It’s World Productivity Day, and, honestly, I’ve never really known what to do for this “holiday.” It seems like one of those days that’s made up just to sell something or have something to talk about.
We’re here every day helping people finish what matters most (aka being productive). We don’t need a special day to do it.
But what is interesting to me is using it as a day to reflect on macro trends affecting productivity and to paint the picture of what to watch over the next year. I hope you find it interesting, too.
Key Trends Since Last World Productivity Day
The last few years have each felt like a decade – or maybe that’s just me. Think about how long ago “the Great Resignation” conversation feels.
1. The Great Resignation
The Great Resignation was fueled by a lot of factors: burnout, government incentives, fears of doing colocated work or working in public during the pandemic, and the evergreen disengagement that hovered between 70–80% before the pandemic. In the short term, productivity is down due to staff, production, and supply chain shortages. We’ve also seen a slight bump in wages and, thus, a more significant increase in prices for all goods and services given how significantly wages play into the costs of goods and services.
Worker mobility is usually a downstream positive for economies, but the macroeconomic environment created by a global pandemic is a novel scenario.
2. Chaotic Reopening
It’s been a confusing roller coaster when it comes to the world reopening after the coronavirus lockdown. Mask, distancing, and occupancy rules have varied wildly per region and industry, and right as things were feeling safer, the Omicron variant re-entrenched fears of the pandemic.
This volatility has made it hard for companies to plan for the future, both in terms of staffing, production, and inventory acquisition. There’s a lot of “hurry up and wait” from individual workers’ perspectives. Since organizations can’t lock down long-term priorities and the resources to fuel them, teams are under-resourced, over-reactive, and often unable to complete anything before the next emergent thing pops up.
3. Massive Reallocation of Investment
Whether it’s the shakeout that’s currently happening in the startup space or the drop in the stock market, we’re seeing the downstream effects of individuals, organizations, and societies investing and spending differently. The subsidies of the last few years make it harder to tell whether it’s agents saving more (and thus not investing), investing in research and development initiatives that are currently not profitable, a change in investment priorities into safer or different investment vehicles, or that there’s a lower amount of discretionary resources to invest. It’s likely a significant shift in all of them, at once.
Trends to Watch for the Next Year
1. The Great Return
Even with the gig economy rising, we’re likely to see more workers wanting to return to traditional jobs. The full costs of being a gig worker show up a year to eighteen months after someone begins as taxes, business expenses, irregular work, and constant hustle take their toll. Micropreneurs and solopreneurs who entered the competitive marketplace of the last few years will likely be closing their shops and looking for full or part-time work again.
The increased costs and lower subsidies will also make not-working less viable for a lot of people at the same time that the bump in wages for new workers will make it more appealing to return to work. Workers finding better-fit arrangements and companies being able to right-size are both good things, though a segment of the people returning to traditional jobs will be doing so reluctantly and/or broken-heartedly.
2. Hybrid Work Normalization
Before the pandemic, co-located work was the given of our modern work, so much so that the real costs and downsides of co-located work were unassessed. During the pandemic, remote working was the necessary evil forced upon us. Over the last few years, we’ve seen the benefits and costs of both ways of working and more companies are co-creating hybrid work arrangements that harness the best of both. “Can we work from home a few days a week?” is shifting to “What days of the week make sense for teammates to work from home and what kind of work is best done co-located, in real-time?” I count this as largely a good trend, but it comes at a cost. 👇🏽
3. Increased Burnout and Mental Health Challenges from Key Players
While the best performers typically struggle with burnout and anxiety – it’s not necessary, but common nonetheless – the last few years have been especially demanding on them. Key players, whether they’re leaders, managers, or anchor teammates, didn’t join the Great Resignation and have been holding things together since the lockdown. They’ve gone through the massive shift to remote, the staff shortages, the awkward return to co-located work and the anxieties that came with that, and the emotional see-saw of supporting one teammate just long enough for another to fall out.
Hybrid work normalization and the Great Return are going to fall on them, too, with lots of new faces showing up needing to be trained by people who often didn’t get trained themselves.
Right past the bend of World Productivity Day 2023 is going to be the society-level introduction of the innovations that the pandemic has spurred. We’ll see some of them rolling in over the next few years, but it takes a while for the innovations to become ready and applicable for Main Street.
Web3/crypto is an example of this, as 90% (my estimate) of it is hype, speculation, novelty, and naivete, but there’s 10% of it that will be applied to solve real Main Street problems. For instance, Dashdok has ideas for creating technology that shares video so that law enforcement agencies can’t confiscate and hide video recordings from the public. This will increase transparency and shift information power from law enforcement agencies to the communities they serve.
Relevant Posts Published Since World Productivity Day 2021
While we’re reflecting, it’s a good time to showcase some of the pieces we’ve published since last World Productivity Day. I’ve chosen the posts below based on their relevance to the trends above and it’s a treat to shine the light on some of the work from our guest contributors.
If you’d like some pieces that dive into more application and practice, these posts will serve you well:
- 4 Ways to Lead in a VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous) World – COVID accelerated the already VUCA world we live in. This post shares four ways to build whatever footing you can and lead your teams forward.
- 3 Ways to Pay Off Dunkirk Spirit Debt – Dunkirk Spirit is the extraordinary effort teams put in to be successful despite the resources, planning, and communication that would help them be so. Channeling Dunkirk Spirit has a cost and this post shares some techniques to pay it off.
- Is Your Leadership Posture Working for You and Your Team? – The key idea from this post is that a leader’s emotional state and how they show up matter to how their team performs. Lots of leaders have been in crisis mode for a while and they and their teams need a posture change.
- Empower Your Team (and Yourself) by Asking for Help – Angela shares how, as counterintuitive as it can feel, asking for help can actually empower your team and yourself. If you’re worn out from carrying everything, maybe it’s time to let others help.
- A Simple Exercise for Burnout Recovery – When you’re already toasty, it can be hard to figure out how to get out of it. Angela shares a simple “modify, drop, or delegate” framework to apply at work and home. Start small and reclaim your energy.
- How to Improve Team Productivity with the Weekly Cadence – As we’re all co-creating new ways of working with each other, a great place to start is with team cadences and routines. Steve shares how we do this at Productive Flourishing. Or, at least, what it looked like last year. 🤪
- Healing and Growth in the Workplace – Like it or not, work and our workplaces play a significant role in our whole-life wellbeing. Oshey discusses how working at PF has led to healing and growth within and outside of PF.
- Why Getting Clarity About Our Care Work Is Valuable – How uncompensated caregiving plays into our productivity and well-being is under-discussed and -emphasized, and I’m so glad Liana Cassar joined the contributor crew to discuss this topic. She ends the post with four critical questions we should all consider, whether we’re a caregiver ourselves or working with them (we are all working with caregivers).
- How to Improve Employee Experience by Using Your “I’s” – Is this an issue or an idea? Mike Bruny shows how getting clear about that question and addressing ideas or issues appropriately dramatically improves your employees’ experience. While improving your employees’ experience is the right thing to do for them, it also makes your business or organization better.
- How to Be Consistent in Your Business in an Unpredictable World – We’re all told that consistency is the key to success, but let’s face it, that doesn’t work for lots of people but especially parents. Sarah Peck discusses how consistency looks different for parents and how to make it work for their (ever-changing) schedule.
Bonus piece: We’ve gotten a lot of feedback that our recent podcast on Slowbaticals has been helpful for burnout and lowering team tempo. It might be worth a listen on your summer drive. 🙂