Pay options are a big contributor behind the Great Resignation.

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 Jesse Johnstone, President at Fibrenew.

A technologist by trade, an entrepreneur by nature, an occasional drummer and an eternal optimist at heart, Jesse Johnstone is President of Fibrenew. Nothing sparks Johnstone more than seeing his 285+ Franchise Partners from the US, Canada, Mexico, New Zealand, Saudi Arabia, and Chile achieve their lifestyle and financial goals by running their own Fibrenew Leather, Plastic, and Vinyl restoration businesses.

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 am hardwired to stay positive and to continually keep pushing ahead. When I think about where these embedded values came from, there are two life experiences that come to mind.

While I was a kid, my dad owned and operated a small chain of retail music stores. He sold and rented instruments, provided repairs and offered lessons. When I was about 18, and he was roughly 20 years into the business, he was pitched a major curveball from one of his business partners and it brought one of his locations to its knees. It was so bad that it threatened to bring down the whole enterprise. I saw first-hand what was going on and where it sent him. On the surface, he was going through hell — but at his core and what he kept telling me was that he’d find a way through it, and he did. It took about three years to dig the company out and get back on track. His optimism through it all is something I remember clearly, and that stays with me today.

Shortly after finishing college, I landed a job at a software company. It was a classic underdog, scrappy start-up type of scenario where working hard and moving as fast as possible were default modes of operation. With numerous other players in the space, we were fighting for every bit of market share we could muster. The company’s founder took me under his wing and mentored me on many levels — some of the mentoring was explicitly clear, and some of it was through osmosis. The biggest takeaway from this experience was to never sit still when it comes to business improvement and constantly move as fast as possible — lessons that continue to guide me currently.

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?

Work, the workforce and the workplace will be driven by a balance of technology and human capital. Technology will continue to play an increasing role in both the daily tasks of workers and the larger scope of operations for businesses. Anything that can be replaced by technology will be.

We will see an increasing role of AI to crunch massive amounts of business data and help find ways to increase efficiencies. No organization will be immune to this. We’ll see these trends continue and expand into everything from manufacturing to legal services, education, government and beyond.

I don’t see this tech-driven future as a doomsday scenario for workers however. Technology will help businesses best leverage their workforce to increase productivity, mitigate risk and deliver sustained results for the organization. And let’s not forget, thriving organizations create employment.

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

With Fibrenew’s long-term business planning, we often think about the ‘Amazon effect’ of what we do — meaning is what we’re offering something that can be disrupted by a third party, can it be replaced by robots or AI, and can it be outsourced? The question is not just if, but when disruption happens in your industry, how will you adapt and remain relevant?

Another considerable question for all organizations to consider is the environmental affects of what you do. Both regulation and customer expectations are changing so rapidly on this topic that it has to be at the forefront of planning how your business operates today and in the years to come.

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?

From the employees’ side of the fence, and as some companies return to the office in the coming months, the lost flexibility of once working full-time from home may present a mental gap going forward. As a whole, the majority of workers who were sent home to work over the past 2 years were working, but they were also able to be more present at home, be there for their families more, and focus on home life, etc. Even just the time it takes for a 2-way commute will erase the extra time at home.

For many employers, the benefits of face-to-face collaboration, team coordination and justifying the cost of maintaining office space are motivators to bring employees back and are all factors that could play into a gap from their side. Employees needs to remember that having the option to work from home is a significant perk. And for the companies that could send workers home and keep their business running, they need to remember they’re lucky that was even an option.

Like many organizations, we’ve taken both sides into account when putting a plan in place for when we do return to the office. Employees can continue to work from home but must spend a minimum of 2 days per week in the office. Striking a balance between what employees have become accustomed to and what the organization needs is the best foot forward.

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

If you stop and think about it, it wasn’t that long ago that people used to ask the question ‘where do you work?’ when meeting someone new. That almost seems absurd now. Instead, the question is ‘what do you do for work?’.

The ‘working from home experiment’ showed us that we could rethink the very idea of work. It’s not where we go for 8 hours at a time; it’s what we do for our livelihoods. This concept was solidly validated over the past 24 months, and going forward, it should have us look more at the net results of our work efforts, not the amount of time we put on the clock.

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 society has more than begun reshaping itself around how we’ll work in the future. Everything from transportation, fashion, what we eat, pet ownership and real estate, have seen significant changes.

We’re commuting less, which has changed how we look at and value our vehicles. We’re dressing and eating differently as office attire is not as needed, and lunches out are not as convenient. We can move away from the proximity of offices or even move across the country altogether, which has impacted real estate and lifestyles drastically.

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

If three years ago someone said to you that a virus was coming that would take the lives of many, shutter businesses and schools, push hospitals to the brink, halt travel, and generally turn the world upside down, it is safe to assume that most of us would have predicted it to be the end of the world as we know it.

But the world didn’t end. We adapted and kept going on all levels. The amount of innovation that happened over the past couple of years is staggering. We were propelled into the future in short order, and I believe we’re coming out of this period more robust than before. The virus packed a punch, but the human spirit is proving to be stronger, in my opinion.

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?

With the world in a state of constant flux, one source of stability and a sense of community in people’s lives can be their employment. The messages that companies provide their employees should be consistent and well thought out. We can leave the negativity and zig-zagging to the media. Being a beacon of strength and calm can go a long way in helping employees’ personal well-being.

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?

Aligning company values with employees’ personal values is the only way to combat this. Why are employees resigning, reconfiguring and reevaluating their work-life? That’s a question many company leaders need to ask themselves in the mirror.

The mantra of more, more, more for less, less, less is starting to rear its ugly head. Work can be enjoyable it should be. Sadly, so many companies have lost sight of that. There’s almost an overarching corporate culture out there whereby workers are supposed to be stressed and maxed out all the time. Company cultures should evolve to bring work-life balance and enjoyment back into focus. Happy employees are more productive and engaged. Promoting workplace enjoyment should be the goal of every company going forward, otherwise constant employee turnover will continue to happen.

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. Pay options are a big contributor behind the Great Resignation .
  2. With so much negativity swirling these days, it’s never been more important to create your own perspective and reality.
  3. When designing hybrid work models, there’s much to consider.
  4. How technology and humans working in parallel can work.
  5. The idea of one’s ‘relationship with their work’ is a conversation that will no doubt be had more and more going 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?

Attitude is everything. Sure life will whack you on the head of everyone once in a while, and we have very little control over that. But what we do have control over is how we react when ‘it’ hits the fan.

We have this poem by Charles Swindol hanging throughout our offices. It’s posted on our intranet, we include postcard versions of it in product shipments, and we talk about its concept often in our training. It’s core to how we operate as a company and has helped guide me personally through twists and turns of life:

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’d like to have lunch with Lars Ulrich. Not only is Lars the drummer for Metallica (and I’m a drummer myself), he’s a stealth businessperson. I think we’d have a blast talking music, business and life.

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?

The best way to connect with me is on Linked In.

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

You’re very welcome, thank you for having me. I wish you well, cheers!