Collaboration and communication. In response to the pandemic, collaboration technologies have been credited with inspiring improvements and innovation. Technology is constantly evolving, and we are now witnessing a new normality in how businesses operate, and teams collaborate. From virtual conferences and video meetings to cloud technologies and out-of-the-box collaboration applications, all have become a reality in our business life.

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 Spiros Skolarikis.

Spiros Skolarikis, the founder and CEO of Genesis (1990), Symmetry (1993), B‐Open (2004) and Comidor (2016), has been a passionate developer, a software architect, and a serial entrepreneur for the last 30 years. Spiros has committed himself to developing innovative software technologies and transformational business applications, while he is consistently looking for differentiation. Spiros has been working since 2000 on software development platforms, business processes, and automation technologies. Comidor, currently delivers Comidor Business, a Hyperautomation business suite integrating BPM, RPA and AI, and Comidor Cloud, a Low-Code Application Lifecycle Management Studio, enabling new generation developers to build composable web and mobile business applications.

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.

It is said that failures and frustrations are more influential in shaping our personality than happy endings. A strong punch in the face, literally and metaphorically is a shocking event and may be a life experience. My first entrepreneurial endeavor with a few friends was a hard punch for me. It started in order to chase our young dreams, but ended in bitter disappointment. It shaped, though, my character to be the person I am today, it taught me why and how to improve my emotional intelligence and above all made me resilient and strong enough to try again harder or make another effort.

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?

Work principles will remain the same. Employees will perform business tasks and processes, working independently or collaboratively, under certain rules and conditions and will get rewarded in various ways for their effort. However, breakthrough technologies, such as artificial intelligence, robotics, augmented reality, and at the same time people’s desire for a new work-life balance, and the need of businesses to attract and engage high potential employees, will eventually transform the workplace. Future workplace will be a meta-work environment, that will be technology driven, flexible, open, and unbiased. This is, undoubtedly, despite possible short-term issues, the best for both businesses and employees. The question here is how many companies have the capability to adapt and what percentage of the total workforce will enjoy that ‘future workplace’? How many of them will be left behind, and how this gap will influence labor market?

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

Firstly, they must realize that the business environment shouldn’t be a 24X7 arena in order to increase productivity and sales numbers. Such an environment will create unhappy and burnout people, and inevitably this leads to failed or unsuccessful organizations. Flexibility, freedom, collaboration, and justice are structural elements of any well-functioning society and that is also true for organizations and their people.

Secondly, they should focus on creating a learning culture in their company. It’s crucial for businesses to provide employees with training and development programs. This is an important aspect for them, so that they are constantly improving themselves. When employees feel empowered and are knowledgeable about the company they work for, this will result in a great outcome for customers as well.

And last, but not least, they should consider investing in automation technologies that reduce complexity but increase the efficiency of business workflows, safeguarding the organization against any radical changes in workforce.

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?

Employees, rarely believe that are paid fair or enough for their effort. They are seldom satisfied with their career path, blaming the company for that, and they are almost never happy with their work-life balance. Employers should listen to their employees, understand their expectations, and satisfy their needs, when possible. Not all the companies can be among the highest-paying ones, but every company is capable of developing a fair, open and flexible workplace for its employees.

Businesses, especially large ones, must learn from startups, how to create such a workplace, which is friendly to younger generations and where owners and employees work side by side. Startups, of course, should not forget their values and their creativity while growing.

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

Working From Home (WFH), is not a new condition. However, due to the pandemic, most of the businesses were pushed to operate remotely and so WFH became rapidly the new normal working life, even in industries where remote working was beyond any imagination a few years ago. The future of work is shifting toward a hybrid model that combines both remote and in-person workplaces. The goal is to provide employees the freedom of working remotely while preserving the social interaction and knowledge sharing that only a physical workplace provides. The problem arises from the fact, that the fast-growing diversity in the workforce, is leading to a heterogeneous working environment, where one size fits none. So, the hybrid model must be designed properly, and be fully supported by smart collaboration and productivity technologies to improve employees work-life balance, whatever this means for each one, and satisfy the thirst of businesses for higher productivity.

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?

Pandemic has initiated a tsunami of changes in society, economy, and culture. Some of these changes were urgent, focused only on mitigating the obvious risks in public health and economy, and probably these conditions will be restored to normal when the pandemic is over. Others, for example, the changes in the workplace, are here to stay. But, possibly, the biggest change the pandemic has brought, is that made us rethink life, health, and science. The future of work has not only to do with technology but essentially with a new employer-employee relation and subsequently a redefinition of work as we know. That will inevitably affect society too. So, businesses, the workforce, and society must collectively confirm, support, and enhance the new model, so that not only a small, privileged group of people get benefit from, but to serve the greater good. I know, some of you, will say that this is wishful thinking, but we can start by transforming education to create a more inclusive, open, fair, and creative culture, empowering the future workforce with the necessary skills to face the challenges of work reality, and guiding next generations to achieve a healthier work-life balance.

