The four-day workweek: In the next two years, we’ll continue to see an increase in the adoption of the four-day workweek. By having this in place, companies can improve productivity and empower employees with the trust that they will get their work done. This will help create a future where employees can work the way that works for them and we’ll also see a future with less policy creation.

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 Traci Chernoff, Director of Employee Engagement at Legion.

Prior to joining Legion, Traci spent nearly a decade in key HR leadership roles for both luxury and big-box retailers like Target, directly supporting retail management and hourly teams across North America. Recently, Traci worked as a Director of Human Resources for global luxury retailer SMCP, where store managers were able to reduce the time spent on scheduling by more than 60% with Legion Workforce Management. Traci is also the host and creator of the podcast, “Bringing the Human back to Human Resources’’ where she destigmatizes HR by uniting employee demands and business needs while simultaneously challenging the perceptions and stigmas surrounding HR.

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 thing that comes to mind is my upbringing growing up with a sister that has Down syndrome. I wouldn’t be who I am today without having a sibling with special needs. Through her, I learned to appreciate our differences and came to an understanding of how life’s challenges can present us with opportunities to be grateful for what we have and to give back to others.

The second is my past career experiences — one where I had to deal with leadership that challenged my values. I faced the difficulty of two choices in dealing with the less-than-stellar leadership: stand up for what I believed in or follow an unethical leadership approach. I chose the former and learned how to use my voice to challenge the status quo. To this day, it’s one of the biggest learning experiences I’ve had in the workplace and I’m very grateful to have worked with the person that facilitated it as it allowed me to form my own leadership philosophy and lean into the type of 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?

The thing that will stay the same is the progression of employees being in the driver’s seat. It’s been happening for a long time with a shift in the understanding and further acceptance of employees’ true priorities. In 2021 alone, 69 million Americans quit or switched their jobs to find more desired working situations that allow increased flexibility. This shift has made companies alter the ways in which they attract, retain and ultimately keep their employees happy with better processes and benefits.

The thing that will be different is an increased focus on the gig economy. People are going to want even more flexibility than they have now with their hours and pay, and employers will have to be able to provide this in different ways to stay ahead. For example, instant pay is one thing that more companies may look to implement since it allows employees access to their income faster. This strategy incentivizes workers to come into shifts instead of calling out since they can see exactly how much money they will make in a day immediately. Companies using instant pay are on-trend and those without it are a few steps behind.

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

Organizations need to remember the basics and fundamentals of creating a good culture regardless of people being remote or in-person to future-proof their business. When they have a people-centric foundation that listens to employees and develops values based on culture, they are intrinsically future-proofing their business. In doing so, people will come to the table knowing what they need to get done and will also share new ideas that can push the company forward.

For example, at Legion, our mission is to turn hourly jobs into good jobs, and we use it to drive our employees to create new solutions and products that not only lean into this value but also make them proud to be a part of it.

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 gaps in what employers are willing to offer versus what employees expect, all comes back to flexibility. Employers recognize that the labor market is difficult, but they want people to show up to work in person even if employees keep saying they want to work from home or have flexible work options. If companies are not going to listen to employees or allow them their flexibility and take actions that respond to their feedback, then why ask the question?

In terms of strategies for reconciling gaps between employers and employees, employers need to relinquish some of the control they get from implementing in-person work policies. Although policies are usually leveraged to remain fair and consistent, sometimes they work against the intentions of an organization because they can become too structured or tense. Policies that are too prescriptive can make the company move backward in treating all employees the same way and applying a broad-stroke methodology rather than allowing individuals to have autonomy over what best serves them and their needs. Employees in every industry are looking for the autonomy to decide how and when they work. Organizations need to change their approach and be okay with trialing something and realizing that not everything has to be a formal policy.

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?

I see a four-day workweek becoming more commonplace amongst organizations. The pandemic has taught us that employees value flexibility. In fact, according to a Legion survey of more than 1,000 employees, 59 percent of employees want greater flexibility and control over their schedules. We also learned that not everyone works the same way. Seeing the way my sister adapts to society has made me learn a lot about the differences we have to this point. She can’t necessarily work the same way others can, but like anyone, she has challenges and strengths that need an accommodation to work efficiently. Similarly, by adopting a four-day workweek, companies are likely to see an increase in engagement because there’s a focus on allowing and trusting employees to do the job they’re hired to do.

However, I don’t think society will use a broad-stroke approach to implement a four-day workweek but we’re already seeing various companies in the U.S. and in other countries already testing it out. We have also recently seen a new bill proposed in California, to consider a shortened 32-hour workweek for larger companies.

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

There’s a real hunger for people to listen and understand what’s causing the Great Resignation. It always feels like everyone’s talking about challenges but I can’t remember a time when everyone had eyes on the same issue as they do now. Companies want to come to a solution on labor shortage issues and are willing to listen to employee needs. This makes me optimistic knowing people are trying to solve problems that truly impact workers.

