Preparing for the Future of Work | Office Evolution

Below is a repost of an interview that our founder and CEO completed with Authority Magazine. Check it out and let us know what you think!

There have been major disruptions in recent years that promise to change the very nature of work. From the ongoing shifts caused by the COVID19 pandemic, the impacts caused by automation, and other possible disruptions to the status quo, many wonder what the future holds in terms of employment. For example, a report by the McKinsey Global Institute that estimated automation will eliminate 73 million jobs by 2030.

To address this open question, we reached out to successful leaders in business, government, and labor, as well as thought leaders about the future of work to glean their insights and predictions on the future of work and the workplace.

As a part of this interview series called “Preparing For The Future Of Work,” we had the pleasure to interview Mark Hemmeter.

Mark Hemmeter is the founder and CEO of Office Evolution. Prior to founding Office Evolution, he was a developer and operator of hospitality properties including resort hotels, casinos, retail stores and restaurants in Colorado, Hawaii, Louisiana, California, Mexico and the Caribbean. His passions in business include real estate development, technology and supporting entrepreneurs. He is an active member of YPO/WPO and has been a member of ULI, Vistage, NAIOP, and the CU Real Estate Council. He loves to explore and so far, has visited over 40 countries and climbed twenty-five 14,000+ foot peaks in Colorado. Originally from Honolulu, Mark graduated from the University of Colorado College of Business. He has been married for over 30 years to his wife, Lisa and has three daughters.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Our readers like to get an idea of who you are and where you came from. Can you tell us a bit about your background? Where do you come from? What are the life experiences that most shaped your current self?

I am the founder and CEO of Office Evolution. I started the company in 2003 and we’ve been franchising since 2012. Since 2012, Office Evolution has grown to become the largest and fastest growing coworking franchisor in the U.S.

Prior to founding Office Evolution, I was a developer and operator of hospitality properties, including resort hotels, casinos, retail stores and restaurants in Colorado, Hawaii, Louisiana, California, Mexico and the Caribbean. My passions in business include real estate development, technology and supporting entrepreneurs. I am an active member of YPO/WPO and has been a member of ULI, Vistage, NAIOP, and the CU Real Estate Council. I’m a serial explores and have visited 44 countries and climbed twenty-five 14,000+ foot peaks in Colorado. These experiences have led me to believe that you we all have the internal drive to push ourselves beyond what we think we can achieve.

What do you expect to be the major disruptions for employers in the next 10–15 years? How should employers pivot to adapt to these disruptions?

There’s no denying that COVID-19 turned the work landscape on its head. Employers and employees had no choice but to abandon their traditional workspaces, causing the commercial real estate industry to endure a tremendous setback. Remote work became an industry standard; professionals were enabled to take five steps from their bedroom to their office. There have been countless benefits to remote work, reducing costs and time spent in commuting. As many businesses have abandoned traditional commercial spaces, they’ve announced how they expect to proceed, with some remaining fully remote and others adapting to a hybrid system. Employers have taken the time to survey their employees and consider their thoughts, evaluating who is most productive where. In the future, I have to imagine that these trends will stay as the construction costs and supply chain to build a new location will be expensive.

Taking into consideration the current trends that have emerged, I believe that coworking spaces will play an integral role for business owners. Office Evolution has created a space allowing small business owners and entrepreneurs to thrive while separating their office from their home, while running their business from suburban markets, cutting commute times and costs.

We are proud to support the future of work with our convenient close-to-home locations, normalizing the idea that professionals have the power to not only redefine how they work but redefine where they work. We bet on those who bet on themselves, and these community heroes are showing up to their Office Evolution workspace every day to provide for their families and contribute to their communities.

The choice as to whether or not a young person should pursue a college degree was once a “no-brainer.” But with the existence of many high-profile millionaires (and billionaires) who did not earn degrees, as well as the fact that many graduates are saddled with crushing student loan debt and unable to find jobs it has become a much more complex question. What advice would you give to young adults considering whether or not to go to college?

In my opinion, I don’t believe that college necessarily correlates with success. I think it can help propel individuals into their chosen field with the proper planning, a detail that is so often missed. If students feel they need to take a gap year to plan or better understand themselves, I encourage it. I think that as a society, we are slowly breaking the habit of feeling the need to go to college. If someone wants to be an electrician, they’d get more out of trade school. I think the big message here is to really take the time to consider your future. That way, when you choose the path that will lead you there, it will be worth it.

