Don’t bother ordering that slide or the ping-pong table. Our data tells us that post-covid, quirky office spaces aren’t the huge winner with job seekers that they once were.
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 Ifty Nasir.
Ifty Nasir is the founder and CEO of Vestd (www.vestd.com). He is a strong believer in the ‘Ownership Effect’ and advises businesses on how to share equity to incentivize teams and unlock value. An entrepreneur since his teens, Ifty reached the most senior levels at BP and Essar Energy before branching out into the world of startups.
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 would say that one of the biggest life experiences that has shaped me as a person was being raised by my mother! She had very little formal education but emigrated to the United Kingdom and got stuck in to setting up her own business.
With very little knowledge of finance, she set up a small shop and had to learn on her feet. I always admired her resourcefulness, confidence and self-determination in regards to that. But aside from overcoming practical obstacles, I also respect the fact that because our house was attached to the shop, she was able to achieve the work/life balance that everybody now aspires to. She was ahead of her time!
She was always able to pop back from the shop side of things to balance her daily responsibilities — keeping us clothed and fed. It was a rewarding way to grow up and continues to inform how I now run my own company.
I guess the second big life experience that shaped the course of my life was getting in with BP (British Petroleum). I became one of the youngest senior members of the team and was not only able to learn so much about industry, but the company also helped me to study business at Stanford.
Without that initial ‘getting my foot in the door’ with BP, so much that has happened in my life just wouldn’t have happened.
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?
Make no mistake that we are going through something of a revolution right now.
Prior to the pandemic, we were moving (albeit slowly) towards a remote, decentralised and digital model of business. Covid has accelerated all of that massively.
Because of that, we are going to see professionals disperse in ways that would not have been practical before. Why tie yourself to an extortionate mortgage for a tiny property in a major city when you can work from a South American beach?
10–15 years from now, such freedoms will be the norm.
What advice would you offer to employers who want to future-proof their organizations?
Take a look on the antiwork forum on Reddit, browse social media for a few hours. You’ll see what’s going on out there. The pandemic has demoralised those who’ve lost their jobs and it’s burned out those who’ve managed to hang onto them.
The Great Resignation is a tidal wave of a movement and it’s re-sculpting everything about how businesses are run.
People are demanding better working conditions, better rewards and more respect. Companies that don’t offer those things are being put in their place by workforces voting with their feet and leaving.
All future-proofing efforts should be around developing a genuine level of care for what your team members need to feel respected and inspired.
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?
We recently surveyed 2000 employees from a range of sectors and industries. We found that 70% will be prioritizing flexible and remote working when looking for their next job.
Some employers are still hesitant to fully make the leap. One of the biggest issues that they face as we are catapulted into the brave new world of remote working, is that worker disconnection can be a real threat to progress.
You need to keep your team aligned, engaged and hungry, even if they are working from outposts all over the country or the world. So how do you do that?
What works for Vestd and what we’d advocate is a two pronged approach.
Firstly, in lieu of a shared office space, you need to find opportunities to turn your team into a community. One of the best ways to do this is simply to find ways to increase light-touch contact across your team. You don’t want everybody’s schedules filling up with unnecessary meetings but you can facilitate a twice weekly all-team morning catch up and a monthly online social (for example).
Secondly, you need to think about what makes people tick and get excited about their work. We know from the organisations that we work with, and from our own research, that giving shares in the company to team members is transformative. Once people own a piece of the pie, they’ll work together and autonomously to make that project or company succeed on levels that you can only imagine.
Distributing equity in this way is just about the most impactful action that you can take to reconcile the gap.
We simultaneously joined a global experiment together last year called “Working From Home.” How will this experience influence the future of work?
Well, the ramifications are huge aren’t they? We’ll all be more fulfilled as human beings I think.
Who wants to spend an hour commuting every morning and evening? Who wouldn’t prefer to take back that time to take the dog out or to spend time with the kids?
I suspect (and this is backed up by data from just about every angle) that now vast swathes of us have experienced working in this way that nobody will want to go back to how things were.
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?
Good question and one I’ve thought about a lot lately.
Our latest research showed that the pandemic has opened up a bit of a class division. Largely, this stems from the ability to work from a fixed or remote location.
Over half of all middle class roles have yet to return to their working norms (e.g. back to the office), but the vast majority (70%) of the working classes have already gone back to their pre-covid hours and locations.
In order for the ‘reshaping’ to work for everybody, we need to find ways to make things fairer across the board. Of course, there are jobs that simply wouldn’t work remotely but that doesn’t mean that all perks should be reserved for office workers.
