Remote Tech: New tools coming out every day to help employees connect even though they are working remotely. These will also be helpful for managers in tracking individual and team performance and goal achievement.
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 Tim Collins.
Tim Collins joined InDebted in 2021 to ensure that consumers worldwide have the best debt collection experience possible. At the company, he is spearheading internal operations and initiatives to ensure the company’s workforce is supported and empowered. He is serving on the ACA Innovation Committee, past Chair for the ACA Federal Affairs Committee Chairperson, a past Chair of the ACA International MAP Committee, and past president of the Association of Corporate Counsel-San Diego Chapter.
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?
The first one would be moving 13 times before I was 17 years old. I didn’t have a lot of long-term friends — some people will say “I’ve known this person since school, or they were my neighbor growing up.” I didn’t have that until high school, and I was only there for four years. The upside of this was having to meet a lot of new people and quickly learning how to talk to people you don’t know in order to make new friends — this means I am comfortable talking to anyone at any time!
I also had challenges with my speech and reading growing up, which resulted in a learning disability. Not dyslexia, but it was hard for me to read, comprehend, and speak words clearly. All of this put me on a path of not being the smartest kid in the room, but I was driven to do whatever it takes to learn, read and express myself. When I started law school, where it’s all about reading and learning, I had to figure out other ways that I could learn the material. I figured out that I learned best by talking to people — so rather than grabbing a book, I talked to as many people as I could, and absorbed my knowledge through them.
Both of these experiences set me on a path to continuous learning — part of my success is to never give up and never stop learning.
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?
The same — remote work is here to stay and will still be around, but we’ll be doing it much better.
Different — organizations aren’t yet offering true flexibility, but far more will be. I shouldn’t care where or when my team works, so long as they’re delivering results — in the future, this will be more the norm going forward.
What advice would you offer to employers who want to future-proof their organizations?
I think this is just the beginning of the change that we’re going to see, and we should expect to see more as it relates to flexible schedules. Pre-pandemic most of us were still working eight hours a day, five days a week in the office. This has changed significantly, but more is to come. The WFH mentality used to be looked down upon, and today it has become the norm. Future-proofing your organization lies in your ability to continue to look for opportunities to get the job done, but not do it in the way we’ve always done it.
The most effective and simple things that employers can exercise in terms of future-proofing their organizations and retaining their talent are listening to what their employees want and being flexible. People leave jobs because they are unhappy and feel like they aren’t appreciated. We took into account what our employees wanted most to make their jobs better. Our employees said they wanted more autonomy, more control, remote working options, and the freedom to set their own hours. We made the necessary changes to offer all of the above, and, so far, it’s working out really well.
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 is a truly flexible schedule — employees want to work when they want to work. People are going to demand more flexibility — life is so much more than just work, and there are so many other things that have to happen between 9 am and 5 pm.
Closing this gap and offering employees the flexibility to “slipstream,” as I call it, will be crucial. Supporting people to work when it truly suits them could mean working four hours of their day before anyone else in the same time zone is even up — I used to do this at my last company.
Even at InDebted, after rolling out a 4DWW, people want to use this in a way that works for them. They don’t want just Monday or Friday off; some are requesting Wednesday off as a mid-week break, and we’re finding ways to make this work for everyone.
Employers need to focus on closing that gap. Enablers such as adopting asynchronous tools will be huge in making this work for both the employer and the employee so that organizations feel comfortable that their people are doing what they say they’re going to do. My team has been trialing tools such as Friday and Slite for this purpose. My approach is that as long as you’re hitting the goals and deadlines that we need from the role, you’re all good to work however you choose.
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” is here to stay and it will be a crucial aspect for the future of work. As we’ve seen from these past two years, many jobs previously labeled as “in-office” have proven to be able to be done (and also be more productive) from home. We’re seeing it in job ads now, where employers are specifying whether it’s either in-office work or it’s remote, as this is fundamental to a candidate’s decision-making. Organizations that aren’t offering WFH will either have to adapt soon or they will fall behind in the future of work. People don’t want to go back to the office, or if they do, they want a hybrid model. People have this big fear that if I don’t bump into you at the watercooler in the office, we won’t have this game-changing moment, we won’t come up with the next Uber, or the next solution to our biggest challenges. All of that is absolutely possible in a remote environment — and so much more — organizations just need to put the time in and invest in tools and initiatives that enable it.
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?
