Given the speed of all the digital transformations taking place in the workspace, more and more often data science is used in the decision-making process. It’s worth noting that in the future, many of the decisions will have to be backed by real data and numbers based on in-house research and more reliable sources of gathering data-backed information.
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 Vadim Nekhai.
Vice President of VistaCreate and Depositphotos. Seasoned executive with over 10 years of cross-functional experience in marketing, product, business development and general management. Co-helped the company (Depositphotos group) to raise Series A funding round from EBRD and TMT Investments, and led it through the M&A process to become a part of Vista, a Cimpress company (NASDAQ: CMPR). Currently, he leads VistaCreate and Depositphotos teams on our way to becoming the leading DIY creative design platform.
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.
When I attended university, I truly wanted to be a scientist. However, as a 2nd year STEM student, I faced an opportunity to co-create my first website and bring it to the top of Google’s search results. I did it, and not because I knew how to do it or was the best person to do it, but because I was exposed to the task and it was an excellent opportunity for me. That was in 2005. This single opportunity pivoted me, a future physicist, to the world of the Internet, and I will never regret it.
With that experience, I learned that when life throws you a challenge, you shouldn’t turn your back to it just because it is something new. Instead, just face it, and the results might (or will) positively surprise you. I used that principle every time I changed industry or needed to pivot — in the end, every change is a precious opportunity for you to learn something new.
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?
I think we will stay in the hybrid work era. What will be different — the role of offices will change. I expect here a change similar to the one Apple made for their stores — they turned these retail-focused places into community spaces for offline interaction with their customers. As employees won’t need an office to perform everyday work anymore, it will become a hub of innovation and social interaction. I see it as a brainstorming factory. The office will also help teams to keep a social connection, as we’re not yet ready to shift to a completely virtual corporate culture.
Another drastic change that took place that’s not as widely covered or talked about is new management systems and techniques. There is no ‘ultimate guide’ on how to manage teams virtually. We were just hit with a challenge during the pandemic and had to navigate through it collectively, sharing the advice here and there.
In the future, this will be a prime topic of exploration for professionals in different fields — especially those with insights into human behavior and psychology. More specialists will come forward with ways in which one could effectively manage a workforce remotely. We will then move on to management systems that we’re only beginning to explore today.
New technology will also play into this topic. There will likely be new systems that will allow workers to be more productive all the while balancing their personal life with their professional aspirations and pursuits.
What advice would you offer to employers who want to future-proof their organizations?
I’d advise supporting your employees to live and work anywhere, or at least providing them with a variety of location options for work. It’s a part of a global paradigm shift in the professional world, and businesses need to adapt to a market that is drastically different than the pre-pandemic one.
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?
After months of remote work during the pandemic, many companies struggled to bring employees back into the office and faced new resistance. This, coupled with the record-high levels of people quitting their jobs, has created unique labor market conditions where many employees are emboldened to negotiate for their needs.
The reality of work during the pandemic time showed people how much time they can dedicate now to their personal life — and still stay highly productive at work. Now we see the emerging global trend of the four-day week — some countries apply this practice on a government level. As we see, this is the next thing employees expect from companies. However, it’s a benefit most companies are not ready to provide. I see it as one of the gaps, along with the challenge of ensuring equity and fairness for the teams who can work remotely and those who are not in a position to do this.
As a part of our recent Great Resignation study, we surveyed people who switched their focus from a 9-to-5 job to launching their own business during the last two years (the years of the pandemic and the Great Resignation). The top reason for them ditching their stable corporate work and starting a business, in general, is a better work/life balance (47%), which is interesting, considering the 24/7 schedule of an ordinary entrepreneur. However, the second most popular reason for starting a business is the desire to be more independent (42%); it seems they just want to take complete control over their schedule to run things their way.
So, it’s not purely remote or four-day work people want; it’s freedom. Freedom to choose the time, place, and format of work that allows them to be productive and fulfilled. The understanding of this will help leaders to choose the right strategy to reconcile those gaps.
