Jack Latus On How We Need To Adjust To The Future Of Work

More resignations. If businesses are insistent on all employees returning back to the office then we can expect to see even more resignations, as employees choose their new, preferred lifestyle over their job. When it comes to designing the future of work, one size fits none. Discovering success isn’t about a hybrid model or offering remote […]

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More resignations. If businesses are insistent on all employees returning back to the office then we can expect to see even more resignations, as employees choose their new, preferred lifestyle over their job.

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 Jack Latus.

Jack Latus is the CEO of Latus Health, a health-tech company focused on improving access to high quality healthcare and wellness solutions in the workplace. Jack co-founded Latus Health in 2017 after a professional rugby career and a number of years working in the health and fitness industry. This may not be the typical route to leading a healthcare company, but LATUS don’t claim to be a typical healthcare company. Latus Health is Evolving the Way the World Heals, with the launch of Yodha, the World’s first connected healthcare platform (CHP).

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.

I think the first thing people need to know about me is that I am not your typical entrepreneur. I wasn’t interested in business growing up, I wasn’t a Branson-type character selling sweets in the playground or anything like that. In fact, in the Youth Enterprise business competition at school, where you team up with classmates to form a business, I had the important role of being the company mascot. Our business was called ‘Tops Off’ and we sold custom branded credit card bottle openers, and my job was to wear the beer bottle costume at trade shows. Obviously, I was a late bloomer when it came to displaying my talent for business. Tops Off was actually a decent little business and I think ‘we’ placed second in the national competition. Incidentally, the MD of Tops Off, a good pal of mine, Edward Boyes, went on to become MD of Hello Fresh, after a brief stint in the fashion industry with his first venture — Socks On, a subscription sock company. I’m not sure where the inspiration for the name came from.

I was a decent student at school and got good grades because I worked hard and I knew how to learn for exams, but sport was always my thing, my hobby, and how I literally spent all my time when I wasn’t in a classroom. That sounds like an exaggeration, but it is not. My brother Sam, now my COO, and I would play tennis before school, have football training at lunch, and then more tennis coaching sessions or a football match after school. We would play cricket in the summer, and then when we would get home, we would insist on playing 2-a-side football matches with our dad and elder brother Will, now my CFO, in the backyard. Sport defined me, but most importantly it put me where I am today, in work and life. There are some pivotal moments along the way, from being as young as 10 years old, that have led me on the path to being the CEO of a health-tech business. As a young athlete, tennis was my main sport, and I was talented, playing at a performance level. The only issue was that I was getting pushed into training and competing by coaches and parents. Anyone who has been involved in youth tennis at a high level knows that it can be a toxic environment. This isn’t nice to experience as a child, but one that I credit for my high resilience ever since.

At 12 years old I moved to secondary school at Hymers College and was introduced to rugby. Rugby was my first love, my first passion, and most importantly, my first understanding of how real intrinsic drive feels. Rugby took over tennis by the age of 14, despite resistance from my parents, and at age 15, I watched Jonny Wilkinson kick the world cup winning drop goal to beat Australia in the 2003 Rugby World Cup Final. This was possibly the single most defining moment in my life to date (note: I am not married yet or lucky enough to have any children yet, so hopefully this will be replaced one day). I promised myself right there and then, that I would become a professional rugby player, no matter what. This was the first time in my life that I discovered how powerful a person with an unwavering drive to achieve a mission can be, and this lesson has stayed with me throughout my life in all that I have done. At this point, I was an okay school player, I wasn’t making the county team, and most people ridiculed my ambition. Not deterred by what my peers thought, I set about on my plan to become a professional rugby player. I figured that if I controlled what I could control, then I would do ok. And I decided that this one thing was becoming the best athlete I could be. I started to hit the gym every morning before school, attend speed and plyometrics sessions at lunch, and then go to goal kicking and extra rugby skills after school. The way I saw it, I was just playing the odds, and to me the harder I worked the more likely I was to be successful. By this point, I was not bothered about popularity at school, and I was happy to make whatever sacrifice I needed to succeed. It was this attitude alone that led to being a professional rugby player when I left school. By applying this attitude of belief, drive, strategy, and persistence, I’ve built the business we now have.

