ommunication trends in the future of work — The use of technology as a primary form of communication and how to optimize these tools, especially as teams work from all over the world will continue to have lively chatter in the industry. It will also become increasingly important for new norms to be developed, understanding the strengths and weaknesses of each communication channel.

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 Vitri Bhandari.

Vitri Bhandari is the Chief People Officer of Andela, supporting the growth of the company through her work in the people space. With innovative new approaches, she not only aims to build a best-in-a-lifetime experience for Andelans but also hopes to benefit the broader community by amplifying these strategies. Some of her core areas of focus are prioritizing individual growth and personalized wellness.

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 was pregnant with my eldest daughter, I went through some significant health challenges. I learned many things during that time period which I now carry with me and try to implement as a leader in Andela. Some lessons I learned include:

The company I was a part of at the time was extremely supportive and tried to take as much administrative burden off my plate, allowing me to focus on what mattered most. That’s what I aim to do for anyone — allow them to focus on what matters most.

I was hyper-focused during this period and not very attentive to anything else in my life. I’m positive that to others, I was not my normal self — more serious, less responsive, didn’t make time to go out of my way to surprise and delight others… and yet, not everyone knew what I was going through. It was a good reminder to always assume there is some context I don’t have, some missing information that may help me understand the other person better and to always assume the best and seek to understand.

In the end, we’re all just humans, doing the best we can. It’s important to not take things personally and to just remember it is another human, like me, on the other end of the conversation. Given I’ve always been someone who loves making people smile, it helps me take myself out of the equation, especially when I disagree with someone, and think through other people’s lenses — how I can help them understand my perspective, how I can help each individual with things that matter to them, without them even having to ask.

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?

So much depends on the choices we’re all making today. My hope is that work is no longer seen as “work,” that people have learned the science of motivation and spend their time “working” on things that are play, purposeful, and lead to their increased potential. In that case, “work” will be viewed completely differently, as something we spend our time on because we love it and it makes us better, and so we will do our best work. If everyone is being selective, it will become a virtuous cycle with people “working” on things they love and will inevitably be successful in, and companies succeeding in their business goals by simply finding the people that align with the “work” they have to get done and focusing on enabling those people, creating tons of win-wins. (I love win-wins!)

That said, a lot will likely be different. There is a mental shift that needs to occur. Workplaces need to actively learn how to set their people up to thrive and this will be the number one driver of success. In many cases, this may mean releasing control of several dimensions, making different choices in terms of what a company is focused on, and therefore optimizing for, in the long-term, some of which could feel uncomfortable for some and may even be counter to the cultures some workplaces once had. But in the end, the organizations that genuinely care for their teams will be the ones that succeed. Those that recognize that there is no one size that fits all, and that it is increasingly important to tailor their approach to the various employee styles, preferences, etc. Personalization will be a key tool to unlock the most talented individuals’ potential.

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

Start now — invest by getting to know your employees, investing in supporting them, and building a team of folks who are there for reasons that resonate with their own personal core motives, ensuring a natural alignment.

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?

As the world shifts, scales will tip towards giving more control and leverage to the employees. That said, some sort of balance is still required. At the end of the day, the relationship between an employer and an employee is just that — a relationship. To create a situation where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts, the entire ecosystem needs to work in a way that reinforces and multiplies greatness. Employees need to be motivated to “work” and need to continuously choose to remain at a particular employer. Employers need to hire talent that aligns well with the company, their goals and the roles that they offer. They need to identify employees that will thrive in their environment and in those specific roles and need to cater to them. With the newfound shift towards employees, there will be some employees who are primarily motivated by the financial side of the equation, and in some cases, companies will not be able to pay what talent is demanding. While compensation is a consideration, the science of motivation shows that those with the highest total motivation (TOMO) and who are the highest performing, maximize other motives — play, purpose, potential. If compensation is the only thing motivating someone to join a company, then as soon as another company offers more money, that relationship between the current employer and employee will end. Both employers and employees need to realize this.

From the employer’s side, be clear on what is needed for your company to be successful and find the people who can deliver on that and will find your value proposition aligned to their needs. What’s most important once you’ve identified the right talent is ensuring that your employees are empowered and supported to do their best work. It’s important to not only hire the best people but to also create an environment that will unlock people’s potential, ensuring that people are in the right roles, putting in place enablers that support personal and career growth and ensuring people are doing things that feel purposeful to them.

On the flip side, from the employee perspective, I’d encourage you to find a company that offers you the opportunity to do something that (a) you’d do just for fun, (b) is meaningful and purposeful for you, and © helps you learn and grow.

You’ll see there are two sides to the equation and alignment on these matters and will help close the gap.

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

This experience accelerated the acceptance that people can be more productive than some may have believed in a remote and distributed setting. It accelerated the rate at which the world will become more globalized. It enabled employees to live a less compartmentalized life (both good and bad).

As a result, the future of work will never be what it once was; our general collective views have been disrupted and while it may not be the same as working together in person, remote working is an alternative that works for many professions. The model empowers people who maximize the upside of flexibility while minimizing the downside of blurred lines. Talented individuals will have their choice of what sort of model they prefer to work in. Some will choose fully remote, while others who prefer to work in-person, will opt for this option. Of course, a new popular preference will likely be hybrid to some extent.