Despite the doom and gloom predictions, there are, and likely still will be, jobs available. How do you see job seekers having to change their approaches to finding not only employment, but employment that fits their talents and interests?

First and foremost, technology has changed the way we apply for jobs, making it easier than ever. Office Evolution has been overwhelmed by the number of online applications we have received in recent months. While technology has made the online application process relatively seamless, it has allowed people to begin to blend together. Without traditional differentiators, people have a hard time standing out, and to make matters worse, I think the jobs they apply for begin to blend together as well. There’s been a handful of instances when a job candidate will forget which job they are applying for, and it’s a major turn off. I encourage candidates to find a way to stand out in their online application process, whether its connecting and making an introduction on LinkedIn or sending in a handwritten letter. Now more than ever, it’s important to standout.

In the past year and a half, we have witnessed a powerful shift within the workplace. COVID-19 allowed professionals, across every industry, to reflect on not only their career, but themselves. As a result, professionals have been emboldened to pursue their passions, seek their purpose, and have a career that contributes to their fulfillment and happiness. Countless studies have demonstrated the high number of turnovers that have occurred throughout the pandemic, documenting individuals’ prioritization of their own well-being. Looking ahead, I believe that job seekers will have the unique opportunity to be selective about their employers, holding high expectations in regards to pay, company culture, and work-life balance. Beyond these changes within established organizations, I foresee the rise of the entrepreneur, allowing professionals to control their own destiny. Self-employment will not only allow individuals to hone their own passions, but it will allow them to share these passions with the world. It seems as though that during entrepreneurship has been incubated throughout the pandemic, and as we emerge from the other side, we are seeing more and more businesses come to fruition.

As this shift in business plays out, entrepreneurs will be looking for support within their local communities. We see the determination and drive every day across the Office Evolution network. We have an ecosystem of small business owners who are rely on us to provide them with the space to connect, innovate and thrive. They are part of our Ohana — Hawaiian for family. We are their biggest champion and it’s our mission every day to support them in any way we can. At Office Evolution, we have strategically placed our co-working spaces in suburban markets, providing access to the resources entrepreneurs need in order to thrive in a convenient location. While many people may not want to turn their home into their office, they certainly don’t want to go back to commuting into the city. By providing a location close to home, Office Evolution is empowering our members to succeed by providing the best of both worlds.

In addition, Office Evolution’s franchisees are small business owners who are dedicated to helping the small business owners in their locations. They can relate to the work involved in starting, running and growing a business and often serve as sounding boards for their members. We find that an owner-to-owner relationship has created a successful and impactful environment for our members.

The statistics of artificial intelligence and automation eliminating millions of jobs, appears frightening to some. For example, Walmart aims to eliminate cashiers altogether and Dominos is instituting pizza delivery via driverless vehicles. How should people plan their careers such that they can hedge their bets against being replaced by automation or robots?

I would never bet against the ingenuity and vision of entrepreneurs and small business owners. We all witnessed businesses quickly adapt and pivot in the face of COVID-19 restrictions. Many owners shifted from a brick-and-mortar strategy to an all-virtual approach to keep their business moving forward. I would encourage everyone to never stop learning because it’s the new things that you learn that will keep you relevant and ready to pivot as market conditions change.

Technological advances and pandemic restrictions hastened the move to working from home. Do you see this trend continuing? Why or why not?

With technology, artificial intelligence, and digitalization becoming integrated into our lives, the traditional workplace has become anything but traditional. As these new developments become more common, the discussion surrounding the workplace of the future is taking a new form. Societal advancements in technology have not only enabled professionals to successfully work remotely, it has allowed them to improve their productivity. With today’s advancement, professionals can embody the feeling of working from a commercial office space. And while many people are betting on the return of a traditional workspace, I believe that the way people will work has changed forever. If anything, I believe that we have redefined what the traditional workspace is. The new traditional workplace knows no bounds, and is determined by each and every working professional. People don’t want to work from home all the time. They want to work minutes from where they live. We are social beings and we crave interaction with people who are fighting the good fight every day.