Creating a future of work that works for everyone will flow into so many different aspects of society, outside of rethinking how, where and when we work. We’re going to see more work from home spaces in property development and how we build houses. Apartment developments will have more local spaces where people can go and work. This will include low-income housing development having to adapt too — all people will need working space or a home office.
What is your greatest source of optimism about the future of work?
It’s society as a whole. Look at what we’ve done in the last two years! The economy has grown, new technology has emerged, and we’ve adapted as human beings with amazing perseverance and resilience. There’s nothing we can’t do. I look at my family and our experience — for the first six or eight months of the pandemic we really bunkered down, didn’t see older relatives and kept to ourselves — but the opportunity to have that time together, to be creative (we even did prom at home for my 13-year-old step-daughter) — this was some of the best time we had as a family, in what was by all other means a really challenging time.
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?
Historically we’ve had things like an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), but I don’t see many employees using these in the US. A lot of mental health and wellbeing initiatives are focused on post-event — supporting people after they’ve identified that they’re struggling or once they’ve reached burnout. We need more strategies that are preventative, asking ourselves: what can we do to mitigate it reaching this point and support our people in real-time? I believe providing flexibility is key to mental health and wellbeing, but I think we’ll see more tools and maybe even the use of AI in this space too. Such as activity or behavioral-driven tools prompting people to take a break or go for a walk if they’ve been on their computer for a long time, guiding them through meditations, checking in if productivity and activity levels are low. That could all be a little “Big Brother” and futuristic, but in a remote environment going from one meeting to another or spending hours in deep work, it’s easy to lose track of time and not take the all-important breaks for yourself.
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 last two years drove a tremendous amount of change that may have resulted in resignation, reconfiguration, reevaluation — whatever you want to call it, but ultimately, it comes down to people choosing what they want for themselves, rather than being beholden to their employer.
To evolve, employers simply need to ask their employees what they want. Not this annual employee survey farce — we need to be more proactive on figuring out what our employees want by listening to them day in, day out, and providing it where it makes sense.
For us, making the move to a four-day workweek last year has been a game-changer. Our employees’ happiness, wellbeing and productivity have seen a massive increase, resulting in higher retention. We’ve also seen a 100% uplift in job applications across the entire business since the start, and in some individual business units, the increase has been as high as 700%. It’s something people have wanted for a really long time — not just at InDebted, but everywhere. We have to stop thinking of work as spending 9 am to 5 pm in an office Monday to Friday. It needs to be more flexible.
A four-day workweek may not be the solution for everyone though. As I said, ask your employees what they want. It could be better maternity and paternity benefits if you have a younger employee base, or retirement benefits such as matched 401k if you have a lot of people reaching retirement age. It’s going to be different for every organization depending on demographics such as age and culture or the industry you’re in — but the employers that can figure this out are the ones who are winning.
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.)
- Employee Empowerment: “The Great Resignation” and “Re-evaluation” are resulting in “the Great Reconstitution,” and this is just the beginning of employees dictating who they want to work for, when they want to work, how they work, and what work they want to do. Look for this shift in power to continue through 2022.
- Remote Tech: New tools coming out every day to help employees connect even though they are working remotely. These will also be helpful for managers in tracking individual and team performance and goal achievement.
- The benefit of time: More employees are going to want the flexibility to work when they want and to not have to work Monday through Friday. This is being driven by remote working, people evaluating what they want from life thanks to COVID, employees in different time zones now that they can work from anywhere, and the explosion of asynchronous software tools.
- Shorter stays: Working for one company for your whole career is pretty rare today, but still, many employers would shun a candidate that has a string of six to nine-month jobs on their resume. This will be driven by the things we have talked about above and employers looking for skills they need now that may not be needed going forward.
- Gapping: It used to be hard to explain a gap in employment. This will become the norm as employees exercise flexibility of taking a break in working to upskill, take time to recharge, or figure out what they want to do next.
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?
My favorite is to “be impeccable with your word” — I have a post-it of it on my desk, and it’s from a book called The Four Agreements. I believe your integrity is the most important thing you have, and once you lose that it’s impossible to get it back.
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.
Matthew McConaughey — I just finished his memoir, Greenlights, and I love the way he put it out there “for reals” and how he shared his learnings. Integrity and authenticity seem in short supply today, and here he is putting it all out there.
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?
Thank you for sharing your insights and predictions. We appreciate the gift of your time and wish you continued success and good health.