It will be important for companies to understand these preferences and to be able to offer environments and situations that are attractive to the talent they want as part of their team. This is not limited to just the physical location that companies allow their teams to work from, but also all of the additional support a company can provide each individual with, in order to help them thrive in that model.

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

It will allow more people to decide for themselves how they want to work, providing individuals with more ownership and control over their day-to-day. People who wouldn’t have been comfortable telling their team/manager that they ideally would take an hour in the middle of the day to work out or an hour in the afternoon to pick up their kids will be able to, with less of a hurdle, and they’ll also be able to prove that they can still deliver and be successful at work.

It reduces geographical boundaries, allowing us to remember that there are talented individuals that would be fantastic to work with distributed across the globe and not always in the same city where we are located. This will provide companies and teams the opportunity to access many more people, and thus inherently, will lead to the ability to partner with more talented individuals, from various locations, that will also bring their diverse lenses with them. That diversity of perspective will benefit the business, enhance the individuals that get to work together, and overall, my hope is it leads to more empathy across the world and a good reminder that we’re all just people — similar in many ways, different in many ways, with various things to share, learn and appreciate about each other. This MUST lead to a better world if done well with an open, curious, and empathetic mind.

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?

I see a big push for company-wide use of mental health and well-being apps including thoughtful design around time off and time to engage outside (in nature, doing something creative, being physically active, spending time with friends and family, being off of technology, etc.). For example, Andela has introduced Wellness Wednesdays that allow employees to do a personal mental health check and dedicate time to actively engage in activities that support their individual wellness; additionally, for countries that don’t have a designated holiday within a few month spans, we issued company holidays for those countries and encourage our employees to go spend a day recharging.

Research indicates that getting outdoors in nature at least 20 mins 2x/week has been shown to reduce cortisol levels, so we strongly encourage this activity to be weaved into our employees’ lives as well. At Andela, we understand the importance of mental and physical health and we encourage company and team events to partake outside in creative outlets. It’s about normalizing things that lead to healthier lifestyles (e.g., “walk and talk” 1:1s when viewing a screen isn’t necessary). Generally speaking, creating a culture of a well-balanced lifestyle and ensuring that it becomes the “norm” to do things like this, with role modeling starting from the top.

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?

I believe the primary focus and understanding should be that we are talking about PEOPLE. Not just “labor” as people thought of it in the past. These are human beings and with the blurred lines between home life and work life, it’s critical to consider the multiple facets of employees’ lives and ensure your people are able to live a balanced life across all of them — social, professional, health and wellness, family, etc. It’s critical that you care for the whole human, this means being intentional about how you support every component of an individual’s life and take an interest in understanding your team and what is necessary to embed in your company culture. It has to be tailored to meet the needs of your entire employee base, both current and potential.

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

  1. The shift towards automation and the use of data — data and automation surround us in so many aspects of our lives, this also remains true when recruiting top talent. Adding the appropriate use of data will help us better find matches for the talented individuals we come across as well as the company hiring. In many instances, I’ve found that what we learn through the use of data is far more powerful than what we recognize through intuition and experience alone.
  2. Changing trends in diversity — we see an increasing interest across organizations in supporting their DE&I initiatives and appreciating the benefits of having a more diverse workforce. By having more flexibility in terms of location, many companies are finding that they have more opportunities to hire a more diverse workforce.
  3. Remote vs. in-person vs. hybrid — Companies are finding the right working model that best supplements their ethos and work quality, this will continue to be a hot topic to keep a lookout for and one that will likely continue to evolve based on a balance of companies’ and talented individuals’ perspectives.
  4. Communication trends in the future of work — The use of technology as a primary form of communication and how to optimize these tools, especially as teams work from all over the world will continue to have lively chatter in the industry. It will also become increasingly important for new norms to be developed, understanding the strengths and weaknesses of each communication channel.
  5. The evolution of qualities of a successful leader — As the workplace continues to evolve, we see different values, skills, and characteristics rise to the surface, giving the opportunity for leaders to utilize different metrics and hone in on new skills and certifications.

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?

“Discomfort is a catalyst for growth” — every single period in life that I felt challenging — truly challenging — was a period I grew from. The discomfort was usually a sign that I was being stretched and facing something I wasn’t comfortable with, often because I lacked the capabilities to deal with it easily. Once I realized that and I understood it was an opportunity for me to be better off in the long-term, I learned to be comfortable with the discomfort and to focus on what I stood to learn in those moments, which helped me grow even more through the most challenging times. It also helped me fight my insecurities and recognize the value of openly and more confidently acknowledging my areas of weakness.

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.

@SherylSandberg — Not only has she charted her own unique course and tried to amplify her knowledge and empower other women to do the same but she’s had a unique journey and experienced many things while trying to navigate her life. It would be fascinating to speak with her 1-on-1 and get to know her on a human level and just appreciate the many characteristics and learnings she clearly has developed through her journey.

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?

Happy to connect on LinkedIn here.

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