HEALTH OFFERINGS: The pandemic forced corporations to take greater responsibility for the wellbeing of their employees, both physically and mentally. Many companies will continue to offer innovative wellness offerings and new, comprehensive health benefits, both because it’s the right thing to do, and also because employee satisfaction and burnout avoidance is key to any organization’s longevity and growth.
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 Vered Raviv Schwarz.
Vered Raviv Schwarz is President & COO of property management platform Guesty, where she brings over 20 years of experience in global operations and overseeing teams including Customer Experience, Finance, Operations, Legal, HR, Customer Success, Data & Analytics and Strategic Partnerships.
Prior to Guesty, Vered was COO of Fiverr, where she grew the company from 40 employees to over 400 in her six year tenure. Before Fiverr, Vered held senior executive positions in private and public global tech companies, including Kenshoo, MediaMind (now Sizmek) and Radware. In her free time, she serves on the advisory boards of several startups and participates in mentorship programs focused on female entrepreneurship.
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.
After my second year at law school, I took a year off and decided to travel through Africa with my boyfriend (who is now my husband). It was a difficult decision at first to cast my schedule aside and spend the year traveling, but it was one of the best experiences of my life. The year taught me a great deal, getting exposed to new people, cultures and perspectives, and making decisions on the go. It was hard to break out of my day-to-day schedule and study regimen, but I realized that at the end of the day, if you have your idea set on a certain path, you can still get there via a different route.
In general, I always believe and encourage business leaders to hire individuals with unique points of view, perspectives and experiences even if they don’t check all the boxes of the general job description. Hiring this way will always result in a more diverse work culture that leads to better products and services, better decisions, and cultivates a better work environment that benefits the business and employees.
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 that the remote work culture that started during the pandemic is here to stay, especially in different hybrid models. People want to meet in person and have human connections, but also appreciate the flexibility that remote work has enabled. The younger generation of workers crave to break free from the traditional mold and create unique experiences. Breaking up the day-to-day with work from home or from new locations will continue and should actually be encouraged by employers. Companies that facilitate this will thrive in my opinion.
In the future, I predict that more and more technologies will enable us to work even better remotely. Companies that do not evolve will not succeed. At the end of the day, work culture is important. People choose to work with people, and great managers, not companies, even in a remote environment. I don’t see that ever changing in the future, regardless of the format or model.
What advice would you offer to employers who want to future-proof their organizations?
Flexibility is an important factor for employers to future-proof their organizations. While tech companies have long invested in their office amenities to attract and retain talent, flexibility and hybrid work formats — as well as opportunities for employees to do purposeful work that has a positive impact — are the new “perks”. Those organizations and companies who can guarantee their employees the option to have an office environment when they choose and to work remotely and from home as they see fit will be able to guarantee the longevity of their employee retention. Open communication is also key for any organization. Make sure you listen to your employees and adapt dynamics and policies in the organization accordingly.
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?
Companies can mitigate the gap between offerings and expectations by keeping flexibility and diversity as keys to their organization. There can be a tension between balancing work in the office and work from home with other aspects of life. It is up to companies to educate their employees to make the best of both worlds. In terms of in-office work, companies now need to show their employees how they benefit from coming into the office. That could be simply keeping in touch with colleagues, feeling immersed in the values and vision of the company, working better with their co-workers in a face-to-face setting, sitting together in a meeting room to iron out issues quickly, or simply meeting for a coffee or happy hour to foster camaraderie and a sense of community. Another thing I see is that the younger generation of employees has less patience, and expects the continued evolution of their roles and responsibilities. Companies that can help employees grow and expand their knowledge, and get more clarity on their career trajectory, will be able to retain employees over time.
We simultaneously joined a global experiment together last year called “Working From Home.” How will this experience influence the future of work?
The global experiment of “Working From Home” benefitted Guesty as an organization and allowed us in many aspects to democratize the experience of our HQ employees and those who were already working remote or in smaller global offices. In a way, it created a flatter and more diverse organization. It required us to perfect our processes, dedicate equal time and mentorship between managers and their teams with virtual 1:1 meetings and digital company events. We responded to our employees’ needs with flexible working models, from fully remote roles, to hybrid office/home setups, that have benefited our culture, productivity and global teams. We also learned how to recruit and train remotely, and moreover, instill our culture and values from a distance.