Fast-forward 4 years and I was left with a devastating knee injury in a contract renewal year that made me think my career was over. This was another defining moment in my life, as I decided to set up my first business, and by business, I mean our gym. Even at this point, I wasn’t motivated by business. I actually managed to get back on the pitch and play rugby for a couple more years before deciding to retire to focus on it completely. It wasn’t until I stopped rugby that my competitive edge transferred over to business, and like everything I have ever done, if it’s competitive and I set my mind to it, I have to do it to the best I possibly can. It’s in my DNA, and I have my parents to thank for that, and for every opportunity they gave me growing up. How did we go from a small gym business, working out of an old squash court, to the fastest-growing occupational health business in the UK? That’s a story we’ll leave for another time.

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 believe humans are pack creatures; we crave social connectedness in almost everything we do, with work being no exception. We thrive best as part of a team. Regardless of the desire for greater flexibility over working time and location, ultimately, I think in 10–15 years the workplace will still take the same form as it does today, or as it did pre covid. Everyone talks about the ‘new norm’, but from my experience, humans have short memories and things will quickly go back to the ‘old norm’ in many cases. We will still prefer to work as a team on projects, albeit technology may allow for a larger candidate pool for that team to be selected from as geographical restrictions become less of an issue.

Wow, making predictions for what is going to be different in 10–15 years from now in the workplace is a big ask, especially with the speed of advancing technology. The speed of tech development now means that I think most roles will look a lot different from how they do today. Developments in AI will continue to remove the repetitive tasks from most jobs, allowing people to focus on delivering great work. We will be even closer to the information we need when we need it and these two factors will mean that we accelerate further developments in technology and how we work. No doubt, developments in the Metaverse and VR are going to allow us to achieve a far better sense of connectedness when it isn’t possible to be in the same location, and I think that’s very exciting for businesses. I think all businesses will now be developing strategies to win in these new opportunity areas. Whether that be by embracing the ability to increase the size of the catchment area for talent and customers or finding ways to leverage these areas to offer better products and services that don’t even exist yet.

I do not doubt that the employee now has more control over the working environment via their choices of where they work. Businesses that refuse to cater to the demands of the modern workforce will be left behind in the talent attraction/retention race, and the same way that businesses can now benefit from a wider catchment area for candidates, employees now have far greater choice over where they work and who they work for, as they can now apply for jobs at the other end of the country, or even abroad. Because of this, it’s even more important for businesses to build a strong employee value proposition (EVP).

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

For simplicity, I would break my advice into three key areas:

  1. Build a strong EVP (Employee Value Proposition).
  2. Provide strong, visible leadership.
  3. Trust employees and build trust.

To dive a little deeper into each of these, firstly it is no longer a ‘nice to have’, but it is essential to focus time and resources on building your EVP. Employees, now more than ever, have the choice of where they work and who for. Salary is no longer the ruling factor to employee longevity. Employees are now wise to the fact that they are going to be devoting a large portion of their life to their job so they want to do it as part of an organisation that cares about them, provides meaningful perks and benefits, good work-life balance, flexibility and most importantly that has a mission which aligns with their personal values.

This brings me nicely onto my second point. Strong leadership and great communication are required to make sure that employees are motivated and aligned with the business mission. People don’t leave jobs, they leave bad leaders. The number one failure in leadership throughout the pandemic is undoubtedly communication. Businesses wishing to reverse the 2021 trend of the greatest number of resignations recorded, need to see 2022 as the year to lead with purpose. They need to bring people back together, demonstrate an appreciation of our teams, and above all, remember that great communication starts with great listening. The ‘employee’ is clearly saying what they want, and as businesses, we need to listen, react with empathy and understanding and display strong visible leadership.

My third key area is trust. I would strongly advise that businesses critically review their processes to see if there is anything in place which is fundamentally there to control or check up on employees. Whether that be an over strict dress code or a pointless 9 am meeting that serves no other purpose than to make sure everyone is at work on time; these are the sort of things that the modern employee will rebel against. Today, and in the future, employees are showing that they want to be judged on the work they deliver. They are saying ‘set me a task, and let me use my skills, ability, and self-management to achieve it.’ Nowhere is this clearer than in the calls for a 4-day work week, but that is for another discussion I’m sure, and a debate which I think is going to be fascinating.

