Mentorship will be key. While employees work from home, leadership must be more intentional about offering employees opportunities to learn through mentorship programs, trainings, and guest lectures.

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 Ritesh Daryani.

As Vice President of People & Culture at Edifecs, Ritesh leads the global HR and talent acquisition teams. Ritesh’s role entails partnering with senior leaders to provide innovative ideas and solutions to ensure that the organization maintains its innovative and supportive culture. Prior to Edifecs, Ritesh spent three years as the Director, Human Resources for eCommerce Platform Organization for Expedia, and he earned a Ph.D. (ABD) and an MA in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from Seattle Pacific University, Washington, and MBA in Human Resources from India.

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.

Before he passed away in 2019, for over 80 years, I watched my father embody humility, hard work, and honesty in every aspect of his life. I learned that hard work pays off. In my entire life, I have never heard anyone say an unkind or negative word about my father. He taught me the importance of being a good human being and a contributor to those around me — to positively impact the community and the world we share.

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?

In 10 to 15 years, we will continue to see companies adapt to where and how their employees want to work. For example, at Edifecs, a global health IT company, we have introduced the “Highly Productive Edifecs” (HPE) work model, which empowers Edifecs employees to work from wherever they feel most productive. This model is designed to eliminate the stress of commutes, finding time to go to the doctor, and picking up kids from school. These flexible work models are here to stay, and more companies will be adopting this philosophy.

I believe in the next 10 to 15 years, employees will be deciding where they want to work. Employers will need to be adaptable and provide the tools and infrastructure to empower employees to work from where they are most productive. Regimented companies will be very challenged. To accommodate the multiple generations in the workforce — GenZ — Boomers — employers need to be flexible.

I also believe that the platforms we use to communicate and the enabling technology will continue to evolve and advance. I would not be surprised if we saw the advent of holograms added to Teams and Slack — a work-focused metaverse — and other tools to make the virtual workforce more effective. Remote work is here to stay.

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

To retain and attract top talent, try to avoid ad hoc approaches that temporally satisfy employees. Instead, focus on long-term company-wide culture shifts that consider employees’ long-term futures — professionally, mentally, career, financially, and physically.

Flexibility and adaptability. Make sure employees are productive and retained. Meet employees where they are.

In the next decade, I think we will also see companies of all sizes reimagine how they use their office buildings. Instead of a sea of cubicles, companies will likely look at how they are creating purposeful spaces for collaboration and ideating, mentorship, centers for employee wellness, fitness, and childcare.

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?

Employers who are trying to “go back to normal” once the pandemic eases are in for a rude awakening. The workforce and the workplace have permanently changed. Today, employees want jobs that offer flexibility, recognition, growth opportunity, and work-life balance. Employees are now in the driver’s seat and feel empowered to choose and advocate for the type of work that best meets their professional and personal goals.

To close the gap between the “old normal” and the new way of work, employers should start by simply asking what employees need to be the most productive, healthy, and happy. For example, at Edifecs, we regularly survey our employees to ensure we are not only meeting but exceeding their expectations.

Here at Edifecs, our employee wellbeing is the primary driver behind all our benefits and overall wellbeing plan. We believe that by providing a broad set of tools and offerings to support their physical, mental, financial, career, and emotional health, we can support our employees’ health and happiness. And being happy and healthy has a positive benefit on all aspects of one’s life.

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

The lines between work life and home life are blurring. This experience will continue to change the “at-home” benefits employers provide. At Edifecs, we offer our employees a stipend to ensure they have the equipment, technology, and wellness tools they need to do their best work.

When we first moved to a completely remote model because of COVID, people were excited. But it only took a short while for people to miss the human connection and that created anxiety and a feeling of disconnect. Information moves faster when our teams are in the office, and you can feel out of the loop when that information sharing slows. It was a rollercoaster and many people found it hard to balance and draw the line between their personal and professional lives. Now that we are nearly two years into this new model, people have adjusted (course corrected) but still miss the human connection. More people want to work from home, but they also want the option of connecting in person.

Edifecs is working to build an employee experience plan that will cater to people in all different work models that include fully remote, hybrid and work from office employees.

