Make the future of work fit for your own organization. The answer to the ‘what now’ question will vary by industry, organization, and job function, but in order to determine what the future of the workforce looks like, companies must consider the bottom line: what will work best for their employees? I believe the most successful and forward-facing companies will become flexible workplaces — focusing on what drives efficiency and productivity and not limiting their view to just in-office or remote. The workplace of the future will offer multiple options to best accommodate all of their employees, which requires a level of agility that many organizations have failed to address in the past.
As a part of my series about how leaders can create a “fantastic work culture”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Zeb Evans. Zeb Evans is a serial entrepreneur and the Founder & CEO of ClickUp, the only all-in-one customizable workplace productivity platform that serves all departments across an organization.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I like to say I’ve been a founder since birth. I’ve also had many close calls and near-death experiences, which really shaped my overall journey and showed me how important it is to enjoy and make the most of the little time we actually have. The idea for ClickUp actually came to me at one of my previous companies. We needed an internal tool that would help streamline the overwhelming number of everyday workplace tools we used and help our team work more efficiently. As ClickUp proved valuable to us as an internal tool, it grew from there on its own; the demand was so high that we were actually pulled into the marketplace. That’s when I realized the massive opportunity to share our platform with other businesses.
Your study showed a staggering amount of employees are feeling burned out and that almost half would take a salary cut to have less work stress. Why do you think that number is so high?
There are definitely a number of factors at play here, but I think a significant challenge is that employers and employees are often at odds with one another. As we, along with the rest of the world, consider what the future of work looks like, I think it’s more important than ever for businesses to take a good look at what they are providing to employees beyond salary and benefits alone. Everything from the tools they use to the culture they instill matters a ton. Businesses must listen to their employees and consider how they want to work. In the midst of all of these conversations on what the future of work looks likes, figuring out how to adjust to provide a more flexible workplace will be crucial for businesses in keeping their employees happy and productive, and just keeping them on their team!
What impact do unhappy or burnt-out employees have on an organization?
An unhappy workforce is a detriment to almost every function in an organization. Employees must be set up for success and given the necessary systems and technology to do their work effectively. Organizations must carefully listen to what their employees actually want and adjust to create a collaborative work environment that motivates and empowers employees. Without these factors, businesses will be impacted negatively, whether in staff turnover, a lack of trust and transparency, or a less productive workforce.
Many employees faced a tough year personally while also having to adjust on the fly to a completely new workplace: one without their normal in-office setup and tools, without the in-person collaboration and feedback loop they were used to, and with significantly blurred lines between work and home. Employees are so burned out that ClickUp’s “2021 Workplace Pulse” report found that 45 percent of US employees said they would give up 10 percent of their salary in order to have an easier work life.
Many businesses reacted to the pandemic-drive work shift by throwing a Band-Aid on a much larger problem. Too many added new tools and technologies that were meant to foster collaboration and efficiency, but that actually overwhelmed employees and hindered productivity. Our report also found that 46 percent of employees fear they will become burnt out from having to juggle so many different technology tools or apps for work. When employees are inundated with multiple apps and platforms across different ecosystems that they have to take time to manage, it wastes time and leaves less hours in the day to accomplish actual work. This increased burnout not only makes employees unhappy, but can also have a negative effect on a business’ bottom line.
Can you share 5 things that managers and executives should be doing to improve their company work culture? Can you give a personal story or example for each?
- Make the future of work fit for your own organization. The answer to the ‘what now’ question will vary by industry, organization, and job function, but in order to determine what the future of the workforce looks like, companies must consider the bottom line: what will work best for their employees? I believe the most successful and forward-facing companies will become flexible workplaces — focusing on what drives efficiency and productivity and not limiting their view to just in-office or remote. The workplace of the future will offer multiple options to best accommodate all of their employees, which requires a level of agility that many organizations have failed to address in the past.
- Set the tone from the top. Promote a culture of transparency and open communication that will empower employees to share their concerns and enable them to make decisions that benefit their overall wellbeing. Don’t punish people for taking their earned vacation days or praise a team member for working while being sick. Allow people to disconnect and have a true work/life balance. The long-term benefits of a refreshed workforce will do wonders for improving efficiency and productivity.
- Help teams collaborate. Businesses need to stop trying to make people more productive, and instead focus on making teams more productive with streamlined processes that enable seamless cross-department collaboration and output. Our survey found that 52 percent of employees have felt disconnected from their company/coworkers at some point in the past year. Fostering a collaborative work culture in which all teams are more connected and aligned will deepen work relationships and drive stronger results.
- Take advantage of technology. Inefficiency is a common problem across the board. Our survey found that approximately half of employees (51%) feel as though they lose at least one hour per day being inefficient at work. Provide solutions that account for long-term operational structure and simply save people time. A streamlined infrastructure and consolidated platform of workplace tools will set employees up for success.
- Focus on progress towards perfection. I believe it is key to power your employees to do their best and to not be afraid of failure. They have to be able to take chances and try new things that could potentially improve the business. Of course, we all wish for perfection, but too often it can hold businesses back from progress. When you encourage people to try new ideas and support progress at different speeds, they become less worried about perfection and often deliver better results in the end.
What can we do as a society to make a broader change in the US workforce’s work culture?
The pandemic and subsequent shift to remote work as a requirement forced a major tipping point in workplace culture — it has accelerated the future of the workplace. Our report found that more than one-half of employed Americans (54%) will not work for a company that doesn’t offer the flexibility of working remotely at least some of the time. More companies will stay remote or offer increased flexibility in how and where employees work. That means employees will have more choice in choosing an organization that aligns with their work preferences. Those that don’t adjust will struggle with recruiting and retention.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you continued success!