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?

I predict that initially, the biggest gaps will be the difference in opinion between what employees and employers think is ‘normal’. If an employee is expecting working life to continue according to their ‘new normal’ and the employer is expecting everything to return to the ‘old normal’ this is going to create a very difficult gap to close. Employees who believe they have been successful working at home will see no logical reason why their employer should insist they return to the office, whereas the employer will see no good work-related reason why they shouldn’t. This is where the first disconnect will occur because businesses don’t see why they should be flexible to pander to an employee’s ‘new’ lifestyle and employees don’t see why they should be forced to return to the office when they have been doing just fine from home.

Businesses need to decide, and without influence from their preconceptions, what is best for the long-term performance of the business, and like it or not, often that is getting the best from employees by keeping them happy. The other option may well be a business that struggles to attract and retain staff, and that is going to be more detrimental to business performance than any inefficiencies they believe exist from employees having greater ownership and flexibility of working time and location.

I think one of the biggest gaps will come as we continue further into a candidate-driven employment market. Employees will expect big perks, benefits, and wellbeing packages to improve their work-life balance. Businesses will need to be strategic in making sure they are creating packages that support employees and their families.

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

The global “working from home” experiment has created both challenges and opportunities for businesses and employees. I think one thing which is to the credit of most businesses and employees, is how quickly they adapted to the initial challenge of the need to work from home. Some certainly adapted better than others and no doubt that creates some debate about the sustainability of work from home as a long-term model. I know some businesses likely thought employees were being more effective from home than they were, and some businesses who were initially bullish on the work from home concept have since changed their opinion. The main challenge that it has created for businesses is in the onboarding and training of new staff. Some employees have worked for companies for over 18 months now and still haven’t met a single colleague. This is likely one of the contributing factors to the resignation increase, as businesses have opted to recruit and offer jobs to more mid-level employees who have done the job elsewhere, over newly qualified or graduates, to avoid training issues. This is supported by the resignation statistics with 30–45 years old workers seeing the highest resignation rates, as businesses look to bring in more experienced recruits over those requiring more training.

The greater acceptance of remote working has created an opportunity for businesses by increasing the pool of available talent, but working from home also broadened employees’ horizons. They have learned that they are no longer restricted by location and can be more selective over who they work for, as they can now work from anywhere and find a role to fit their wants and needs. Another warning sign to businesses, your employee value proposition now needs to compete on a global scale, no longer is being the most attractive employer in your local region sufficient.

Many businesses that are pushing for employees to return to the office are facing friction as many employees have become accustomed to working from home. In some cases, employees have shaped a completely new lifestyle around working from home, whether that be more time with the family, doing the school run, getting a new pet, moving further away from work, or getting rid of their previous childcare arrangements. Returning to the office is now just an inconvenience for some people. And for employees who believe they have been doing a great job from home and can see no reason why they can’t continue to do so, this can create some real difficulty for the employer hell-bent on getting everyone back to work. This has undoubtedly, and will continue to, lead people to resign to find a job with a business happy for them to work remotely. It also, created difficult management situations when employees from the same team have different levels of success from home. If you have two people in the same team doing the same job, and one is good at working at home and the other not so productive, it makes it very difficult to keep everyone happy. Telling someone who has been very effective at home that they must return to the office, due to the inefficiency of team members, creates massive frustration for the ‘good’ home worker, and is likely to cause divides in the workforce. But at the same time, it becomes difficult for a manager to tell one person they have to return to the office when someone else doing the same role has been allowed to continue at home. Even though this makes perfect sense, when it comes to HR policy and discrimination, it becomes a very delicate situation, and one that most managers have zero experience or training for.

For some businesses, including mine, it has created a great opportunity to look at a model in which some employees can be recruited and will not ever be required to work from the office. As we look to scale our clinical team up to 400 employees over the next 24months, our job has been made one hundred times easier because we can now employ people anywhere in the country. I do, however, have a concern that ‘remote-workers’ could become the next workplace discrimination case, in which employees feel they are unfairly treated compared to a colleague who works at the office. Without a doubt, proximity can be an advantage when it comes to getting an opportunity in the workplace, and I am worried that the saying, ‘out of sight, out of mind’, may well lead to issues in the not-too-distant future. This is potentially one for the employment law experts to consider, and likely yet another challenge for the already exhausted HR teams (credit to HR personnel, throughout the pandemic they’ve had it tough).

