Final prediction we made that is still holding up is that microbusinesses will spread their wings despite these economic uncertainties. Sometimes referred to as the “gig economy,” there are millions of temporary work engagements where a microbusiness or sole proprietor is paid for specific jobs or projects, and this will continue to become more commonplace as workers are no longer tethered to a singular company or a physical geographic location to conduct business.

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 Ryan Swehla.

Ryan is Co-CEO and Co-Founder at Graceada Partners, a California-based real estate private equity firm focused on institutionalizing value-add investing in secondary & tertiary markets. Founded in 2008, the firm has 0.5 billion dollars in assets under management (AUM) and employs a vertically integrated team of 48 professionals to source, capitalize, manage, renovate, lease and sell properties.

Ryan has over 15 years of experience in commercial real estate and capital markets. Prior to co-founding Graceada Partners, Ryan worked for two capital management firms for a combined four years. In 2009, Ryan and his partner, Joe Muratore, co-founded Graceada Partners. Today Ryan continues to focus on building a world-class investment company that achieves exceptional risk-adjusted returns.

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

The centrality of collaboration will remain in the forefront. The fundamental purpose of the office will remain the same. A majority of the “knowledge workers” will continue to have a physical place of work separate from their home due to the value of in-person collaboration. They will spend at least some of their time in physical offices as company culture isn’t easily sustainable over video conferencing.

Additionally, the footprint of most offices won’t change. Repetitive tasks — those which cannot be automated away but are simply time consuming — will be more and more remote or dispersed. Along those lines, the value of high-performing office environments will be even more important. Low-value activities or time-consuming solo tasks will be moved out of the office. There’s a shift taking place from a production to knowledge and creativity mentality. Because of that, there will be more of a preference for high-functioning office space.

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

I’d tell employers to be flexible. We’re going through a historic shift in how we engage with office space. The key is flexibility. There are four components, which I call the four Cs: Culture, coaching, creativity, and collaboration. If the goal is the four Cs, we’re not as concerned about how long people are in the office a day or how many days a week. We would be most concerned about the four Cs being maximized and accomplished.

The majority of people will still probably go into the office five days a week. Part of the reason we go into the office is because we want a psychological split between work and home. That said, others prefer a hybrid approach because they believe they maximize their efficiency that way. You want to be on the leading edge, not the trailing edge of that flexibility. So if it is a war for talent, employees will gravitate towards companies cognizant of their own four Cs.

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?

The biggest gap to overcome between employers and employees is going to be the desire for flexibility. Employers and employees at each company will need to come to their individual consensus about how much freedom and flexibility can and should be granted to workers at the company. According to the future forum pulse, 70% want flexibility in where they work. And with the shifting standards in how people can conduct their work, this will give employees leverage to ask their boss if they can perform their tasks from home a certain amount of days in the week.

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

The pendulum swung too far when the pandemic started, then again in the opposite direction when things began opening back up. It was a rough shift having many working professionals become acquainted with the work-from-home career style. However, when companies were ready to conduct business again in person, there was a lack of transition going back to normal.

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?

The pendulum was getting too far in one direction during the beginning months of the pandemic and then it swung violently the other direction. Now, the employers are trying to pull the pendulum back so as not to lose the value of in-person collaboration. Now, the employers, in the midst of a historically tight job market, are trying to pull the pendulum back. With that said, they are finding themselves with less leverage over employees if the company’s culture is lacking in creativity and coaching.

The benefit for workers is that there are more options on the table because they experienced the entire spectrum of fully in-person work and completely remote. They personally know what worked best for them and what didn’t, and they will put those desires into action where their job allows it. And for those who want it one way or the other, it could lead to them going elsewhere.

There’s a saying that goes “80% of life is just showing up,” but it would appear that that is no longer true given the current environment where high attendance does not necessarily translate into valuable productivity. We’ve all created spaces to work from home, so a societal shift could come in blueprints for new housing or apartments. This could be keeping the same square footage, but having, say, a smaller kitchen, in order to have more room for in-home office space.

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

We have already become more and more an outcome-based work environment. The shift in work has only exemplified this. As the options of the workplace grow and cultivate, it will lead to a work environment almost fully based on outcome. As an entrepreneur, we live and die by our performance, not by showing up to work. If society as a whole has shifted more that direction, that’s a good thing, and should be encouraged.

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 will want to — or in some cases, have to — move towards a more flexible environment. Companies that give employees options will be viewed in a better light by prospective workers than those with a rigid in-the-office mentality or a full-on work-from-home approach. The pandemic unleashed feelings people were already having, so it is best for employers to, at the very least, not ignore these sentiments.

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 pandemic instigated a lot of existential questions: Where am I going, what am I doing? What is important to me, do I want to work for someone else? Am I creating the family or personal life that I want? How much control do I want over my time and my own destiny? Where would I move if I could live anywhere? Employers need to be aware of all these questions that people are asking themselves. Culture has become more and more a central aspect of deciding where people need to be. And personal choice has taken the forefront, leading to the tighter labor market. Giving people more options for ways that companies can build culture is a great place to start for workers to settle down at your company and “find” their purpose with you and your organization.

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

We actually discussed this in a trends report we wrote back in 2020 entitled The Future of Work where we, funny enough, discussed five trends. The first trend we predicted was the rise of secondary cities. Cities like Sacramento will continue to take off as working professionals re-evaluate their current lifestyle decisions and leave the Bay Area to work inland, either remotely or for Sacramento-based companies.

The second trend we’d predicted had been that the hybrid office model would take off, and I still believe it’ll remain strong. Flexible work spaces and having certain employees in the office on certain days will become the norm as employers rethink the finite amount of office space they have for their employees.

The third trend we anticipated was the reinvigoration of shared office spaces, and in secondary markets and outpost economies, this is very true. In Nashville there are four WeWork offices, and I’d expect these work spaces to become more prevalent as workers recognize the value of an office setting as opposed to their kitchen table.

Fourthly, we predicted there would be better office space for small business owners. In markets like Chicago, with its iconic Loop, skyscraper occupancy is downsizing and smaller companies can move up the food chain, so to speak. They can get pristine real estate at a better rate — potentially a 15 to 20 percent better rate than before the pandemic in certain instances.

The fifth and final prediction we made that is still holding up is that microbusinesses will spread their wings despite these economic uncertainties. Sometimes referred to as the “gig economy,” there are millions of temporary work engagements where a microbusiness or sole proprietor is paid for specific jobs or projects, and this will continue to become more commonplace as workers are no longer tethered to a singular company or a physical geographic location to conduct business.

What’s your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? And how has this quote shaped your perspective?

“A person’s success in life can be measured by the number of uncomfortable conversations he or she is willing to have.” -Tim Ferriss, American Entrepreneur.

This quote means a lot to me because only through putting yourself out there you allow yourself to get anywhere. It’s similar to that mentality of the “hard times create strong men” idea. Perseverance through challenging discussions or troubling points in our lives leads to us growing, even in the aftermath of failure. Moving past and learning from our previous mistakes is the only way to grow.

How can they best connect with you and stay current on what you’re discovering?

You can connect with me on LinkedIn and check out the Graceada Partners page. You can also listen to my podcast, Durable Value, which I co-host with my business partner Joe Muratore (which is also available on Spotify, Apple Music, Audible, and elsewhere).

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