Employers should offer support services and perks to their employees. They should also foster policies that allow for more flex time.

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 Lisa Zahiya.

New York-based Lisa Zahiya is a nationally known business and life coach who helps entrepreneurs scale their businesses to six and seven figures, creating a life they want on their own terms. Lisa holds an MBA and travels nationally and internationally as a workshop teacher and speaker about following your dreams, body positivity, and business growth. Lisa is a TEDx 2019 Speaker, 2008 Bellydancer of the Universe, and founder of the Z School Path to Six Figures.

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 in the eighth grade, my body started to develop — I was curvy, with amazing hips and butt. More importantly, I was also amazing at math.

There were boys in my grade who always made fun of me and my body. Their favorite nickname for me was “cow.” Outside of this being a painful part of my life, I would never volunteer to answer a question or solve an equation in class because I would have to stand up. This fully shaped my mission to empower ALL women to stand up and stand out in every area of their lives. It also started my lifelong work towards self-love and body acceptance. In the end, I am grateful, as it allows me to work with other women and inspire them towards liberation and stepping into their own power.

Fifteen years ago at 27 years old, I began to undergo a major transformation. I had been the “good girl” all of my life and had followed the academic path set out in front of me. I graduated 1st in my class from high school, went to college and graduate school, and then got a fancy corporate job. And I was miserable. Not only did I strongly dislike my work and the 9–5, but I also wasn’t very good at it. I was strongly mediocre. And two years after marrying my college sweetheart, he told me he was leaving me.

Realizing how unhappy I was and reaching for something more, I sold everything I owned, quit my job, and moved to another city to pursue my passion for dance. It was the first day of the rest of my life. I became a world-renowned Bellydancer of the Universe, grew a ½ a million dollar a year business, AND I was happy. I learned that success is possible by taking risks and following my dreams.

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?

Overall, I think work is going to look vastly different in 10 to 15 years. I think the biggest changes we are going to see are:

  1. Use of AI. As we enter the metaverse, we are going to see the use of AI to complete a lot of tasks done by humans.
  2. Conversely, I think that we are at the beginning of employee unionizing and equalization of power where companies are being forced to consider the humanity of their employees and start to treat people and profits equally.
  3. In the end, I think that means we are going to see a lot of people turn to entrepreneurship.

As far as what is the same, I think people enjoy community. We will see an expansion post-Covid of team building, essentially going back to and enjoying the human part of work.

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

If employers want to future-proof their organizations, they need to reprioritize the focus of their companies, essentially looking to be a beacon of inspiration. What if we measure the success of an IT company not just by its profits, but by how it treats people, how it treats the environment, and essentially how it functions as a corporate citizen in the world. The way you make that practical is by getting very clear on mission, vision, and core values, and testing whether they include all elements of the company, not just how much money it’s making. Then the onus is on the company to put that into practice and make sure they are listening to and communicating that to their employees.

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 are seeing a push from Generation Z to recognize the human beyond work, i.e., that people are more than their productivity. As they move into the workforce and start working for managers who are Gen X (raised in a much more traditional mindset of hard work), there will be a conflict of expectations. How will we measure profit and productivity?

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

The experience of Covid has created new non-negotiables, especially among working women. People are coming back to work with a stronger sense of work/life balance and are clearer about what they are willing to take on and do for a company.

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?

  1. We need to recognize working mothers and support them in their parallel roles as employees and as parents.
  2. Employers need to consider and support mental health.
  3. There needs to be collective representation of employees that is listened to.

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

Earlier this week I was facilitating a coaching meeting at one of the biggest investment banks in the world. As they invited me into the meeting, I was asked my pronouns to make sure everyone was acknowledged properly. They were acknowledging the humanity in the room by asking who these people are and how we can make sure they are comfortable in the workplace. Seeing this across large corporate entities gives me hope that we will hold people as important as profit.

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 are now seeing employers offer coaching, therapy, and a switch from sick days to general Paid Time Off. I think we are going to see a trend in companies acknowledging the whole person, including mental health. People will not be treated as commodities, but rather as equal partners in the company. This will allow companies to better serve the customer and community.

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?

The most important messages leaders need to hear from these headlines are how they respond to the needs of their employees, or you will lose them to entrepreneurism. More people are leaving the workforce because their efforts aren’t valued, the pay is low, and the benefits are slim. In short, they have no future with your company.