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?

One caveat, I think we need to consider before we get too excited about the work from home revolution, which I have had described to me as the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’, if you want another sensational headline to throw into the mix, is that for the majority of the work from home experiment duration, there has been little distraction from work available, as most of the ‘fun’ activities have been shut. So, employees have had little else to do other than focus on work. It is much easier to work until late in the evening when there are no bars or restaurants, gyms or sports to play, and meeting with friends and family is off-limits. So, can this experiment be called a ‘fair test’? Perhaps not, and maybe we will have to wait to see how it plays out in a more normal world over the next 12 months. And I am sure there will be some people shouting at their screen, reading this now, saying “not only did I work productively from home Jack, but I did it whilst homeschooling two children under the age of 8, with one laptop, and ironing board for a desk and dodgy Wi-Fi. So, please don’t come at me with your ‘fair test’ BS Jack!” And to be honest, that’s a fair point, definitely not a debate I would want. Fair play to all the home working, homeschooling parents over the last 2 years.

To answer your question, in time, I can see a big shift in terms of on and off time for businesses. At the moment, we create additional stress and pressure through fixed ‘business hours’, I can see few reasons why we need fixed workdays and work hours. Other than perhaps the bank hours, and even that is an old-fashioned view, after all very few of us now rely on the bank being open for business and transactions to occur. If we take a look at a lot of our current business practices, they were created based on previous systems and processes from in the past, and which are now non-sensical because technology has made the old reason for doing something extinct. So how would this look? Effectively, business would be always ‘on’ and employees would switch ‘on and off’ to work according to what suits them. So instead of having to work 9 am-5 pm Monday to Friday, contracts may change to become: you are required to complete your roles and responsibilities over a minimum of 40hours every 7days, and as long as you execute against your KPI’s you control your ‘on time’. I’d be very interested to see this as the next experiment, maybe after the 4-day work week option. Either way, I think the key societal change will be a rebellion from employees who feel like their time is controlled by their employer. Perhaps, this is what the outcome of the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’ will be.

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

Between 2020 and 2021 nearly 40% of businesses increased the health and wellness benefits they offer. Now I am obviously biased, because growth in this area is beneficial to our business, but what this clearly indicates is that there is a desire from businesses to provide a better employee experience and to deliver more value to their teams and ultimately that they care for the wellbeing of their workforce. However, with the war for talent now to be fought on a global battlefield, this is just smart business.

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?

The challenges created by the new remote or hybrid working model adopted by many businesses has called for innovation in mental health and wellbeing offerings for employees. Wellness support must now be accessible wherever the employee is, and no longer is it sufficient to supply services which can only be accessed via the workplace. Employees are now more comfortable than ever with digital heath solutions and with sharing health data in order to receive a more personalised wellness offering. This demand for a more personalised wellbeing solution has led to the introduction of more testing in corporate health offerings too. But not just the old-fashioned blood pressure and BMI health check, we are now seeing our clients opt for more thorough testing protocols including genetics, epigenetics, illness predisposition screening and the wide adoption of wearables into wellness programmes. No longer is a one-size-fits-all solution sufficient.

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?

We do seem to hear a new sensational headline every day, and I’ve just thrown another one in the mix!

I think what is happening here is that ‘The Great Resignation’ is in fact ‘The Great Reevaluation’ with people resigning from a culture of burnout and a broken definition of success. The pandemic has forced the working world to slow down or stop and evaluate what they want from life and how work impacts that. What leaders need to learn is that in quitting their jobs, people are showing their desire for a different way of working and living. Arguably, to survive, business leaders need to reconfigure ‘work’, if they haven’t already, to align with ‘The Great Reconfiguration’. The employee has changed their expectations of the ideal work-life balance after stints of remote working. The latest research found that 33% of employees stated they would leave their current job in the next year, with 28% of those stating work-life balance as the reason. Leaders must start to listen to the employee. It is not too late for businesses to retain their workforce but to do so, they must listen and then act. Leaders must convert ‘Leavers Interviews’ into ‘Stay Interviews’, by asking questions to learn why employees wish to leave, and then take action to create the environment, work-life balance, and value proposition that employees are now wanting. In workplaces where flexibility is less of an option, businesses need to invest in improving their wellbeing offering to ensure that employees feel cared for and valued. Without a great wellness package on offer, these businesses will struggle in the talent race against those that can offer more flexibility and better work-life balance.

