Relationships at Work Will Get More Personal. No, we’re not talking about romance, we’re talking about making meaningful connections with your co-workers and building bonds that make teamwork more successful and work in general more bearable. The dehumanization of the workforce has crept into many organizations in recent years, increasing the need for a basic level of empathy and compassion amongst co-workers. Taking the time to connect with employees about their lives outside of work is really important — grabbing the occasional coffee or having a team lunch may be a thing of the past, schedule video 1-on-1’s, or set up a fun virtual event for your team. Making these a regular habit will help your team form better relationships with you and each other, and will also benefit everyone’s mental well-being.
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 Sammy Courtright.
Hailing from Australia, Sammy Courtright is the co-founder and Chief Brand Officer of Ten Spot, an all-in-one platform that helps companies connect, engage and manage remote and on-site employees. With a BA in Fine Arts from the University of Miami, Sammy is a certified Pilates instructor who brings a blend of grit and imagination to the zillions of tasks that confront every startup. While she wears many hats, Sammy’s passion for building culture has created an atmosphere at Ten Spot dedicated to positive thinking and collaboration.
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.
My college degree was in Musical Theatre which means that I am classically trained in singing, dancing and acting. I had no idea how much my theatre experience, specifically improvisation, would impact what I do today. The ability to think on my feet, actively listen, start conversations with anyone and say ‘yes’ to opportunities has given me the agility that is required to run an early-stage business. I used to think that my untraditional background and education was a hindrance to what I wanted to accomplish in the corporate world. But I’ve learned that it has really shaped me into the leader I am today.
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?
Same: I do believe that the workforce will continue to remain distributed or fully-remote.
Different: I think the physical workspace will change dramatically. We will learn over the next few years what we really require from an office and it won’t be a space for ‘desk work’, we can do that at home. Workspaces will be used for brainstorming and strategy sessions.
There are rumblings of this happening already but I do think that higher-performing individuals will take on multiple jobs at once. For example, a seasoned CTO might work for two or three companies at the same time. This obviously assumes that technology improves dramatically to assist with time management and productivity.
Work from anywhere. I think apartment buildings and new developments will consider that work from home is here to stay and adapt floor plans to cater for home offices, virtual meetings, etc for a more seamless work/life experience.
The metaverse is already here. Now imagine how that will impact the future of work. Virtual headsets, the ability to join meetings anywhere in the world ‘in person’… the possibilities are endless.
What advice would you offer to employers who want to future-proof their organizations?
It’s time for companies to really look at what it means to become a remote-first company. A big part of this involves the technology involved — companies need to determine what programs and platforms will best improve and streamline processes, and keep their employees connected and engaged.
Put an emphasis on making sure employees are building personal relationships with each other — between peers, between managers and their teams, and direct reports, between executives and all employees. Many people feel lonely as a result of working from home and miss work relationships. Additionally, if an employee doesn’t feel like they have strong relationships at work, the more likely they may be to jump-ship. Two important things to invest in to help make it easier for employees to build personal relationships with each other are training for managers on how to manage people, and relationships, remotely, and to offer a wide variety of virtual social events so that employees have outlets to socialize and engage with each other in a fun, low-pressure way.
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?
There’s no need to predict the gaps because the gaps are already there — training for managers on how to manage remotely, giving employees a way to socialize while working remotely, and the need to treat each employee as a whole person who has a life outside of their daily work.
A strategy to consider to address all of these gaps is to look at the benefits they offer employees from a 360-degree perspective — training, health, wellness, socialization, etc. Employers need to consider doing away with offering only blanket benefits or a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach. Today’s employees — no matter what their age — have come to desire a range of health and wellness benefits that are robust and have an impact on their lives. Many companies are now considering a marketplace approach or offering a stipend so employees can be reimbursed for any ‘wellness’ service they use. This expands both the access and availability of services, allowing employees to personalize their benefit experiences on their own terms.
Additionally, it’s essential to build a sense of community in the workplace — especially when employees in the workforce are working remotely. Many younger workers rely on the workplace to provide them with opportunities for socialization, and 62% of GenZ workers are enthusiastic about the positive impact virtual events had on their company culture during the pandemic. Virtual team events like trivia or game nights enable teams to get to know each other outside of day-to-day work interactions.
