URGENCY REJECTION CULTURE- Younger workers, reject the business culture around urgency as they draw new personal boundaries around their working and living hours. They are signing off earlier than their managers, and companies are scrambling to identify what is urgent and what can shift into a more sustainable time frame.
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 Libby Rodney.
Libby is a fast-thinking, imaginative, future-obsessed strategic consultant that helps clients unlock what’s next for their business, setting the stage for change and alignment across the business.
Libby does this by exploring and exposing emerging micro-trends, consumer lifestyle shifts, and compelling data-led narratives that put trends into the context that matters and is actionable for clients’ bottom line.
Currently, she is the Chief Strategy Officer at The Harris Poll running the Thought Leadership & Trends consulting practice with Abbey Lunney.
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 joke that I was a pioneer of the great resignation and the digital nomad movement. In 2014, after a decade of ad agency life, I was burned out and convinced my husband to give up our apartment in Brooklyn, sell our things, and travel around the world for a year. Not only did I end up meeting the most amazing people, but I started getting requests to write and build presentations around the trends and the future for c-suite executives (e.g., the future of retail, luxury, hospitality, etc). Ultimately this jump into the unknown led me to where I am today, Chief Strategy Officer at The Harris Poll, running the thought leadership + futures practice with Abbey Lunney.
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?
What will be the same is that people will always have a quest to find meaning and value in where they spend their time. A good chunk of that time will continue to be work in most cases. However, people might get better at differentiating if they are working in a career (e.g., something they are passionate about) or is it just a job (e.g., something that pays the bills). Those who see work as just a job might intentionally fill their non-working hours with more activities that give them meaning (e.g., their passion, caretaking, spiritual practice, etc.).
In the next decade, what could be different is the rise of universal basic income (UBI). As things are playing out today, it could be possible that UBI is an essential element of protecting our society as Machine Learning, AI, and automation ramp up and remove jobs. Already there are half-dozen cities that have started guaranteed income programs. From my perspective, UBI would not lead us into a state of dystopia but instead a possible age of enlightenment and nurturing. The implications of providing a base level of financial security to Americans mean easing the ‘fight or flight’ economic fragility people feel daily, which would have an enormous impact on their overall mental, physical, and financial health. Taking away the real fear that people are one check away from being unhoused in the US would be a significant shift in releasing the creative, entrepreneurial, and communal spirit that makes the US and the world more prosperous.
What advice would you offer to employers who want to future-proof their organizations?
Start reimagining the role of bringing people together in an office, some ideas…
- Lab Days: Companies are facing enormous waves of change over the next decade (e.g., Web 3, climate change, geopolitics, monetary shifts, shifting demographics, ect), so instead of thinking about the office days as a series of meetings and check-ins, what if it was rearranged to be more like think tank labs and creative problem-solving sessions?
- Group Index: What if managers had an index for their company where they knew the activities best performed in person vs. those best performed remotely? This index would be quantifiable and transparent to employees so that it was apparent why they were coming to work and which types of problems to prioritize in person.
- Skill Hours: Hours of the week dedicated to upskilling employees (e.g., every Wednesday at 4 pm, there are various ways you can upskill your current skill set). Eight in 10 employees consider professional development and training offerings necessary when accepting a new job.
- Coworking Play Centers: What if there were areas to drop off young children and work nearby the days you came into the office? This is a top desire among parents with young kids, in a recent study we released with Kindercare.
- Variable Hybrid Strategies: What if the hybrid days you were in the office were determined by quarterly goals and objectives (e.g., some businesses are more seasonal than others, and California might even mandate a 4-day work week)?
- Commute Strategies: What if the days you had to go into the office, the prime meetings worked around the most challenging commuting times (e.g., limited 9 am and 4 pm meetings)? Will it become more common for remote companies to do 2–3 day offsites every other month to come together?
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?
Gap: Best Snacks → Supportive Structures.