We found that free lunches were a popular perk of the working classes for example so some companies could look to offering benefits like that. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. If you a senior leader, do what you can to reward your team.
Frankly, if you don’t, you’ll lose them. Everything about The Great Resignation confirms this stark fact. Some of the larger multinationals (I won’t name-names but we all know who we are talking about here) are failing to grasp this and are micromanaging and dehumanising their stockroom workers in ways that go against the grain of everything I believe in.
People are people and all of society contributes in some way. We need to find ways to thank and respect everybody for their contributions.
What is your greatest source of optimism about the future of work?
I think that people are able to experience dignity at work in a more complete way these days.
A lot has changed for people from minority backgrounds, and for women too. In my early days in business, the prejudices that some men had about women was shocking. I remember being told that women in the company getting married would be given a set of cook-books and be sent on their way — crazy!
International working culture is becoming less of a battleground and more of a collaborative and respectful space. And that’s great.
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?
We asked the nation for their fundamental ‘must haves’ in a role and discovered that 40% of workers view health and wellbeing policies as critical to workplace happiness. On a related note, 36% view a ‘positive company culture’ as essential.
These are clearly areas that employers need to focus on to avoid talent migration during The Great Resignation.
I think we’ll see more roles developed within companies specifically to focus on areas like wellbeing. We’ll see more company retreats (particularly for remote businesses — we try to meet up for some shared downtime at least once per quarter), and more structured team workshops aimed at reducing stress or depression (for example).
I think employers will generally become more responsible and see that the ‘whole person’ performs a role and if they are suffering in some areas of their life, their work will suffer too. So you need to take care of your people, that’s the bottom line. A healthy company is a happy company.
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?
Ok, so I’ve some bad news on this front. Our data shows that The Great Resignation shows no sign of abating just yet.
Just as many people report that they intend to quit their jobs over the next twelve months as they did last year. And the younger the employee, the more likely it is that they’re planning to leave with 33% of 18–24 currently applying elsewhere, and 22% of 25–35 year olds also itching to make the switch.
So if you are a business leader and you think you’ll just ride it out, that’s probably not a sensible approach.
You need to get proactive and give people what they want and what they need to choose your company.
The Great Resignation isn’t a blip, it’s a complete societal shift.
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.)
- If you can offer remote work, you should. Nearly 70% of people now see this perk as a crucial part of their work/life balance so if you’re wondering how to coerce your team back to the office full-time, maybe think again. You could be unwittingly making your company unattractive to job hunters.
- If you can offer your team shares, you should. Share schemes have gone up by 80% over the past decade and there’s a compelling business case for this. We interviewed thousands of people and over 95% of business leaders agreed that offering shares helps businesses to attract new talent, retain existing team members and helps you to grow and develop your business too. It’s a complete win/win and it’s easier and cheaper than you think to offer this benefit to your team.
- Don’t bother ordering that slide or the ping-pong table. Our data tells us that post-covid, quirky office spaces aren’t the huge winner with job seekers that they once were. Less than a fifth of us would be swayed by sleeping pods, games rooms or beer on tap. On balance, we’d rather be at home.
- People have seen a lot of negative change. We asked workers for the top changes that they’ve seen in the workplace since the covid crisis began. All of the most highly-scoring responses were negative: A worse team spirit (30%), More resignations (26%), Worse salary/benefits (16%), Improving team spirit doesn’t have to cost a lot of money, nor does introducing competitive benefits.
- But yet people are feeling more cheerful. Surprisingly, given all of the above, we found that the general national mood is more upbeat than it was this time last year. Less than a fifth told us that they were feeling gloomy about the year ahead. A year ago, more than double of that figure were feeling generally apprehensive about the future. I guess with vaccines and medications on the table, we are all collectively seeing a way out of our current situation and that’s putting the spring back in our step.
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’ve said it before but “to love and be loved is everything”. It truly is. I’ve been lucky enough to have enjoyed an incredible career but I’m doubly lucky that I’ve had my family there every step of the way. They mean everything to me.
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. He’s trying to address the big problems whether it’s in relation to the survival of the earth through his work on solar power and electricity or whether it’s around the future of humanity in terms of getting off this planet at some stage or whether it’s the whole conversation and debate around the ethics of AI… he’s addressing some of the world’s biggest challenges.
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?
Thank you for sharing your insights and predictions. We appreciate the gift of your time and wish you continued success and good health.