My advice here is to go rather through the two-way doors. For example, a year ago Vista introduced Recharge Fridays — basically, granting the employees half-day off every Friday for the summer — from July till August. It had such great success and a positive impact on employees’ motivation and engagement level, so we had it again this summer. Giving half of a day off in the summer doesn’t cost much for a business, but it has massive benefits.
Introducing the four-day week permanently will be a much more complex decision — and invertible.
With such a two-way door approach, you can easily provide your team with the benefits they want (or think that they want) as a trial. It allows you to experiment with no harm done. You’re going to learn something, regardless if it works or not.
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 has certainly had its perks and downsides. It’s important to note here that although many employees around the world enjoyed having more time for themselves (saving on commutes and certain costs, spending more time with family, and having a better work-life balance), it is also true that some felt the lack of contact with their coworkers, and the need and desire to interact more with their teams (an aspect that had a negative impact on them).
Having lived in this reality for quite some time, I think everyone learned to make their peace with it. Within our organization, we saw a positive tendency with higher productivity levels as we shifted to a remote-first workplace. For us it’s been a good shift toward offering the best of both worlds — being a remote-first company and offering the option to visit a coworking space.
As for the future of work, this approach paves the road to other challenges for organizations. For example, the need to consider a comfortable work environment, learning opportunities, and team building exercises, and in general, promoting effective remote work.
Employees now own their time, but with this, they also need extra support to feel like they are part of something bigger, and to feel that they are contributing to a vision and moving forward in sync with their team. The steps implemented to make sure this is a viable reality are the main challenge companies have to address in the future.
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?
There’s been a shift in mindset and attitudes towards remote work. But it’s not one size fits all. Although employees are quite quick to adapt, organizations still have a long way to go into establishing a comfortable work environment for all. This includes factoring in the importance of well-being, mental health, family time, etc. A societal change that is necessary to support the future of work is normalizing this reality where flexibility is key, being understanding towards the individual needs of employees.
The pandemic gave us much time to meditate on work as an essential part of our life to which we devote our time and effort. With this, I predict that employees will seek jobs and desire to be a part of an organization driven by things other than just a monetary incentive. But as I’ve mentioned that it’s not ‘one size fits all; there is a duality in many workforces where some employees see the opposite — work as just a means to make a living. This is the second thing that will have to be taken into account and normalized as we move on to talking about the future of work — how to adapt to duality in the workforce and maintain synchronization in terms of work attitudes.
What is your greatest source of optimism about the future of work?
My greatest source of optimism in general is the endurance, devotion, and perseverance of my team.
We’ve all been put under tough circumstances with the pandemic, which we all collectively and successfully adapted to and moved forward as a stronger, more united team.
More recently, the war in Ukraine has impacted us all — the team members in Ukraine and the many coworkers impacted by the situation within our organization. And still, I see the same devotion and strong work ethics from those that have to work under the toughest working conditions and most difficult circumstances. But our unity drives us forward as we continue to move from height to height without a negative tendency in team results.
Seeing the two events that shook work life up for us, and seeing how everyone has worked together towards our mission gives me the optimism that challenges can be overcome, and anything can be achieved, as long as teams collectively abide to higher values and stay true to them no matter what. How organizations aid in handling this is also key.
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?
Considering the turbulence we’re going through today, mental health support is a must for companies. At Vista, we offer our employees mental health training and internal wellbeing campaigns.
However, as a part of our recent Great Resignation study, we surveyed people who switched their focus from a 9-to-5 job to launching their own business during the last two years (the years of the pandemic and the Great Resignation). We discovered that 69% of them ditched the industry they’ve worked in before. It’s interesting to note that burnout wasn’t the number one reason for that (actually, it was number 4 with 24% of respondents). The top answer for almost half of the respondents was “I want to try something new.” So, along with the initiatives for mental health support, company leaders should consider the personal development of their team members — even if it’s unrelated to the business (at first sight).
At VistaCreate, we offer our employees a subscription to Masterclass with its wide variety of courses and partial cost coverage for any education programs they choose. Great ideas are born at the intersection of disciplines; it’s a fact.