Let’s get more specific. What are your “Top 5 Trends To Track In the Future of Work?” (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. More resignations. If businesses are insistent on all employees returning back to the office then we can expect to see even more resignations, as employees choose their new, preferred lifestyle over their job.
  2. Businesses will quickly embrace the Metaverse, VR and AR. I predict this will be one of the biggest trends over the next 18 months, as businesses aim to maintain a better sense of social connectedness across a remote workforce. Being able to jump into a meeting room with colleagues via virtual reality or go about your normal working day and have remote colleagues drop into your work via augmented reality will become the norm and the key to collaborative work sooner than we all think. For those thinking it is likely another over-hyped.com boom-bust, I advise to make sure they are designing a strategy for how the Metaverse influences their business, as like it or not, this will become a significant part of most businesses, and I am able to say this with confidence because I don’t think a business such as Facebook would be investing as much as they are, or hiring 15,000 new employees to build out their Metaverse based on a hunch.
  3. Live away from work. At one extreme, I think it will become more common for people to work and travel. Rather than having to take a sabbatical to travel, more and more people will be able to, and choose to, travel and work remotely. Not so extreme, but along the same concept, we will see more people choosing to move out of cities where they work as the commute is no longer a concern. There may be some significant benefits to having a job based in one location and living elsewhere, perhaps somewhere that the cost of living is much lower.
  4. Skills shortage in jobs which cannot be performed in 4 days. If we see more businesses adopting a 4-day work week, this will make it harder and harder for business which cannot offer a 4-day week, e.g. manufacturing businesses, then fewer people will train to be able to fulfil these roles. Why would someone choose a vocation that requires 5 days work when they can get the same pay in another job offering 4 days. This will likely drive faster innovation and advancements in automation and robotics, as people welcome the reduction in reliance on human labour, to allow these businesses the opportunity to offer more flexibility in working hours, or to fill the void in skills shortage as people are less motivated to train for these roles.
  5. New discrimination. I am predicting a definite trend in remote v’s office-based discrimination arguments, as employees working remotely will feel that they are getting unfairly overlooked for promotions, and better opportunities given to those working at the office.

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?

“Tell the world what you are going to do… but show them first.”

I suppose this is a sophisticated way of saying ‘let your actions do the talking’, but this quote has always stuck with me, and I believe as a business we have always followed it. These days there are so many people saying how they are going to achieve X,Y and Z, and how they are on their a, b, c … z round of raising funds, but I am a big believer that a business needs to prove a concept, prove product-market fit and prove that it can be a profitable, sustainable business model before they should be taking millions of pounds off of an inflated multi-billion pounds valuation. Maybe I am a bit old-fashioned in my thinking, but I have always acted along the principle of this quote.

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 am going to be cheeky and suggest two:

Number 1 would be Jonny Wilkinson, because I owe him a big thank you. Not only did he inspire me with his play, but more importantly, I learned my work ethic, persistence, and patience from watching him train and this has been vital to my success.

Number 2 would be Naveen Jain, the Co-founder of Viome and Moon Express. I love his concept of Moonshots and his outlook on business, life and ‘problems’. What most people see as problems, he sees as fantastic opportunity for innovation and creativity. That is something I have learned to apply to my world, and I ‘d love to chat to him, but I’m not sure a lunch or breakfast would be long enough.

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 post on LinkedIn regularly: Jack Latus | LinkedIn

I’m planning to post more on Instagram, right now you will just see me and my sausage dog Quinn: @jacklatus

And you can follow my businesses Latus Health and Yodha on LinkedIn and Instagram to keep an eye on how we are disrupting the corporate wellness industry.

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

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