But, while home provides the comfortability that so many professionals seek, I do not believe it will offer enough to completely normalize remote work. Though I mentioned that technology has advanced our abilities to remain productive in a new landscape, I think, with time, professionals will begin to crave some of the luxuries that are associated with workspaces. Currently, many professionals are relying on coffee shops to serve as their office, wanting to work remotely, but leave the house. Unfortunately, coffee shops are not enough, professionals don’t want to be sitting at a communal table or hosting a meeting with loud music in the background. They need space to claim as their own, where they can spread out and be comfortable. This is why I believe we will see a rise in coworking spaces. Coworking spaces combine the luxuries of remote work with the luxuries of an established workplace.

At Office Evolution, we provide the services that entrepreneurs are looking for in their local areas. Providing more than just a co-working space, we offer an array of services to our members. From a professional phone answering system to conference rooms to a greeting service, we fulfill the needs of professionals who are seeking to get more out of their remote work experience.

What societal changes do you foresee as necessary to support the fundamental changes to work?

I believe, as we continue to grasp the future of work utilizing different approaches, employees and employers will need to trust one another and communicate with one another. This past year has taught us as human beings to rely on each other, to treat one another with dignity and respect. We all crave a human connection and coworking will be a catalyst to keep those connections going. During times of uncertainty, we learned that honesty and transparency has allowed for growth. A happy and healthy relationship between professionals has become taboo in a sense. To support the fundamental changes, we wish to see in the workplace, we must support one another.

At Office Evolution, we’ve embodied this mentality for quite some time, treating our employees and our members as Ohana — Hawaiian for family. As the pandemic disrupted life, Office Evolution served as a beacon of support, helping facilitate business continuity across the network. Office Evolution wanted to assure its Ohana that it would do anything and everything to keep their business dreams alive and their goals within reach. We find it paramount to provide professionals with the products that will support their work, rather than telling them what they need. I hope to see more organizations take this stance as we move forward, I believe that as a society it is our responsibility to support one another and encourage success. What changes do you think will be the most difficult for employers to accept? What changes do you think will be the most difficult for employees to accept?

I believe that hardest changes for employers will be to put faith in their employees, understanding that they will not be able to monitor their every move from 9–5. Coming to understand that individuals operate differently in different environments hasn’t been easy for many, but it has become more evident than ever. I believe in accepting this and trusting employees to position themselves to succeed will benefit employers greatly.

On the other hand, I think employees will have a difficult time adjusting to the idea of working in remote environments. For so long, the workplace has offered more than a career, but the opportunity to build a community of like-minded people. Many professionals have found that creating a space to foster productivity has been difficult, but I challenge them to find their community.

The COVID-19 pandemic helped highlight the inadequate social safety net that many workers at all pay levels have. Is this something that you think should be addressed? In your opinion how should this be addressed?

I’ve always believed that safety is a top priority for employees, no matter the pay level. It is critical for any business communicate effectively to both their employees and consumers. As an essential service, all Office Evolution locations remained open across the country and we wanted our employees and members to feel comfortable amid lockdowns and mounting restrictions. Social distancing, one-way hallways, mask mandates, and a health questionnaire helped keep our employees and members healthy and safe. With safety protocols in place, we communicated daily, authentically, and respectfully. As the bedrock for many small businesses, our goal was to lift them up and do what would could to support them. I believe that it is paramount for individuals to not only trust the businesses that they step into every day, but to have faith in the people who run those businesses.

Despite all that we have said earlier, what is your greatest source of optimism about the future of work? To put it simply: Humans are adaptable. The global pandemic has caused a notable boom in startups, as the number of new companies has raised significantly. Such a surge in entrepreneurship is being attributed to workers who were laid off and started their own businesses. At Office Evolution, we have created a network of entrepreneurs supporting entrepreneurs. It’s refreshing to see a new generation of Believers and Doers embrace life and the power that they hold. I am excited to see a future of people chasing their dreams, determined to change not only their lives, but the lives of others. Its refreshing to see professionals define their futures rather than have these corporations dictate the way they work. I think in allowing people to guide themselves will allow for new opportunities for both professional and self-growth.

Historically, major disruptions to the status quo in employment, particularly disruptions that result in fewer jobs, are temporary with new jobs replacing the jobs lost. Unfortunately, there has often been a gap between the job losses and the growth of new jobs. What do you think we can do to reduce the length of this gap?

I’ve always believed that individuals should have a place to routinely nurture their passions. The problem with the disconnect between losing work and a lack of new jobs is a loss of habit. As humans we are ingrained to succeed through exercising our brains. I believe the solution is providing a place for individuals to continue working towards their dreams. Our goal at Office Evolution has been to provide entrepreneurs and professionals a place to focus on their goals and grow their passions. We believe in the business of providing a place for individuals to continue to improve upon themselves and thrive.