Our collective mental health and well-being 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 well-being?

I’ve seen a lot of organizations push employees to do things in the middle of the day to break up the workday and help promote wellness. These activities include taking walks, working out and more.

The strategies in general also include four-day workweeks because it begs the question of whether or not you need five days to be productive at work. A second strategy is having a greater sense of employee appreciation and offering a marketplace of benefits that allow employees to handpick things that are important to them on an individual level. In this case, companies will likely adapt to the way we view mental health and well-being and offer new solutions to help employees in these spaces. Again, everyone is different, and some people might benefit from psychiatric therapy while others might prefer pilates classes, so providing those choices is becoming more commonplace.

Another is offering financial well-being tools and advice, which is not something we commonly see or talk about. This can either be seen through instant pay or financial well-being tools, which allow employees access to financial advisors and track progress to financial goals. These types of benefits help steer the focus on financial well-being from a more mental health and wellness perspective.

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 most important message is that leaders are not exempt from the challenges that are coming to light during the Great Resignation. Every single person has skin in the game regarding retaining and attracting employees. Some leaders who have retained their teams might think that these challenges aren’t relevant to them. If an organization isn’t focused on a positive work environment and culture, they risk losing valuable employees and it’s a long battle of recovery from there.

Company culture needs to change because although there may have been a successful culture five or 10 years ago, it doesn’t mean there is any today. In retail, there’s this feeling that people are lucky to work for the brand or company, especially those that are legacy companies. But the reality is that employers can’t become complacent in building culture. Every single person can add or detract from the culture, and with this in mind, it’s good to attract people from different backgrounds to add an assortment of personalities, experiences, backgrounds and thought leadership to the company.

Let’s get more specific. What are your “Top 5 Trends To Track In the Future of Work?”

  1. Increased flexibility: Having previously been an employee of SMCP I helped the company onboard the Legion platform. I did this with the understanding that flexibility will be a number one focus for the company and its employees, and that Legion’s workforce management solutions will help us retain our employees by giving them more autonomy over their work schedules.
  2. A greater focus on the gig economy: We are seeing a major push in other organizations starting to unionize as employees don’t feel heard by their employers. With the way the workforce has shifted, people will continue to push the envelope until they get more work flexibility similar to what’s provided with gig jobs.
  3. The four-day workweek: In the next two years, we’ll continue to see an increase in the adoption of the four-day workweek. By having this in place, companies can improve productivity and empower employees with the trust that they will get their work done. This will help create a future where employees can work the way that works for them and we’ll also see a future with less policy creation.
  4. Earning pay as you work/instant pay: People want to get paid when they wish and this is something that companies are increasingly offering. It provides companies with a competitive advantage and employees with a huge benefit where they can cash in a paycheck faster. It also enables employees to own their work schedule more since they have instant gratification from the pay they receive, allowing companies to see fewer call-outs and no-shows.
  5. Prioritizing culture over bad leadership: There are constant stories and questions submitted to me on my podcast where people reach out for advice on what to do with toxic company cultures and leaders. To help prevent experiences like this from happening, companies need to cultivate a positive culture and prioritize what top talent looks like. Company culture can make or break an organization — companies and its leaders need to prioritize what top talent looks like, weed out toxicity, and act on and commit to solutions from employee feedback. To help prevent people from leaving because of bad leadership, companies will need to rethink whether it’s the right time to keep certain leadership employees in the company.

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?

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” — Eleanor Roosevelt, First Lady

This quote has shaped my perspective because I care a lot about the relationships I make and I place a lot of value on how people view me. I have had to learn to balance that I’m not always going to be liked by everyone even if I take time to build authentic relationships with those around me. Unless I allow someone to tell me who I am and how to think, no one has permission to make me feel inferior. This mentality has always allowed me to persevere, even in the most challenging of circumstances.

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 be remiss not to say Beyoncé because I’m truly her biggest fan and if I could even be in the same room as her, let alone have a private meal, this would be life-changing; plus, we both love Lucali, the infamous pizzeria in Brooklyn. Beyoncé is not only one of the greatest singers of all time, she is also kind, humble, and private. In the age of social media, there is this unspoken expectation that success and growth are directly correlated to your online presence — but Beyoncé dispels this theory. She’s hyper-focused and has an extraordinary work ethic, which keeps her at the top of her game and is what enabled her to become the most awarded woman in Grammy history. And yet, she’s humble, known for her kindness and generosity, and also pretty removed from social media and the news, which I love. It wasn’t her presence on social media or publicity that led to her accolades, but rather the actual work she put in. To me, this is a major life lesson — work hard, treat people with kindness, and be humble — those are the keys to success.

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?

Readers can follow me on LinkedIn, Instagram, and my HR podcast, “Bringing the Human back to Human Resources” on all podcast platforms.

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