Flexibility: Employers must offer flexible work environments that enable employees to be their most productive while balancing their personal and professional lives.

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 Mikita Mikado.

Mikita Mikado is CEO of PandaDoc (formerly QuoteRoller), a leading all-in-one software solution that streamlines the process of creating, approving, and eSigning business documents, including proposals, quotes, and contracts. An entrepreneur, executive and former engineer, he works on, speaks, and writes about running self-sustaining companies doing innovative things in technology and business. When he is not working, you can find him catching waves on a surfboard or hanging out with his two daughters.

Thank you for making time to visit with us about the topic of our time. 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?

I think we’ll still be working remotely via hybrid workplace models. I do see this as an accelerator for workforce expansion globally, so I think globalization in the workplace will be more prevalent. And all of this will be supported by how workplaces function in a digital world.

In 10–15 years, I think we’ll see changes in a lot of processes that we’ve come to accept as status quo, particularly when it comes to digitization of processes and breaking down layers of internal company bureaucracy that isn’t aligned to remote work. We’re going to realize there’s easier ways to manage things and automate processes.

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

Companies of the future will be global, remote or hybrid remote and used to processing information asynchronously (not all at the same time).

I find when managing a team like this today that transparency is incredibly important for long term company success. It’s more than just sharing your company mission with your team — it takes an investment in context to ensure that everyone not only understands the mission but knows why decisions are made a certain way and how it’s all connected. If everyone knows what is happening and is on the same page as far as the culture code, annual goals, even quarterly OKRs, there will never be a question about, why am I even doing this, or is this a priority or why isn’t this happening instead? Transparency from the top-down has been so helpful for us as we switched to a remote-first company and, because everyone is aligned on company direction, I believe it will continue to be beneficial as we grow.

It’s also time to fully embrace digital transformation. That means getting comfortable with integrating digital technologies into all areas of the business. The shift to digital transformation has been ongoing for the last several years but the pandemic not only accelerated the need, but it also showed us how doing so fundamentally benefits how businesses operate and deliver value to customers.

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 think more and more employees will be looking for flexibility and the option to explore different opportunities within their organization. Employers will need to be responsive to these demands and think about innovative solutions such as internal talent marketplaces, internal job changes and flexible work schedules will help ensure they can retain and grow their best talent.

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

Remote and hybrid work is here to stay. I personally fully embrace WFH, as has PandaDoc. This means we’ve changed our benefits to reflect more WFH needs for home offices.

I don’t expect offices to disappear completely. I think the future of work calls for more intention in the workplace, hybrid work environments and I hope we see workplaces optimized for more flexible huddles, gatherings, training and connection and less emphasis about a desk to work from. Our office strategy in the future will be built around collaborating and socializing. I know this isn’t unique to our company so I imagine a future of work that moves further away from an assumption of “big headquarters” in favor of smaller, more intimate settings where teams can brainstorm, work together, and inspire collaboration.

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 we’ve already started to see societal changes that support our new normal in the workplace.

For one, the pandemic forced work into our homes, so the blending of the two worlds created space for more empathy in the workplace. Knowing more about each other’s home life has made us more compassionate and understanding of each other’s situations so we can adapt schedules, deadlines, and expectations at work. As a society, we’ve also become hyper-aware of the importance of emotional and mental health. Burnout is common when you’re working from home so as team leaders and members, we need to constantly be on the lookout for signs of stress and find ways to help support each other.

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

We’re moving towards a future of work that supports making the work environment work for the individual and not forcing the person into a mold for a company. I’m optimistic about this for so many reasons (for one, I doubt I’m the only person who doesn’t miss commuting to the office!) but I’m excited to see how we bridge the best of collaboration, teamwork and individualized work environments in a way that benefits both individuals and the company.

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?

If you mean collateral damage, I don’t agree that collective mental health and well-being are collateral damage to the future of work.

The biggest obstacle to transitioning into a remote-first workplace is taking care of employees’ well-being, including their mental and emotional well-being. For many of us, work is a very important part of our social life. Water cooler conversations are important parts of our daily lives and in a remote work environment, the lack of those social interactions can take a toll. We’ve tried to approach this challenge in several ways including virtual social events that bring people together like cooking classes, wine tasting classes, game nights, and fitness challenges. There’s a lot of ways employees can still feel connected with peers, but it does require employers to be more purposeful in their planning and budgeting to make it happen.

We’ve also found that mental health budgets are impactful. Either as a paid employee stipend or an added health benefit, providing resources specifically allocated to employees’ mental health empowers them to find the help they need, whether it’s therapy or daily meditation app.

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?

A company’s mission and culture need to be about more than just selling a product or service. Employees need to be passionate about their jobs and feel a sense of connection to the mission and managers. More than just loving what they do daily (they can do that anywhere), they need to be passionate about the company they work for, their role within the company, and the company’s core values. Instead of a company mission focused on having their product in every household, they should focus on connecting employees and customers to something larger. The company culture should be rooted in what kind of impact the company makes for its employees and its customers and how it fosters the same impact between coworkers. That’s how you get passionate employees — by empowering them to make positive impacts in their lives, the lives of their coworkers and for customers. There also needs to be a time and money investment in programs that allow the company to live up to those values.

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

  1. Flexibility: Employers must offer flexible work environments that enable employees to be their most productive while balancing their personal and professional lives.
  2. Internal mobility: Employees are much more than the function they are recruited to perform, and the best employers will enable their existing employees to explore opportunities that may not fit with their existing skills, and allow them to learn and grow within the organization.
  3. Ensuring diverse, equitable and inclusive workforces: Truly diverse and inclusive workforces will not only include ethnic and gender diversity, but also bring together people with diverse perspectives, life stages and experiences and provide all a sense of inclusion and belonging.
  4. Global and transnational workforces: It will be imperative to be able to work with teams across national boundaries and adapt to different work cultures.
  5. Digitized processes and automation: Software based tools and processes connect teams operating globally and digitized workflows can streamline processes and eliminate bureaucracy so that people can focus on innovation.

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?

  • Hard decisions — easy life. Easy decisions — hard 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 live near the coast in California and have a passion for surfing — Laird Hamilton or Kelley Slater, can I buy your breakfast?

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 can follow me on LinkedIn and you can also check out Customer Engagement Lab, our company podcast that discusses the latest trends in sales, marketing, and customer success.

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