Creating the future of work

Jan 01, 2023

Instead of making predictions about the future of work, take part in actively shaping it.

When my fiancé Matthew and I met two years ago, he was a merchant mariner and I was an architect. We defined who we were by what we did. Two years of exploration, change, self-awareness, and growth led to the startling but obvious realization that we are, at our core, what we do – but also so much more than that.

Many of us had this eye-opening experience during the pandemic. The separation from our work “space;” the increased amount of time we spent with our families, and in many cases, by ourselves; and the potential for flexibility in our lives, had us questioning with increasingly louder voices the norms of work and life.

Within all of these upheavals, good and bad, I kept coming back to one question – what is the future of work? And how do we help frame and transform it? This article is a result of these questions.

I started by reframing the concept of “work.” Work has traditionally been something you do away from home to make a living. But in our human way, we have kept “making a living” apart from “living.” This was never a sustainable approach. We promoted a culture of 8-5 or a culture where you worked those overtime hours, stealing time away from your families and loved ones in return for accolades at work. The extremism of this philosophy led to many things, including nonchalance on one end and burnout on the other.

For a better work future, we have to re-purpose what it means to “go to work.”

  1. The future is hybrid. While not everyone will subscribe to this idea, and it might not even be the best course of action for some, by and large, the world is accepting the hybrid work format. A winning formula for almost everyone will include the ability to collaborate and have meaningful, spontaneous conversations that lead to ideas and solutions that make us better together, paired with the time and space to take care of those everyday needs from the convenience of home.
  2. Personal awareness will amplify professional strengths. Our time at home, even during business hours, reveals our true selves. It allows us to become acutely aware of who we are in our own space and leads to deeper interactions with clients and partners. This also consciously enables individuals to commit to or divest from the culture.
  3. Start defining the space – both virtual and physical. It is essential to consider what this evolved work environment looks like. What happens to assigned desks when they are only used part of the week? How do we create collaborative spaces that support exponential growth in spontaneous interactions and idea generation? Companies are looking at dynamic biometrics analysis to provide individualized experiences in respite spaces. This is an opportunity to look at focused, adaptable space that allows customization.
    Equally important is the virtual interface. When almost half of our life is spent on a virtual interface, it becomes very important to make it conducive to our goals and a reflection of our culture.

Reframing this traditional view of work revolves around building a culture that empowers choices that are best for all instead of ones that restrict and restrain. And culture, in turn, starts with belief. Movements like B Corps and conscious capitalism begin with a strong belief in creating social change. They expand this into creating tribes invested in the social change being created. These cultures are mission- and purpose-driven. Their core values embody the customer and employee’s well-being, instead of just factoring them into the equation as one of many data points.

When one believes in what they do and creates a tribe around this belief, work becomes more than what you do when away from home. It becomes a meaningful part of your life – a way to impact positive change and success for the individual, the company, and the community at large.  

Melanie Harris, AIA, LSSYB, is the healing practice director at BSA LifeStructures. She can be reached at

Read this week's issue of The Zweig Letter!

About Zweig Group

Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.