Childcare and home responsibilities — A key societal change that will need to occur to make a future of work that works for everyone, is to make childcare cheaper and easier to access. As we saw during the pandemic, the first people to quit were moms. With the rise in boomers retiring and just a general gap in workers, it is important to unlock this big supply of workers. I know many women for whom going out to work and paying for childcare does not make financial sense.

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 Sree Menon.

Sree is the CEO of Femtech start up in stealth. Based in San Francisco, she was previously — COO at Tophatter, a discovery shopping marketplace, and GM at ebay Motors & Director Online at Dell.

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

At my first serious job, as a young 24-year-old sales manager, I was driven and eager to prove myself. I worked every day and would have my team come into work even on the weekends. One day, after months of this, one of the team members gently pointed out to me that they all had families and that they wished to spend time with them over the weekend. That’s when it hit me, I was a workaholic who had nothing but work to look forward to. I quickly changed that when I started finding the joys of working out, meditating, and hanging out with friends, which helped me become a more sensitive and compassionate manager. Thanks to my coworker, who had 20 years over me, I was able to change my outlook on life and leadership.

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?

Some things are fairly clear, as we reflect back on trends in the past, it can be easy to make some safe assumptions about their continuity — For one, we will have access to more technology and businesses will look to become more efficient and productive via automation. Asymmetry of information will continue to go down. This will change how we learn and how we apply our knowledge. What this means is that work will be much more about judgement and social skills. If machines will do most of the grunt work, the value of a workforce will be around better decision making and there will be more jobs that will be created at two ends of the spectrum — jobs where tech is predominant in the role and high touch jobs like taking care of older adults.

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

It is super hard to future-proof an organization without knowing all things that could happen in the future. Nobody in their wildest dreams predicted a pandemic and everybody was caught by surprise by the ferocity and speed of the impact. But the main theme of the question is perhaps, what moats can we build in a business? This of course is very contextual, but in general — Scale, Defensibility and network effects are the qualifiers for building a moat. In the context of people — Going back to the basics — Being fair and equitable, having processes to train and develop employees, being transparent as an organization, and most importantly, giving employees a purpose — are all excellent ways to keep employees engaged and retain them in the long term.

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?

If we ask ourselves logically what anyone would want in a job, the obvious things come to mind — More money, better benefits, flexibility at work, ability to grow, thrive and find meaning in work, and less stress. But the real question is, are these difficult for employers to deliver? In theory, everyone wants their workforce to thrive. The difference is the level and scale of it. In the US, the income gap between the rich and everyone else has been growing for more than 30 years. Corporate profits are remarkably high, profits for S&P 500 Co’s rose 22% in the fourth quarter and nearly 50% in 2021.

Employees will want a greater share of this and will want to see their overall income and benefits rise. When employers start raising wages, their profits will go down and this is where expectations diverge.

For the most part, people want a good work-life balance and each company can vary their solutions depending on their own context. E.g., start-up’s may not be able to compete with blue chip companies when it comes to salaries and benefits, but they can offer inexperienced people very enriching experiences, which can be leveraged later by the employee as they grow their career.

Overall, I think the balance of power shifts more centrally and everyone gets to gain. At the end of the day, if fairness is the backbone of decision making and empowerment is a tool, then all parties can find sustainable and amazing solutions.

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

Employers are going to continue to want to control and dictate to teams as they have done previously. However, employees have become more efficient with controlling their own time and travel, and moving forward, they will demand the same flexibility. Travel is definitely a topic that will be questioned and evaluated.

Teams will be given more flexibility to manage life. No more rushing in a panic at 5.30pm to pick up the kid, or chase the 7.30am train. But there will be folks like myself who would want to continue to go into the office a few days a week and jam with colleagues, have a walking meeting, and high five a coworker when a deal closes. I predict that flexibility will be much of a norm than an exception. And because we are social beings and function well in many functions when we get to connect with each other, we will have some solutions to optimize for those. I see the hybrid/flexible model winning amongst all the experiments of Working From Home.

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?

Technology — We are already seeing a lot of innovation in this category. From technology tools that make employee collaboration easier to automation tools that will do simple and monotonous jobs. Even writing code is getting automated. All this not only helps a workforce to work from home it also unlocks innovation and entrepreneurship. I am seeing more people leaving their jobs to become an entrepreneur, and this journey is made easier with the access to technology. With off-the-shelf technology available, the barriers to entry go down; for instance, I recently advised a first-time entrepreneur who was a long time Heath care exec. She saw a business problem in her field and left her job to work on the solution. She was able to use a no-code software to build her product and use various modular tech solutions to build the end-to-end experience!

