Flexible work weeks: whether that looks like being able to take an appreciated day or having a 4 day work week some companies are adopting more flexibility in the traditional Monday- Friday schedule. In 2022 Nike offered a week off incentive for employees for mental health.

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 Shannon Dolan.

Shannon Dolan is the founder and CEO of Health With Shannon, a business centered on holistic wellness for the high achieving individual. Shannon focuses on blending the healing powers of nutritional therapy, movement, and nervous system support to help employees avoid burnout and maintain sustainable energy for the long term. She was recently voted #1 Nutritionist in Austin, TX.

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 “health hiccups” have shaped not only who I am today, but also what I do for a living. I have had issues with my gut health and hormones, stemming from chronic stress, poor body image, and an unhealthy relationship with food and exercise. Having gone through the challenging, and often isolating, journey of healing I have dedicated my life’s work to making sure that others are supported on their own journey. I would also say the experience of working with animals has been a huge catalyst in who I am today. Observing the power of nature, the innate wisdom of creatures, and staying curious as to the WHY behind behaviors has kept me curious. I believe that nature and animals are the best teachers and having this connection with the environment has led me to have a deeper connection with myself, empathy of others, and the understanding that what works for one might not work universally.

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?

There’s no way the workforce will be the same grueling 9–5, Monday through Friday that it is now. With the pandemic and the Great Resignation employees have opened up their eyes to a new possibility. With many companies going virtual, the flexibility of working from home being instilled, and more focus on mental health days, people are realizing that there is a new way to do business.

When employees are supported they are able to achieve way more then when they are driven to the point of burnout.

I think in 10–15 years we will see companies with a more centered focus on employee wellbeing. Yes, businesses want to achieve their bottom line, and maximize productivity, but they’ll do this outside of the 9–5 structure. There will be more flexibility with schedules, the ability to work from home more in places where that is accessible, and way more trust in the employee to get their work done on their own terms.

I think we may also see an increase in people shifting their work from the corporate world into something that might not pay as much but brings more fulfillment. Many job roles require work that requires you to continuously think about the project, deadline, or end goal. However, there are some jobs, like working on farms for example, that require hard work, but when you’re clocked out you’re actually clocked out. You may think of work outside of it, but at the end of the day there’s not much you can do until the following day. Whereas working from your computer means you could potentially always be on.

As burnout levels increase I wouldn’t be surprised if we see this type of change and pivot happen across the world.

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

Businesses have to have their employees well being at the center of their culture. It cannot be an afterthought or a little talk that is hosted here and there. It has to be a continual, rooted thought that is embedded in everything that is done within that business. A beautiful example of this is the business Patagonia that puts more trust in their employees, flexibility, and celebrates employees taking time off to go surfing. More companies will need to adopt this type of approach to keep and attract employees. Also, we cannot forget that compensating employees is vitally important. If your business is operating in a city where you expect your employees to live, yet you are paying them a wage that won’t allow them to live anywhere close to the office, there has to be either a raise involved, or flexibility with location.

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?

As far as what I have seen, employers and employees are expecting the bare minimum. Unfortunately there is a gap here. Employers think if they are paying someone the person should just happily go on with their work and there doesn’t have to be much thought into anything else. However, employees are expecting to be fairly compensated, supported, and to have an employer that isn’t just looking at them as another number on the payroll.

A strategy to close this gap could include feedback from employees, having a consultant examine practices in the business, regular well-being meetings, and assessments of compensation with the load of work.

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

Many people have seen that they thrive working from home! I personally have talked to many family members, clients, and friends who found that they could not only get more done at home, but take care of themselves while doing it. They can exercise during their lunch break, make themselves nourishing meals, and aren’t wasting huge chunks of the day driving in rush hour. In the future I think we can see increased flexibility with working from home, and the continuation of many companies being completely virtual.

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?

As a society I think we need to shift from this viewpoint of wearing busy like a badge of honor. This type of lifestyle of hardly sleeping, putting work before health, and living in a chronic state of stress has clearly not been working. All of these behaviors suppress immune system health and mental health, two things that the pandemic has allowed us to see needs support.

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

I’m excited to see companies instill foundational support for their employees health! This will be incredible not only for the people involved, but for healthcare costs in this country (the United States). I am also looking forward to seeing a shift in culture being less about being busy and more about being well.

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?

I know of companies who help pay for things like a personal trainer, nutritionist, healthy food subscriptions, and mental health help. These are all incredible starting points! One innovated way to make that even more incentivized is to reward employees for using these types of benefits. When people are taking care of themselves they are able to experience more energy and productivity. At the end of the day, every business wants to get more done, but there’s a way to do it that isn’t draining but energizing, and this is one way to do so!

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 common thread with all of these titles is a pivot/ shift. With that leaders need to be ready and willing to pivot! Leaders have gotten success from pivoting and shifting where needed, and now is another time to do that and flex that skill. The company cultures need to evolve by exploring where they are missing the mark, having an honest conversation regarding what they can do better, and redesign their culture to make sure it is centered around overall well being.

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.)

  1. Flexible work weeks: whether that looks like being able to take an appreciated day or having a 4 day work week some companies are adopting more flexibility in the traditional Monday- Friday schedule. In 2022 Nike offered a week off incentive for employees for mental health.
  2. Flexible work from home options: some companies have become completely virtual, or were completely virtual to begin with, like Athletic Greens. Allowing employees who have demonstrated that they can easily get work done while working from home, should be given the option to continue to work from home. Each person operates more effectively in an environment that harnesses their productivity, and if that means skipping the office for their at home office, then that should be available.
  3. Inclusion of wellness initiatives: it will no longer be enough to just have health insurance as the incentive for working with a company. Having access to nutritious food, if working in the office, mental health programs, wellness coaches, personal trainers, or even taking one from Netflix, unlimited paid time off! All of these can create a more supported employee which is the backbone of a successful business.
  4. Paid maternity and paternity leave: It surprises me that some companies don’t offer this, especially hospitals, but looking ahead, this will be a basic minimum requirement. This not only improves the health of the parent, but also science shows that having that contact with parents as an infant is necessary for appropriate development. Taking that away due to risk of a paycheck will no longer be accepted by those looking for work.
  5. Increase in pay: I’m hopeful to see this one happen with companies like Target raising their hourly wage for those working at the store. At the time I’m writing this inflation is on the rise, and things like rent have one up by 500 dollars per month, in places like Austin, TX. Assessing this and paying employees, and/ or at least supporting them with great health insurance and that flexibility to come into work or save gas money and work from home will be an important factor for those picking their places of employment.

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?

I do the same! Right now my favorite quote is to “ask better questions”. Something I picked up from a Tony Robbins training a few months back. It’s a perfect reminder to continuously reflect. He also went on to share a great question which is, “what is not perfect yet?” This is a great one to ask because you’re acknowledging that there are some great things happening, while also exploring that there could be a different way to do things!

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 chat with Brene Brown! She seems like such a down to earth person that would have some inspirational insights with a fun sense of humor!

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?

The easiest way to connect with me is through a DM on Instagram! You can also check out my content on Tik Tok. My username for both instagram and Tik Tok is @healthwithshannon

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