In December 2019, the three of us Brooks, Alex, and John — had just started full-time working on Gather.
We had a vision for a future of work that put people first. The vision was grounded in our own experiences, those of our friends, and the needs of a burnt-out workforce.
Over the next 5-10 years, we believed:
Our predictions? Pretty spot on.
Our timeline? Not so much. The gradual changes we saw coming over the next decade sped up in a way we never could have imagined.
Two years later, and a world away from December 2019, we decided to revisit some of the thoughts we presented in our founding story (which you can read here).
Then, we wrote:
When we talked to friends, we realized another, more concerning phenomenon underneath the trend. People aren't always running toward the next opportunity—they are often running away from their old one.
Our friends didn't feel supported by the culture of the workplaces they were excited to join initially. When we looked further, we realized continual job frustration wasn't limited to our early-career counterparts. People everywhere are struggling with their work environments.
Now, this turnover is old news. We’ve been wallowing in the “great resignation” for the better part of a year. Every day it seems like a new article highlights the unprecedented number of people voluntarily quitting their jobs.
Takeaway: In the past two years, talent retention has hurdled to the number one concern for nearly every company. It looks like turnover will remain a top priority for years to come.
Then, we wrote:
The most unusual aspect of the situation was the timing of this breaking point. While workplace culture has been deteriorating, companies have been pouring more money into it. Organizations are investing in employee experience more than ever before. In the knowledge worker economy, most teams are recognizing the importance of attracting and keeping top talent.
Companies that care about talent have all kinds of great perks. They have espresso machines with twelve types of milk, unlimited PTO, gym memberships, and learning stipends. Big firms are building beautiful campuses and training facilities. From the outside, the workplace has never looked better.
Now, we’ve seen a wild shift in budget allocation in the past two years, sparked by two major changes: a pandemic and a racial reckoning.
Covid-19 put a halt to spending on fancy offices and the perks that came with them. In the first year of the pandemic, companies turned to DoorDash credits, work-from-home gear, and wellness stipends. But in the year since, employers and employees alike are starting to separate out nice-to-have perks from need-to-have benefits. There’s a new emphasis on work flexibility and time off. Companies are experimenting more seriously with four-day work weeks, and mandatory employee breaks to prevent burnout.
The global racial reckoning, amplified by the murder of George Floyd, introduced a new level of scrutiny on diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. The tragedy was a turning point for true DE&I change in the workplace. While unprecedented resources are being allocated to address DE&I at every level, the vision of a fully inclusive workplace remains far from realized.
Takeaway: The question of how to spend money to create a great workplace culture remains a challenge for many teams. The ping-pong tables and beer kegs of the past are now nearly universally panned, but what comes next is still unknown. Much of the uncertainty centers around the question of how hybrid remote work will unfold.
Then, we wrote:
Now, after two years of working on these challenges, the are becoming even more clear:
Back in December 2019, without a product or customers, Gather was a dream. It has been such an honor to work with so many brilliant People leaders to craft the future of work over the past two years. We still have so many more places to go together.
To the next two years and beyond,
Brooks, Alex, and John