Childcare and home responsibilities — A key societal change that will need to occur to make a future of work that works for everyone, is to make childcare cheaper and easier to access. As we saw during the pandemic, the first people to quit were moms. With the rise in boomers retiring and just a general gap in workers, it is important to unlock this big supply of workers. I know many women for whom going out to work and paying for childcare does not make financial sense.

Training for new kind of jobs — As work evolves and becomes more complex, there is a big gap in qualifications, exacerbating the worker shortage. What we need is for college to become less expensive and for there to be more skills training, perhaps even at the school level. Companies will need to collaborate with their local communities and educational institutions and work towards building a qualified workforce and keep a long-term view.

Reduce inequity in pay — Building on the point above, we are predicting that more technology and automation will shift jobs to ones that are more complex. But there will also be more jobs that involve human touch and care. E.g. as boomers age, they will need more people to take care of them. These jobs need people with high empathy. As we focus more on education we will need excellent teachers. The pay is unattractive in all these socially impacting jobs. To make a future where everyone has a role and where everyone can thrive, this extreme inequity will need to be reduced.

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

It’s great to see the balance of power shifting. Today, the workers have more power than ever, and arguably, work will be much more balanced in the foreseeable future, /and that fills me with excitement for a future where people can achieve better and greater work-life balance and work-life integration.

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?

Large companies are already doing a lot, as they have more resources to allocate to employee wellbeing. Equally interesting is how so many companies have sprung up, paving the way for a whole new ecosystem to be developed and that focuses heavily on wellness, mental health, and overall fitness to micro niches in health (Femtech, Cancer care etc.). These companies are also rethinking time off rules — how many days a week do employees should work, how many days should be focused on mental health days, and how can work be more mindful about meetings and demands on the workforce after hours.

Smaller companies may not have the luxury of deep pockets, but nevertheless, smaller companies are following in large companies’ footsteps. I recently met a woman who runs a day care. She hosts a weekly contest to keep her workers motivated for maintaining a high attendance and the winner gets a $25 gift card. Though it may sound simple it goes a long way to creating employee engagement and building a sense of community.

At one company I was advising, every long meeting started with a 10-minute meditation session. The team felt that it helped ground everyone and helped their meetings to be more focused and engaging. Yoga, ice cream socials, massages or just reminders to take a break, are some of the many excellent tools employers are using to advance mental and overall employee wellness.

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?

At the very core, human beings are driven by the same needs. All of us want to feel connected, find meaning, feel loved and needed, and have less stress in our lives!

These needs are very hard for a company to deliver on, as may have capitalistic business foundations. Even in a country like China, that is very work driven, the 996 work culture (9.00am to 9.00pm, 6 days a week) is receiving a strong pushback. This system has been criticized to be the equivalent of modern slavery.

At some point, lifestyles and work practices have to undergo necessary changes and it appears that, the time has come. Companies today need to pay a lot more attention to their mission and focus on finding ways to connect each employee’s work to the mission such that it gives everyone a purpose and meaning.

We spoke extensively about pay equity and stress management practices, without repeating those same points, I would summarize the playbook as:

  • Focus on the mission, ensure every employee feels that they are contributing to it.
  • Work extra hard in creating a compassionate and equitable culture.
  • Build in speed breakers aka a culture where stress is reduced/managed.

This playbook will definitely translate to better retention, engagement and productivity of teams.

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?

“Pain is certain, but suffering is optional” — The Buddha. Life is a collection of experiences, how we receive them defines the kind of life we will have. If we are constantly jerked back and forth by them and react in a certain way, it will most certainly have an equal and opposite reaction, these are the laws of energy. This quote really helped me get a positive outlook and manage my energy and shape my future experiences

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 recently came across Naval Ravikant’s ( founder of Angellist) interview with Shane Parish. I felt that he was able to articulate exactly my spiritual journey & outlook in life. It’s great to see someone so successful be so grounded and real.. I would love to exchange notes about our experiences in life that have shaped us, over a nice long dinner☺

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?

I can be found at @Sreemenonkumar or

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