The main lesson the world took from this experiment is that when there’s a will, there’s a way. Pre-pandemic, it was easy for companies to say it was not possible to work remotely. The pandemic was a trigger to say it was possible and push back on the pre-existing narrative. Internal communication and empathy took center stage in organizations to determine what work could be done at a distance and what could only be done from the office. Once companies realized remote work would be a necessity for an extended period of time, the focus shifted to how an organization optimizes that experience and keeps employees effective and happy while at 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?
While a great deal of people found working from home and working from anywhere advantageous from saving time on commuting, gaining more free time and additional privacy, there were also negative effects. The seclusion and isolation that we all experienced in the early months of the pandemic negatively impacted individuals’ well being and mental condition. According to studies, nearly 33% of US adults experienced elevated levels of depression during the first year of Covid-19, compared to just 8.5% pre-pandemic. It’s important that companies stay attuned to the emotional and mental wellbeing of their employees, especially as we increasingly work remotely. While in the past you may have been able to see that your colleagues were unwell while working fully in-person, now it is not always apparent. I encourage managers to continuously check-in on their team members and not wait for them to share their challenges and pains.
In regards to “work from anywhere”, many employees found it a great opportunity to combine travel and work, sometimes referred to as Bleisure (business and leisure). Larger companies should help facilitate this possibility and help their employees create a structure around it. Corporate housing in different locations could help support the trend and be a large retention tool for companies. For example, why not tell your employees that they can travel and work from these five locations and have great access and facilities for remote work. Instead of working from a camping tent, why not offer a cabin with great WiFi. We should be thinking collectively on how we can facilitate such future ideas in a way that works for both the employer and employee.
What is your greatest source of optimism about the future of work?
We proudly have a diverse and multinational workforce at Guesty, consisting of 44% female/female-identifying employees, with women at the highest levels of leadership across departments. That ratio is well above the industry standard and more specifically within the PropTech sector. I hope to continue recruiting talented employees as we expand and grow as a company, hopefully reaching the 50/50 ratio in the near future.
I also believe that remote work has been a huge advantage for Guesty and other global companies. It has leveled the playing field and created better tools of remote communication that allow employees to have the same access and opportunities within the organization. Companies can now reach talent in additional locations that they have not considered before or provide talented individuals in peripheral areas with the ability to work for great companies. All in all, the open platform of remote work creates more geographic opportunities for individuals and expands access for individuals across multiple socio-economic situations. Finally, a huge segment of the population can have the security of a full-time job without being tied down to any location, an opportunity that in the past was available only to freelancers.
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?
Specifically at Guesty, when the pandemic started we offered free therapy services and sessions to our employees who were dealing with many new challenges, from isolation to working with their kids at home, and health fears and stress they hadn’t faced in the past. It was important for us to convey that treatment for mental health was just as important as physical health. One of the most prominent symptoms of this period of time has been increased rates of anxiety and depression. We encouraged and tried to create as many channels of communication and touch points, even when remote.
We initiated Virtual coffees, 1:1 meetings and other virtual events, and encouraged managers to check-in with their team on a regular basis and see how they are feeling. Be more open and interested in their day-to-day wellbeing, not in an intrusive way, but still try to identify any increased signs of stress and anxiety they haven’t noticed before. I don’t expect managers to become therapists, but it is important to be empathetic, compassionate and listen to your team’s concerns and struggles.
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?
While leaders certainly need to evolve corporate culture and pay attention to the messages behind the headlines, “The Great Resignation” to my understanding focused specifically on 4.5 million American employees who resigned from their jobs in 2021. A large number indeed, however, the US workforce comprises more than 157 million employees, so comparatively it’s quite a small fraction of the entire country. Company culture should continue to place focus on work/life balance and recruiting a diverse workforce.
Setting strong values of equality, diversity and fairness are important, and if those are in place, then your culture shouldn’t see a great deal of change and upending with every new buzzword. I’m a strong believer that if your culture is practiced in action, it shouldn’t need to evolve every day. Of course there is room for flexibility, but a strong culture ensures that an organization can easily accommodate behavioral shifts and world events, from expanding opportunities for remote/hybrid work models, to the latest example, supporting our employees in the Ukraine during a time of conflict as much as we possibly can, from their physical safety, to mental health and job security.