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?

We need to rethink work to focus on employee wellbeing. True employee wellbeing should never be a checklist item for companies. Rather, it should be a core tenant to a company’s ethos and infused into the company culture, leadership, and innovation.

Also, the fundamentals have changed. The next generation of our workforce, our kids, has normalized life during a pandemic. This will impact their entire worldview including the way they want to work. I also believe that this generation has a stronger understanding of the meaning of empathy and the importance of relationships. Family, parents, and a good social community are important for happiness and wellbeing. I also believe this generation will have a stronger, collective global understanding as their unique experience spans the globe and the experience of these children is universal.

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

While the pandemic has been an unprecedented and heartbreaking event, I am continuously impressed by our employees’ resilience. Our employees have navigated balancing work and kids’ homework, evolving COVID-19 guidelines, the barrage of negative headlines in the news, and just overall uncertainty in the world. Despite all of this, they have persevered and remained steadfast to our commitment at Edifecs to improve healthcare from the inside out.

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?

Employers have a responsibility to take a holistic approach to caring for their employees. Beyond raises and promotions, employees deserve the resources to care for their health and wellness (and their families).

At Edifecs, we’re proud to have built a 23,000 square foot on-site Wellbeing Center offering fitness training and yoga classes, bikes for commuting, freshly squeezed juice, healthy organic food options, and weekly cooking classes led by an onsite chef at lunch time. Since early 2020, the Center has seamlessly transitioned its services virtually, allowing employees and their families to access a range of classes and programs such as mantra healing, dance aerobics, meditation, and nutrition support.

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?

Leaders must adapt to the changing needs of our workforce and instill permanent changes to care for employee health and wellbeing. A few messages that I think are key to consider for any company leader to evolve include:

  • Trust your employees: Your employees know how they work best. Provide them the opportunity to work the way that is best for them.
  • Empower people: Enable your employees to work wherever where they are most productive. More freedom results in more accountability and increased productivity.
  • Infuse health and wellbeing into company culture: Employee wellness should be a top priority for all companies, which means it should also be ingrained in company values, discussed in company meanings, and exemplified by company leadership.

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

  1. Companies will create more pathways for people to reenter the workforce.
    Many workers have left the workforce to be a fulltime caregiver for children due to the pandemic. Employers should welcome these employees back to the workforce, once they are ready, through specially designed reentry programs and internships. At Edifecs, we offer a spousal internship program designed to provide this flexibility and smooth onramp for those looking to re-enter the workforce.
  2. Health and wellbeing benefits will continue to be core differentiators for high-growth companies looking for top talent. 
    Studies show that 54% of employees feel overworked and one in five employees believe their employer does not care about their work-life balance. Employers who are vocal about their commitment to work-life balance through health and wellness offerings will see better retention and more interest from prospective talent.
  3. Employees will expect their employers to positively impact the greater community. 
    During the Great Resignation, we’ve also seen the world pay closer attention to social justice issues impacting our communities. Employers must be part of a positive change through, for example, prioritizing diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives and offering employees time off to volunteer.
  4. Flexibility at work will be top priority for jobseekers. 
    About 90% of Edifecs employees said they “felt great” about switching to a flexible work model. Employers should provide the collaboration and communication tools for employees to work in the environment that best fits their needs.
  5. Mentorship will be key.
    While employees work from home, leadership must be more intentional about offering employees opportunities to learn through mentorship programs, trainings, and guest lectures.

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?

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” Mahatma Gandhi

I learned very early in my life, that if you want to change something, you can’t just point it out. You need to roll up your sleeves and take initiative to enact change. There is no point sitting on the sidelines and expecting others to do the heavy lifting.

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 would love to spend time with the Dalai Lama. He sacrificed his personal life from a very young age to commit himself to the bettering of all people. He is the embodiment of servant leadership and that resonates deeply with me as an HR professional. I believe that by having a serve-first mindset and staying focused on empowering and uplifting our employees, our HR function can have a broader and more profound impact on Edifecs.

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?

Readers can connect with me on LinkedIn here and follow Edifecs workplace innovation here.

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