Working mothers need more flexibility in the workplace, as well. Consider their needs, not just yours. By doing that, you both win. If transportation and childcare are a problem, offer transportation assistance and child care benefits. Better still, allow them to work from home. Many jobs can be done remotely and that saves you overhead costs.

Company cultures need to evolve by allowing their employees to unionize and by listening to their needs. They must address the needs and wants of the whole person — within reason — not just their work performance. How companies measure success will be defined by both the customer and employee. Employees are no longer dispensable, in other words, and they never should have been.

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

To elaborate more on what I said above regarding societal changes that will be reflected in the Future of Work:

1 . We need to recognize working mothers and support them in their parallel roles as employees and as parents.

Many single mothers have no support system to help with childcare needs or health care costs, and they don’t have the option to work from home. The Covid pandemic taught people how to be flexible with how and where they work. They learned to be responsive and productive while taking care of their child’s needs and working remotely. It’s a viable option for many mothers, who seek more flexibility.

2. Employers need to consider and support mental health, both on the job site and by fostering favorable work conditions. Long work hours under hostile conditions will no longer be tolerated by the employee of the future, which isn’t to say that any generation would or should tolerate mistreatment.

Some companies provide free mental health counseling as a benefit of their service, outside of your normal insurance company reimbursement. These services address critical mental health needs of employees undergoing stress or change-of-life circumstances that affect work performance and the whole person.

There are also companies offering flexible work hours and work-from-anywhere options for mothers and traveling professionals. If you don’t offer this to your employees, you might consider it or they may leave your company to pursue their own small business opportunities. Many of my business and life coaching clients have come from companies that did not offer them the flexibility they needed in their lives.

3. Employees need representation and they need to be heard. There should be a company advocate to interface between employees and the employer.

You may have read headlines about some big-name corporations and their efforts to block their employees from unionizing. Naturally, that reflects poorly on their brands. Instead, you might encourage employee organizing efforts at the outset and make your company’s objectives known to employees while addressing their needs at the same time. Approach your business with a team mindset.

4. There needs to be a work/life balance for employees. People want to be treated fairly, work reasonable hours, and perform work that is meaningful, not just practical.

Some companies offer incentives to employees who volunteer or offer paid time off for volunteering. Intel and Verizon are good examples of companies that do just that. You might consider it. The community benefits and it reflects well on your company.

There are other companies that offer financial assistance to employees who engage in continuing education and professional development. They may also help with college tuition and the cost of professional memberships and associations. Again, the needs of working professionals are met when you approach training and performance with a system of support. You also gain a better educated and more skilled workforce, which makes you more competitive.

Companies should be measured not just by their profits but also by how they treat people, the environment, and the world. In other words, corporate social responsibility will be looked upon more in the future as a material benchmark of company performance.

For example, if a company pollutes the environment, it should be held accountable to the people affected by the pollution. Similarly, it should be expected to use minimally invasive procedures and foster transparency in dealing with the public. A portion of their profits should be donated to environmental causes, while not polluting the environment at the same time.

Ben & Jerry’s is a company well-known for its philanthropy. They lead with corporate social responsibility and their slogan is, “Peace, Love, & Ice Cream.” They often name flavors after important people or causes and donate a portion of their proceeds to causes they expressly state and those that matter to them as a corporation. As time goes on, more people will be looking to patronize companies that do good in the community.

5. Employers should offer support services and perks to their employees. They should also foster policies that allow for more flex time.

I have seen more employers offer coaching and therapy to their employees throughout the years to address the whole person in a trend toward workplace wellness. Some companies offer perks to encourage comradery and team building. There are even social clubs at Microsoft. Google offers free cooking classes to its employees. The list is as endless as the ideas your team generates.

Many employers have made the switch from sick days to general Paid Time Off that can be used flexibly as needed. Companies are seeing a trend toward acknowledging the whole person, from coaching and mental health counseling to adoption assistance.

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?

My favorite quote: “What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

~ Mary Oliver

I love this Mary Oliver quote because of the descriptors. She reminds us that life is short, but more importantly, it is one wild ride. I love embracing that — not having control, but instead I am making choices about who I am going to show up as.

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.

YES, Cindy Eckert, @cindypinkceo! She is my HERO for how she has approached business, funding, and mentorship in a truly female way. I’d LOVE to meet her and be inspired.

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?

You may email me directly at [email protected]. You can also follow my social media pages. They are below.

Thank you.

FB: https://www.facebook.com/lisa.zahiya
IG: https://www.instagram.com/lisazahiya/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/lisazahiya

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