The companies that will be the most competitive in the future employee benefits will act as a lifestyle concierge supporting employees’ foundational wellbeing needs. Employers are happy to offer ‘snack benefits’ (e.g., free lunch, happy hour drinks, the best range of snacks! ), while top talent is looking for ‘support structures’ to live a well-lived life. What do support structures mean? Think of the support that makes life outside of work more possible to afford and manage; fertility benefits, financial advisors, student loan refinancing, childcare benefits, sabbaticals, education programs, and access to real estate agents.
We simultaneously joined a global experiment together last year called “Working From Home.” How will this experience influence the future of work?
A new level of autonomy and flexibility were established with workers who had the ability to WFH. It’s hard to imagine a future where you can take away the gains in workers’ autonomy and flexibility without incredible pain; humans are hard-wired to seek autonomy and flexibility.
What is your greatest source of optimism about the future of work?
I believe that everyone has something to contribute to society. My hope is that we will create more supportive structures to get people out of survival mode as a society. We will reorientate our work away from urgency and burnout culture, and we will pioneer a new path that is more sustainable for individual and collective wellness.
I also believe the next version of the Internet, Web 3, could be designed to be a great equalizer, allowing more people the chance to contribute to society and to gain value from their contribution in a decentralized environment.
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?
One thing we talk about at the Harris Poll is ‘We Boundaries’, the idea that companies are creating universal wellness boundaries for their employees so that employees don’t have to tackle it on an individual basis but instead, it’s a structure put in place. For example, this year, The Harris Poll will shut down for a week in July, working to give everyone a much needed vacation.
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?
Our work with Milken Institute surfaced that 76% of business leaders believe that ‘generational value shifts’ are as likely to impact their business operations as supply chains and geopolitical uncertainties. Overall, we are at a point where business leaders understand that they need to understand the value shifts coming out of the great reassessment, but they don’t know what it means yet. So we’ve been spending a lot of our time unpacking what the future of ambition looks like, which you can read here. https://theharrispoll.com/insights-news/reports/the-future-of-ambition/
Let’s get more specific. What are your “Top 5 Trends To Track In the Future of Work?”
- URGENCY REJECTION CULTURE- Younger workers, reject the business culture around urgency as they draw new personal boundaries around their working and living hours. They are signing off earlier than their managers, and companies are scrambling to identify what is urgent and what can shift into a more sustainable time frame.
- THE BURNOUT FUNNEL: Younger Americans are entering the workforce already feeling burnout from their non-stop sense of ‘swim or sink’ competitiveness fueled by high school, college, and social media. In their twenties, they are already feeling overwhelmed by student debt and a sense of falling behind their peers.
- FLEXIBILITY + AUTONOMY ARE DE&I INITIATIVES: We saw massive gains in how women and BIPOC Americans feel about work. Working from home, they report considerable increases in their ability to speak up, be heard, and advance their career. They report higher levels of relaxation, satisfaction, and happiness while working from home versus the office. WFH policies have been more effective than many DE&I initiatives, and businesses must ensure those gains are not erased as new hybrid models are implemented.
- THE RISE OF FREE AGENTS: Employees don’t feel like employers create stable environments for long-term growth and opportunities, so they are taking matters and career opportunities into their own hands. Employees with currency and cultural capital have higher expectations and more demands.
- FROM LADDERS TO REVOLVING DOORS. In a “free agent” ecosystem, careers change very quickly. Those that can help employees navigate what’s next and establish networks that bring them back into the fold will benefit.
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?
“The next decade is likely to be the most significant opportunity most of us have in our lifetimes to really transform the way society works.”
Jane McGonigal, Imaginable,
I’m so excited about the number of converging trends and possibilities happening in the next decade. I wake up every day wanting to tackle it and get ahead of it with my clients.
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 obsessed with Jane McGonial’s new book Imaginable, so I would just like to say go read it, and if I could meet her it would be ice cream on top.
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 Harris Poll podcast, where Chief Strategy Officer, Libby Rodney and NYT bestselling author John Gerzema surface the most important societal shifts, consumer sentiments, and marketplace trends leaders need to know to stay in lockstep with consumers’ shifting desires.
On LinkedIn, and our weekly podcast, at Chief
Thank you for sharing your insights and predictions. We appreciate the gift of your time and wish you continued success and good health.