Okay, wonderful. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “Top 5 Trends To Watch In the Future of Work?” (Please share a story or example for each.)

SUBURBAN MARKETS WILL CONTINUE TO BE IN DEMAND FOR SMEs. With professionals shifting their career paths the pursue their dreams, coworking spaces in suburban markets will continue to grow. Office Evolution caters to small businesses and entrepreneurs that are the bread and butter of their community, you won’t find any large enterprises here. Creating a convenient and affordable space for our members to be productive within has been paramount to their businesses, growing the demand for our offices. People don’t want to drive more than 10 or 15 minutes from home. They want to have the ability to be close to their kids, to their pets, to their everyday lives. Our numbers will tell you that we have 70 locations open, 140 units sold in markets across the country, and are poised for further growth. This year alone, we have opened six new locations across the country to accommodate the influx of hybrid and remote workers across California, Florida, Georgia, and Texas.

COMMUTING IS A THING OF THE PAST. When the majority of Americans transitioned to remote work during the beginning of the pandemic, many businesses began to see the impact of having a convenient workspace. Removing the commute that dominates many individuals’ work day has increased their productivity and their quality of work. In removing a long commute, our members cannot only feel confidence in the time they’ll save every day, but they will also minimize the pollution correlated with commuting in addition they have slashed the costs associated with commuting, saving on gas, parking fees, tollways, and more.

HYBRID AND REMOTE WORKING IS HERE TO STAY. It’s no secret that hybrid and remote work have made an impact on businesses across the nation and the world. While the convenience of this work has made it desirable, I believe that the emotional impact will cement this idea as a foundation for many businesses. Hybrid and remote work have allowed individuals to strike a healthier work life balance, ultimately increasing their productivity. In reducing their commute, hybrid and remote work has also allotted individuals additional time in their work day, allowing them to take breaks when necessary. In addition, remote and hybrid work allows professionals to create a space in which they are most productive, rather than providing them with a cookie-cutter work setting.

THE FUTURE OF WORK WILL BE CLOSE-TO-HOME. The United States has been built upon the entrepreneurs and that is exactly who we will dictate the future of work. Many of these professionals have families and are looking for the flexibility that will allow them to have a productive day while still having time to pick up their kids from school. We at Office Evolution understand that entrepreneurs are everyday people chasing their dreams, leading us to the idea of developing locations within suburban markets. We want our members to feel fulfilled in the office and outside of the office. Through developing work space within minutes of our members’ homes, we’ve improved the work life balance of our members, improving their productivity and all-around well-being.

FLEXABILITY WILL DOMINATE THE FUTURE OF WORK. Flexibility will be essential as the economy recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic. As new businesses emerge, we want to do everything in our power to see them succeed, encouraging not only the success of our members, but the success of the economy. At Office Evolution, we’ve found success in providing both an array of spaces without the weight of a long-term contract. Entrepreneurs and small businesses have and will continue to emerge as we look ahead. It is important not only to provide them the space that works best for them but the opportunity to continue to grow beyond Office Evolution.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how this quote has shaped your perspective?

When I was young my dad would frequently remind me “it’s not what you do when you’re at the top, it’s what you do after you get knocked down”. This is a quote that I have lived by since a young age, it’s made me shift my perception of what it means to successful. In addition, it has taught me to ask for help when I need it. So often, businessmen and women will let their ego stand in the way of asking for help, rather than just accepting it. Asking for help is one of the strongest things a person can do. That’s why when I founded Office Evolution, I made it a point to instill the idea of Ohana, providing the help that professionals need, no matter where they are in their journey to success.

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 or she might just see this if we tag them.

I would love to connect with Elon Musk. He is authentically himself and that’s something I respect tremendously. He doesn’t care what other people think of him and he has demonstrated how this mentality can lead to success. I admire that he his success has come in various sizes from cars to rockets to the batteries in your home. I’d love to ask him, what’s the hardest part of being hypercreative? What’re the untold costs of being a maverick? What’s the best part of the day? He certainly has a mind unlike any other.

Our readers often like to follow our interview subjects’ careers. How can they further follow your work online?

I would encourage everyone to follow Office Evolution’s progress on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this. We wish you continued success and good health.