Supporting your employees in their non-work development will bring you happy employees and breakthrough ideas.
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 VistaCreate, as we decided to explore the Great Resignation trend, we discovered that the movement had triggered an entrepreneurial leap of faith. With the help of Kantar research, we surveyed 4000+ people who switched their focus from a 9-to-5 job to launching their own business during the last two years (the years of the pandemic and Great Resignation). Our findings show that having job security was still a priority, with 51% of new entrepreneurs working part-time or keeping their jobs alongside their new business. However, 68% of people are ready to leave their jobs after establishing the business processes. So, we might expect another wave of resignations. The top reason for starting a business, in general, is a better work/life balance (47%), which is particularly interesting considering the 24/7 schedule of an ordinary entrepreneur. However, the second most popular reason for starting a business is the desire to be more independent (42%); it seems they just want to take complete control over their schedule to run things their way. It gives a clear message to the leaders who haven’t done it yet — set clear KPIs for your employees and give them as much control of their schedule as their work tasks allow.
Let’s get more specific. What are your “Top 5 Trends To Track In the Future of Work?”
- Further democratization of remote work . This is similar to the Metaverse — it’s already here, but we don’t have the proper infrastructure to get all the advantages from it. Most companies in the world are working remotely now, but there’re still a lot of organizational work to do. What we see now is that companies are trying to change the focus of their HR budget for benefits like home office spending coverage, virtual team buildings, etc. In the future, we’ll see the rise of the startups that provide home office optimizations for remote businesses — from virtual hiring and onboarding (with the consideration of company values, as well as inclusivity and diversity) to work-from-home furniture.
- Prioritizing continuous learning over traditional education when hiring. Nowadays having a college degree is not enough. Another prediction for the future is that employers will shift to pay more attention to learning initiatives as well as personal projects/side hustles that people take on that contribute to their competencies and skills. Although a college degree will always be relevant, other credentials could easily be seen as a viable alternative.
- Digital transformation and leveraging data science. Given the speed of all the digital transformations taking place in the workspace, more and more often data science is used in the decision-making process. It’s worth noting that in the future, many of the decisions will have to be backed by real data and numbers based on in-house research and more reliable sources of gathering data-backed information.
- New direction with flexible work weeks and worker well-being priorities. There is a lot to be said about the kind of flexibility that is now available with remote-first companies and hybrid models of work. It is possible that the future holds more flexible work weeks to allow workers to recharge as needed. This falls into the category of worker well-being priorities which is a central goal for many organizations.
- Shift to more whole-rounded organizations for growth. The workforce of the future is a very flexible, diverse demographic. Striking conversations about future work possibilities, employees will be attentive to factors such as workplace flexibility, perks and benefits, learning and upskilling opportunities, and paying very close attention to company values. For individuals, work goes beyond a paycheck as they seek ways to grow within the organizations they choose (as well as organizations that back their values). We’re seeing this as a repercussion of the post-pandemic work landscape.
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?
“You don’t learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing, and by falling over.” -Richard BransonEveryone has the right to fail; it is an inevident learning curve, and one should judge people not by the number of fails, but rather by how quickly they get up and whether they have learned their lessons from them. Transferring this to a business world, you should empower your people to make their own decisions and mistakes — that is the best (and sometimes the only) way to feel real responsibility and to learn to be accountable.
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.
Many people are capable of perfectly shaping a company when it is already great. Much less common are those who know how to build a great company from scratch. Even fewer can turn a “thought into an absurd idea”, or into a huge new market and massively expand within this market. Be it Elon Musk, Richard Branson, or Evan Spiegel — I’d love to personally ask them how they see success where everyone else expects only failure.
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?
They can always message me via Linkedin (https://www.linkedin.com/in/vadim-nekhai-36424b15/) or email Kris, our PR lead, and she will help to get in touch with me ([email protected])
Thank you for sharing your insights and predictions. We appreciate the gift of your time and wish you continued success and good health.