Julia Chung On How We Need To Adjust To The Future Of Work

People are increasingly suspicious of large multinational conglomerates. Keeping quality staff members — especially in an aging North American society that is starting to see a significant labour crunch — is likely going to cost more, not only in actual dollars but also in time and effort. When it comes to designing the future of work, one size fits none. […]

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People are increasingly suspicious of large multinational conglomerates. Keeping quality staff members — especially in an aging North American society that is starting to see a significant labour crunch — is likely going to cost more, not only in actual dollars but also in time and effort.


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 Julia Chung.

Julia Chung is CEO, co-founder, and Senior Financial Planner at Spring Plans, an advice-only financial planning firm. Leading a collaborative planning team from across the country, Julia’s focus is on providing the highest quality financial planning services by helping clients define and design their own version of success. Julia is also CEO of Admin Slayer, a virtual assistant services company supporting small businesses and independent financial service firms, Vice President of the Financial Planning Association of Canada, and Board Director for Family Enterprise Canada.


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.

The two that come to mind as most pivotal happened at the same time; I was 19 years old, my mother passed away from cancer, and my son was born — within 6 days. I was young, with limited education, no money, and suddenly without parents. While I have an older brother, he is only two years older than me. I was very much on my own, and it forced me to grow up awfully quickly. Societal messaging told me I had already wrecked my own life and that of my son, and that there weren’t really any options for me. I didn’t like that message very much, so I ignored it. I put myself through school while working full time and raising my son. I’m lucky enough to have a ridiculously powerful belief that I can do anything I really want to, and I don’t need to follow someone else’s script. My son is now a very self-sufficient 26 year old, and I lead two successful companies.

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 the pandemic has accelerated a place where we were already going: home. Several decades ago, futurist Faith Popcorn advised we’d all be “cocooning” at home in reaction to increasing volatility and uncertainty in our lives. She’s obviously been proven right — and that uncertainty has only increased. I designed both my companies around not only that trend, but also the trend towards relationship and values-based workplaces. People are increasingly interested in being part of a “tribe”, and in a secular society, finding that tribe can be harder to do. We’re looking for community and connection in our workplaces. At the same time, the pandemic has given a lot of people some time to look inward, and I’m seeing them leaving jobs where they aren’t feeling fulfilled, focusing on quality of life over earnings, which is a real shift from the days where people were willing to trade time in something they didn’t really like so they could pay for parts of life they preferred. The workforce is demanding that their work be an enjoyable and fulfilling component of their lives, and businesses that will survive need to react accordingly.

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

Decide what kind of experience you want to offer both your staff members and your customers, and aim to be as honest and complete in those as you can. The labour market has changed drastically from the Industrial Revolution society that our systems are based on. We need to figure out how to be innovative, nimble, attract and keep high quality staff members — oh and make money at the same time. It’s a different landscape and we need to be so much more thoughtful about what it means to serve our staff and our customers in a profitable way.

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?

People are increasingly suspicious of large multinational conglomerates. Keeping quality staff members — especially in an aging North American society that is starting to see a significant labour crunch — is likely going to cost more, not only in actual dollars but also in time and effort.

People want to develop, be fulfilled, and enjoy life and they’re looking at their employers to provide those opportunities. That’s a really different contract than the one created in the Industrial Revolution where workers traded time for money. Now workers are expecting their employers to live out values, create opportunities, and engage with them as individuals. Serving both your staff and your customers to increasingly high levels is tough on businesses, and many business owners are good at the thing they do — not necessarily at helping people to become the very best versions of themselves. Reconciling those different skill sets is going to take a lot. I suspect that “people experts”are going to be a more and more vital part of every business, and we’re all going to have to increase our knowledge and skill sets.

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

This experience will change a lot of things and like with all kinds of changes, some will be for the better and some for the worse. In a best-case scenario we all find ways to fulfill and live out our lives working in a flexible environment that suits each one of us as individuals in the work we do. If we do get there, it’ll be after a lot of growing pains, as people try to get clarity about what is the employer’s responsibility versus the worker’s responsibility, how we maintain and improve quality, and how we develop and maintain relationships. It’s interesting how many people have, over the years, tried to keep “work” and “life” in this balance that separates the two but one of the biggest concerns we often read about since this experiment started is how we maintain relationships at work. It’s shone a spotlight on the realities of what we have been trying to do at work, and it’s a great opportunity for us to create something entirely new. It’s also an opportunity for some things to go terribly wrong, and I think we’ll see both of those things playing out for all of us over the next decade or more.

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?

Everyone? Wow, that’s a big ask! I think I’ll focus on one change that I’ve foreseen as necessary even before the pandemic: recognizing all people as participating parents and family members. We need to change how we view not just women but also men and people of all genders when it comes to being workers who also raise families. As long as we only expect one gender to be responsible for the raising and management of the next generation , rather than accepting that we all have a role to play — inside and outside of individual families — we are going to continue to have massive inequity AND we’re going to lose out on the opportunity to have great team members for a long time. Let’s imagine that we’re all actually participating in the same society, one that is growing people and raising children, and that we all have a part to play in that. If everyone was responsible for the well being of children, if parental leave was expected for everyone, if childcare was everyone’s responsibility on some level, we’d find ways for improved productivity AND engagement across the board.

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

I’m optimistic that the forced introspection the pandemic has brought about will be the catalyst for innovation in the workplace, one that has us all focusing on greater fulfillment, equity, and growth as a society. We all spend a lot of time at work, and we’ve just recently welcomed it into our homes. Merging the two in a meaningful way might be how we create a more equitable society that sees us all growing together.

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’d love to see the creation of individualized systems of work that allow us all to work asynchronously (as remote work — done correctly — should do) and yet, still collaboratively. If we each are provided with the tools and systems that will allow us to create the lives we want in the way we want, we’ll all gain improved autonomy, which should hopefully give us the opportunities to improve our individual mental health and well being, in ways that work well for each of us. That does mean that we put the onus on the individual to create the lifestyle they want, and while that sounds like something that each one of us would welcome, we don’t all have the skillset to really do that well. Systems like schools and workforces that set out what you would do, when you would do it, and who would tell you if you did it well have trained us to give up that responsibility (and I think it’s made us unhappy). Transitioning to that lifestyle would mean also providing people with the tools to imagine and create their lives, which likely means we need to implement more coaching, either within businesses directly, or with the support of external businesses and government support systems.

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 think all of these headlines tell us that the power is shifting from an authoritarian, top-down leadership to one that is more collaborative and engaged. Company cultures will need to evolve to collaborate not only with team members and customers, but also with greater society — because a single company can’t realistically resolve everything that staff members and customers really need. Creating an ecosystem that works well with other ecosystems, and within the larger system of our society is going to be key to thriving.

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.)

I’m not really a trend expert so I’ve decided against trying to pretend I am one in this question.

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 favourite life lesson quote has always been: “Nobody ever got anywhere by being normal”.

I used to say it to my son a lot, because he was frequently teased for being different. Eventually he discovered that I lifted it from a comic book (“The Tick”) and was entirely disappointed in me. However, regardless of the source, it still holds true. Be as honestly weird as you are.

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.

Ooh, Adam Grant is my super nerdy hero. My leadership team listens to and discusses his podcast regularly, watches his TED talks, and reads his books. His value system resonates so strongly — I’m not even sure I could hang out with him without gushing.

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’m out there on Twitter (@JuliaChungFP) and LinkedIn (linkedin.com/in/juliaychung) and of course I write regular blogs on both my company websites at www.adminslayer.com and www.springplans.ca

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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