Let’s get more specific. What are your “Top 5 Trends To Track In the Future of Work?”
- HYBRID WORKING: Companies are realizing that hybrid working models are essentially becoming table-stakes, allowing their employees to find a work/life balance, mixing the benefits of home life with the advantages of in-person collaboration with colleagues. Companies should be comfortable with their employees “working from anywhere” or at least providing them with the option during set periods of time throughout the year. Flexible work models will be key to employee retention and happiness.
- FREELANCING: Freelancing full-time has become a huge trend of the Millennial generation, providing full control over one’s schedule. Hybrid and flexible working models countered the trend to an extent, but in general, many companies bought into freelance work during the pandemic and are now fully open to the arrangement. Hiring freelancers enables both parties flexibility and offers a quick adjustment of a company’s workforce during busy seasons or for specific large projects.
- AUTOMATION: Operational efficiencies through automation will include more roles adapting to the latest technologies, cutting down time spent on repetitive tasks and complex organizational processes. Each industry has its own needs and supply chain challenges, and tech companies will expand and be created to fill those efficiency gaps. In Guesty’s field of short-term rental hospitality for example, property managers and companies have understood that a property management system is necessary to handle listings across multiple booking platforms effectively, automate operational tasks from guest communication to task management and run an organization that meets new traveler requirements and expectations.
- HEALTH OFFERINGS: The pandemic forced corporations to take greater responsibility for the wellbeing of their employees, both physically and mentally. Many companies will continue to offer innovative wellness offerings and new, comprehensive health benefits, both because it’s the right thing to do, and also because employee satisfaction and burnout avoidance is key to any organization’s longevity and growth.
- SKILLSET RECRUITING: Focusing on skill set and diverse backgrounds are essential to hiring and recruiting a dynamic workforce that can help companies expand and grow into new territories and categories. Every organization can benefit from new perspectives, employees from different lived experiences and skills gained from parallel industries. In the future, skills that can’t necessarily be thoroughly measured will be of greater importance than traditional career paths in the past. For example, while Guesty is primarily a technology company, we also have hired many employees that don’t have a traditional tech/startup background, but rather were deeply invested in the hospitality or real estate industry. Skills can be taught, but experience and possessing high emotional intelligence is invaluable. Millennials, now aged 26–41, make up ⅗ of the US workforce and play an important role in the tech industry. Long gone are the days of staying with a company for a lifetime and growing up a vertical ladder. The younger generation changes jobs more than any other generation in history. It is important to ingrain skillset building and mentorship within your organization, so employees can be tracked to grow and advance internally, as opposed to company jumping every couple of years to achieve a promotion or salary increase.
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 life lesson quote came from my mother, a mathematician, who always said that “there isn’t a problem that you can’t solve.” Simple, but effective. Growing up, whether during my years studying or in the workplace, I have learned that with self confidence and coming into a crisis with the belief that you can solve it, you will be able to analyze the situation clearly and create a plan that will lead to a solution. The encouragement I received as a child from my parents gave me the confidence to take on my challenges in my life so far, from navigating through a global pandemic, to fighting for my place and advancement earlier in my career.
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.
Adam Grant is a writer, scholar and professor of whom I have read many of his books and articles and would be wonderful to meet with. I love his research into organizational behavior and personal growth, and I felt that I learned a great deal from his work. One of his books in particular, “Give and Take,” is a favorite of mine that delves into the idea that helping others is integral to personal growth and success, and the success of a corporation. I always related to his approach that leaders should focus on giving, not just receiving. Such core values speak to me as a corporate leader and Grant highlights that even within capitalism and business, we can simultaneously expand our personal wealth and advancement by contributing to the success of our colleagues and others.
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’d be happy to connect with your readers via Linkedin and Twitter, where I regularly post our Guesty company updates and industry insights into the short-term and vacation rental industry and travel sector at-large. I look forward to hearing from you.
Thank you for sharing your insights and predictions. We appreciate the gift of your time and wish you continued success and good health.