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

I believe in technology, which is driven by social values and serves the greater good. Even though many people feel threatened by the idea of automation and robotization, technological advancement is not bleak- it’s full of opportunities. If employees adapt to this new reality by gaining the skills that are needed in a tech-driven world, they will continue to flourish in their careers and achieve their goals. The workforce won’t have to do mundane and time-consuming tasks, but perform only meaningful and creative ones. Employees can work from anywhere and focus on what they’re best at, which in turn will make them happier and more fulfilled by what they do. With these changes coming about, work-life balance may be closer than ever before.

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?

Many organizations, including ours, embrace initiatives, and deploy strategies that focus on creating a workplace where employees feel satisfied, valued, and motivated.

For instance, flex time, remote working, personal, frequent calls with managers and team leaders, constant work acknowledgment and appreciation are only some of the initiatives proven to help improve and optimize employees’ wellbeing.

More than that, the sense of belonging is a critical factor for employee’s wellbeing and mental health. If employees feel like they are an integral part of a team, they are happier, more passionate, and full of energy to perform tasks, and meet corporate targets. Exceptional employee satisfaction and work experience lead undoubtedly to excellent operational results and growth. In that direction, employers must introduce the company to employees, in a clear and fair way, and illustrate what we are doing, why we are doing it, where we aim to go and how their active participation will influence the future of the company. This is not simply a strategy, it’s ontology. People will never be happy, when they have the feeling that they work just for living.

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?

Messages that come from the headlines, speak loudly for a deep crisis in the economy, health, business, and society that reflects in workforce behavior. This is an enormous cultural crisis and leaders must face it as a much bigger and more serious phenomenon than a parodical and self-corrected. Employees, especially younger ones, are seeking a deeper meaning and a clear purpose in what they are doing and why they are working. They realize that they will spend the best part of their lifetime working, even if their workplace is a sunbed on a beach, and they feel incomplete.

Therefore, company culture must be cultivated and evolved to recognize the changing needs of the workforce. Company values must boost employee’s morale. Company mission must be aligned with the society in which operates. Company differentiation must encourage employees to be part of it. One size doesn’t fit all, but most employees want to further the purpose of their company and work for the growth of it when work accomplishments are recognized and when they feel that they are respected and valued for their contribution.

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. Hybrid working models

Recently, it has become fashionable to blame the pandemic for the mass emigration of employees from traditional office settings to digital ones. While the correlation between the pandemic and remote digital work cannot be ignored, the shift from the physical, in-person workplace to the digital one was unavoidable. With a vast majority of employees having the opportunity to choose between working remotely or not, the hybrid working model will only become more comprehensive, important, and pervasive.

2. AI-enabled workforce

The rapid evolution of robotic and intelligent automation is not only creating challenges but also opportunities for the future of work and workplace. Robotic technologies, like RPA and ML, combined with human-centric technologies, such as Low-Code, revolutionize work, while at the same time enable business professionals to design better organizations and work faster and smarter.

3. IoT for workplace safety

The Internet of Things has grown to become essential for workplace safety. Integrating IoT can help yield significant connectivity between employees and devices alike. IoT-connected phones, tablets, and other devices can seamlessly communicate with work systems. Setting up video meetings, and coffee breaks are all great ideas that can help employees stay mentally engaged. Additionally, IoT can change the workplace in a way to keep employees safe, by monitoring their health status and wellbeing. Employees’ virtual signs, temperature, and other vitals can be monitored in real-time by IoT sensors, worn by employees.

4. Collaboration and communication

In response to the pandemic, collaboration technologies have been credited with inspiring improvements and innovation. Technology is constantly evolving, and we are now witnessing a new normality in how businesses operate, and teams collaborate. From virtual conferences and video meetings to cloud technologies and out-of-the-box collaboration applications, all have become a reality in our business life.

5. Last, but not least, Leadership

Everything seems to change. The pandemic caused widespread changes, digital transformation is taking over the entire world, but in these uncertain and turbulent times, one thing is more evident than ever. People need leaders. Not professional ones or managers, but highly competent leaders who are able to show the way, create trust, and put people first.

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?

It’s difficult to pick one. Think different! It sounds very simple and straightforward, but it’s not. It provides the fuel to every innovation in technology or business, but also means to rethink, consider even the most unpopular thought, find alternatives, count every possibility. First thoughts are rarely leading to the right decisions, so I try to think alternatively and differently not only from others, but from myself too.

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.

Being faithful to my ‘Think different quote’ I would love to have a lunch with J.R.R Tolkien and chat about fiction and reality. He could narrate to me the mystery about the future workspace. Unfortunately, it’s unlikely to 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?

You can reach me on my LinkedIn profile. For those who want to learn more about Comidor they can visit our website or our LinkedIn page.

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