticals or prolonged time off. These structures reinforce the life/life balance concept and underline that rest, relaxation and rejuvenation can bring new energy, creativity, and productivity to the workplace. With the precedent of shared time off working for us over the winter break and in other tests more recently, we’ll definitely be trying our way with this one, so I’ll certainly be following this trend.

3. ‘Polywork’ — dynamic, free-agent workers.

The increased adoption of Polywork stems from negative and positive insights. On one hand, it seems to be a response to workers feeling undervalued and unheard. The reality is that a lot of employees simply don’t feel their needs are met, or their value unlocked and pursue multiple parallel jobs, whether out of necessity or personal drive for more. On the other hand, polywork is a reinforcement of people-driven organizational design. Multidimensional employees, Millennials and Gen-Z especially, want to exercise a diverse skillset, have a multiplicity of experience, or be their own boss. A workplace that is designed to support autonomy, mastery, and purpose may very well be the dynamic environment that an otherwise polyworker may thrive in, with more touchpoints for fulfillment.

As we face the future of work, I think it’s most important to understand this trend not only for the insights that it developed from, but for the opportunity it affords. People are different — some people will thrive as freelancers, and some will crave a more permanent professional home. Understanding these differences as structural assets that allow for flexibility in how you operate and serve your teams is an opportunity. For example, with a healthy freelance community, it’s easier to offer full-time team members sabbaticals or weeks off; and by building real relationships with free-agent workers, they gain the camaraderie and culture often lacking when on your own.

4. Reconsidering meaningful in-person interactions.

As we return to the office, many employees are still finding themselves on camera all day, which can seem discouraging and futile (why did I commute again?). This brings us back to flexibility and not blanket-enforcing where to do what. But, it also comes back to purpose. There are few employees who see their purpose as a set of outputs — deliver design A to client B — and so on. We have a primitive desire to identify as part of a group, form bonds, and solve challenges. This is much easier when out from behind a screen. Employers will increasingly reconsider the purpose of in-person interactions, shifting away from presenteeism and towards moments and contexts that actively reinforce company culture and fulfilling collaboration.

5. DEI as fundamental to business success.

The benefits companies are seeing from bringing diverse perspectives to the table are not marginal. The conversation will increasingly (and necessarily) shift from a ‘nice to have’ to a ‘must have’ criteria for successful businesses. While we see an unfortunate trend of performative efforts today, lasting change will show results and businesses will need to understand that realizing the opportunity of a diverse, inclusive and equitable business is not a game of checkboxes, but fundamentals to your business model and how you operate, deliver, and engage.

To be honest, I don’t love referring to this as a trend given its lasting importance and societal profundity. But DEI is so cross-relevant and integral to reaching our full potential as a company that it’s something I am constantly looking in all directions for education, inspiration, and stories to help propel our efforts forward.

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 was chatting with a friend recently about the future of work, and he referenced Martin Buber’s dictum “all real living is meeting” which related to many of the thoughts above we were discussing. This idea that community and shared experience really matters resonated with me and made me think of one of my favorite New Yorker articles, Group Think, which I re-read and am reinspired by often.

At the end of the day, people are more inspired, creative, and positively charged through a shared experience with others. Centering that felt experience in all contexts of the workplace — on and offline — will make for a happier and more effective workforce where ‘all real living is meeting’ 🙂

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.

One of the only podcasts I listen to regularly is NPR’s How I Built This, hosted by Guy Raz. What I think is so intriguing about Guy is his fascination with the motivations and stories of the people who built these often world-changing organizations. The entrepreneur and operator in me simply loves the business lessons, but what I really love about Guy is that he seeks out diverse businesses and founders and not only shares their stories and motivations, but helps the listener understand why they matter, and the root value and lesson that the organization has to offer.

Guy, if you’re reading this, thanks for brightening my commutes — to the studio and to my remote-retreat in Connecticut. I would adore the opportunity to break bread and be inspired first-hand.

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?

I’d love to connect. If readers want to learn a bit more about my background or catch me personally, I’d be delighted to have a dialogue with anyone reading on what resonated (or didn’t) with you on LinkedIn or Instagram. And, if you’re interested in learning a bit more about how AREA 17 sees the world, our 2021 year in review is a great place to start. Into the future we go…

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