We simultaneously joined a global experiment together last year called “Working From Home.” How will this experience influence the future of work?
It’s so interesting because this “global experiment” of working from home has already influenced the future of work, and we found that people adapted to it fairly quickly.
Through surveys of workers across the nation that we conducted about a year apart from each other, we learned that the COVID-19 pandemic drastically accelerated the adoption of the hybrid workforce, as 88% of workers are open to remote or hybrid work. Today 48% of people want to continue working from home full time — an increase of 8% from October 2020. 30% want to continue to work remotely a couple of days a week, and only 11% of workers say they never want to work remotely again.
Overall, many have adjusted to working from home and are now experiencing more benefits than they were in October 2020. For example, 50% say they have more time to exercise (a 19% increase from before) and 51% say they feel less stressed (a 22% increase). Women, in particular, are experiencing the benefits, with 48% saying they have more time to exercise (a 27% increase) and 56% saying they feel less stressed out (a 30% increase) before. Not having to commute remains the #1 benefit at 52%, but is a drop from the previous 60%.
However, embracing remote work doesn’t come without some concerns as 47% are concerned that they might be passed over for promotions, pay increases, or new opportunities if they continue working from home full time. And, of those who want to continue to work from home full time, 53% have this concern. Companies will need to do as much as they can to address and remedy these employee fears of being overlooked for promotions and career opportunities because they work from home full time.
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?
Employers are now really realizing that employees are not just employees anymore, but that they are people with lives outside of work. In reality, this has always been the case, but anyone who has been on a Zoom call in the past 18 months now knows a lot more about the dogs, cats, kids, partners, and parents in their co-workers’ lives.
The blurred line of work and life has encouraged employees to expect their companies to consider and acknowledge their whole selves and the roles they play outside of work — whether that’s parenthood or caring for an aging parent, or pursuing a passion such as playing in a band, taking yoga teacher training classes, getting an advanced degree, etc. Additionally, this includes 360-degree wellness — mental, physical, and social — along with embracing flexibility with work hours.
What is your greatest source of optimism about the future of work?
Mental health has always been a really important topic to address, but finally — because of the pandemic — it’s getting the much-needed attention it deserves. We have younger workers to thank for that because they have seen, and perhaps already experienced the burnout, stress, and anxiety that comes with balancing work, life, and personal health during a global pandemic. And they haven’t been quiet about it, but are raising their hands and asking for help in a variety of forms — meditation classes, mental health resources, more flexible work hours, etc.
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?
Considering many workplaces seem to be behind when it comes to addressing employee mental health and well-being, before getting innovative it would be a good idea to make sure employers are covering the basics. Three ways to start include the following.
1. Know what the symptoms of depression are. Ensure your HR team is well-versed in symptoms of depression — which is more than just being sad or having a bad day. People who have depression may experience severe exhaustion and fatigue, difficulty focusing, feelings of emptiness, sadness, guilt, withdrawal from others, and sleep or appetite changes.
2. Encourage education. The stigma around mental health and speaking up about stress at work, combined with concerns of economic instability, mean we’re far from normalizing mental health conversation in the workplace. Provide training to leaders and supervisors on effective ways to reduce stress, and create practical goals for optimal performance and communication. Help leaders and managers provide a safe space for those struggling to create a positive and open culture.
3. Tell employees about available services and programs available to them to help manage their mental health. Many workplaces have employee assistance programs that include confidential mental health services. You can also provide employees with links to hotlines, such as the Crisis Text Line, or online therapy services, such as BetterHelp and TalkSpace. Additionally, mindfulness or meditation training can be helpful for everyone’s mental health. Meditation is a proven way to reduce stress and anxiety, train the brain to regulate emotions, and help people learn how to handle stressful situations. Plus, it’s now convenient and portable, thanks to online apps such as Headspace, Whil, or Calm.
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?
Company cultures can begin to evolve by making sure they are listening to their employees. For example, several companies have just charged forward with requiring workers to come back into the office, and that approach is just not working for a lot of employees, so they are leaving. The result is that company leadership needs to give employees an active voice in conversations about returning to work, or face the consequences.
Additionally, many employees have grown to become very socially conscious and active, and they want to work at a company that is socially conscious and active as well because it brings more purpose to their lives.
For example, 49% of workers said that in 2020 their company was involved in, or supported, a number of key sociopolitical issues including Black Lives Matter (40%), Women’s Rights (40%), Mental Health Awareness/Programs/Initiatives (40%), local food banks (31%), Voting Rights (30%), and LGBTQ Rights (29%). This is something that is really resonating with employees, as 56% of respondents say they would be more engaged and productive at work if their company was actively involved in addressing critical social issues, with this being the case for 62% of men and 61% of Gen Z.
Let’s get more specific. What are your “Top 5 Trends To Track In the Future of Work?” (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Relationships at Work Will Get More Personal.
No, we’re not talking about romance, we’re talking about making meaningful connections with your co-workers and building bonds that make teamwork more successful and work in general more bearable. The dehumanization of the workforce has crept into many organizations in recent years, increasing the need for a basic level of empathy and compassion amongst co-workers. Taking the time to connect with employees about their lives outside of work is really important — grabbing the occasional coffee or having a team lunch may be a thing of the past, schedule video 1-on-1’s, or set up a fun virtual event for your team. Making these a regular habit will help your team form better relationships with you and each other, and will also benefit everyone’s mental well-being.
2. The Gen Z Voice Will Get Louder and Shape the Future of Work.
Looking across the workforce today there is a stark generational difference between the generation that will soon leave the workforce (Boomers) and the new generation on its way in (Gen Z). Gen Z is not only laser-focused on using technology to solve problems — 63% think that using an employee engagement and productivity platform could help their company improve the company’s culture, employee communications, inclusivity, and training and development efforts — but 86% have already experienced discriminatory issues or abusive behavior in the workplace. As a result, Gen Z will likely have a significant impact on today’s workplace as we know it — from how we use technology, think about company culture, the ways issues regarding workplace discrimination and diversity, equity and inclusion are addressed, and how companies deal with the most pressing social and political issues.
3. Companies Will Initiate a Reset on Core Values & Bigger Issues.
The new era of working from home combined with the wave of resignations the workforce is experiencing has companies questioning if their core values represent their existing employees, and will ramp up for a big reset. A Ten Spot survey indicated that many companies supported or took action in sociopolitical issues this year, with Black Lives Matter (40%), Women’s Rights (40%), and Mental Health Awareness/Programs/Initiatives (40%) leading, followed by local food banks (31%), Voting Rights (30%) and LGBTQ Rights. It turns out that how a company responds to social, political, and humanitarian issues has a significant impact on company culture, and working for a purpose-driven company plays a central role in determining an employee’s engagement and productivity levels. Overall, 56% of respondents say they would be more engaged and productive at work if their company was actively involved in addressing today’s critical social issues.
4. Companies Will Double Down on Training — Especially for Managers.
Even before the pandemic, a report from 2018 indicated that 59% of managers hadn’t ever had any training on how to manage people. Because of the work-from-home transition that everyone has been through, this number might actually be even higher now. Managers desperately need training on how to be managers, and they need training on how to be managers remotely. Training managers to effectively manage remote teams is a huge issue because managers are struggling right now, and when managers struggle, their teams and direct reports struggle as well.
5. Physical Workspaces Will Continue to Evolve.
Companies are asking ‘how can we make the most of the days that we are together?’ leading to a reimagination of what physical offices will look like and what their purpose will be. We’ve already established that desk work can be done at home. With offices no longer necessary for everyone to come in, sit in, and work in all day long, offices will become spaces for collaboration, brainstorming, and strategy sessions. Depending on the company, the vibe may be more geared toward comfort (bean bag chairs, chairs with ottomans so people could put their feet up), creativity (wall-sized whiteboards, and booths to record videos in, that are open to all for in the moment ideas or concepts to share), and collaboration (a range of board games, indoor balls/sports equipment, and art supplies) that can be used for their primary purposes in team-building exercises or to use to problem solve and more.
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?
This is not a quote per say but I do remind myself constantly that timing is everything. Just because it doesn’t happen right now doesn’t mean that it won’t happen.
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?
Email: [email protected]
Thank you for sharing your insights and predictions. We appreciate the gift of your time and wish you continued success and good health.