Firstly I must warn you this is double posted - if, by any chance you subscribe to both newsletters I apologise, you’ll see it twice, so ignore it once -at least :)-
Secondly, I’ve had a bit of analysis paralysis on this end-of-year article no less because writing fervently on my upcoming book every day does keep me in a state of enhanced alertness regarding how well my words stack up over time. That said, I had a look over some other year-gone-year-coming articles of the past and gained a sense of perspective. Neither wrong predictions nor inexact conclusions about what has transpired have changed the world.
If you want to see what I mean here are a few and if you read them please try and heed some of that advice, it still 1000% stands today - same old to-do: put people first, audit your HumanDebt, make the human work standard practice, tool your people with the permission, the software, the time and the appreciation and then let them better themselves and therefore your performance.
2022 was an extraordinary year indeed and when it comes to the big picture we saw Covid -nearly- neutralised; we saw inflation become a worry; we saw massive tech layoffs; we saw geniuses veering towards tyrants and destroying entire company cultures and brands; we saw insane political instability -at least in the UK-; and we saw war in Europe - something most people would never have thought they’ll see again. All of this is weighing heavily on all of us whether we are conscious of it or not. It adds up to what now has an official title of PPSD - Post-Pandemic Stress Disorder- and it makes us tired, weary, stressed, anxious and even depressed. How could it not?
So much so that while this year “the Great Resignation” seems to have slowed down, “Quiet Quitting” swiftly took its place as the trend of the year. Of course, as we are now all clear at long last, quiet quitting is nothing but an extreme form of active disengagement. We have always known we have oodles of that and 1 in 3 employees exhibited it, we simply didn’t have the name or enough social and classical media attention to discuss it at length. As ever more impressed with sensationalist claims, we debated the topic of “quiet quitting” in itself and where it is morally right or wrong more than we stopped to consider that it is just an illustration of this much more terrifying fact: in 2022, lack of engagement cost us collectively nearly 11% of our GDP! That ought to alarm us all and it would have been there in plain sight irrespective of the TikTok trend.
“EMPLOYEES WHO ARE NOT ENGAGED OR WHO ARE ACTIVELY DISENGAGED COST THE WORLD $7.8 TRILLION IN LOST PRODUCTIVITY, THAT'S EQUAL TO 11% OF GLOBAL GDP.” Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace: 2022 Report
And here’s another terrifying fact that doesn’t seem connected but is fundamentally a factor:
“AN ESTIMATED 15% OF WORKING-AGE ADULTS HAVE A MENTAL DISORDER AT ANY POINT IN TIME. DEPRESSION AND ANXIETY ARE ESTIMATED TO COST THE GLOBAL ECONOMY US $1 TRILLION EACH YEAR DRIVEN PREDOMINANTLY BY LOST PRODUCTIVITY.” & ACCORDING TO WHO (WORLD HEALTH ORGANISATION) – "THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC TRIGGERED A 25% INCREASE IN THE PREVALENCE OF ANXIETY AND DEPRESSION WORLDWIDE"
This is genuinely horrifying and if every company would subsidise 1-on-1 counselling for each and every of their employee then the cost would be negligible as compared to having to pay for the effects of ignoring the problem.
But the good news on this last horrifying fact is that at long last the dialogue on mental health is finally devoid of shame and fear and organisations and governments are starting to finally pay attention.
Thankfully some good things have definitely transpired this year too and we should start seeing their effects soon:
· WHO published its first-ever “Workplace Recommendations” in a nod to how it is the workplace that is the biggest culprit in worsening people’s mental health state. This will hopefully force governments to evaluate legislation that will mandate and uphold lowering the HumanDebt by forcing otherwise tone-deaf organisations to show some care and compassion for their people;
· In the first move of its kind, a theoretical team dynamic that is healthy and beneficial was indeed defined enough to become a standard. With the publishing of ISO45003, Psychological Safety became a workplace standard and there is great hope that every enterprise will now have to start taking it seriously - if your company is one of the ones who will, of course, speak to us at People Not Tech;
· Hybrid and remote work increased and are aiming towards an overall 74% over the next 3 years although the attitudes around the absurd forced return to the office have regressed. While workers are wildly more satisfied (22% increase in retention for high-score NPS employees that work remotely) and management productivity paranoia has been debunked by the likes of Microsoft, we still have 44% of companies not allowing any hybrid or flexible model and we still have 46% of employees saying they would not wish their jobs on their worst enemies and while the two stats are unconnected, I am willing to bet there is a fascinating Venn diagram were we to correlate them somehow;
· Finally, in a resounding success for the flexible working camp, the experiment of the 4-days-working-week was so wildly successful in demonstrating no loss of performance but an increase in productivity and motivation that a large number of other companies took the pledge to adopt the model and several countries -including the UK- have advanced in their legislative practices to start protecting the rights of the hybrid and flexible workers even further.
That’s the looking back part done. What about looking forward? My feeling is that 2023 will be a year of extreme VUCA again. The economic uncertainty and possible downturn are looming, there’s more foreign affairs instability to worry about in Asia and we are far from having succeeded in this future of workplace transformation.
That doesn’t mean we have no reason to be hopeful. We have several darn good reasons in fact. I was just telling the children last week that this early life of theirs, contains major turning points for humanity. While some are perhaps harder to see such as this extreme change towards tech-led culture and new ways of viewing working to the more evident and extremely exciting ones such as the release of Chat GPT and the ability to create fusion energy, both absolute game-changers at a humanity-growth-level.
All in all, on the people side, while it feels like such slow progress to those of us who have been waiting for true change for far too long, we have truly advanced in humanising the workplace and getting people to do the human work front in 2022, and better yet, these are the predictions for what is happening next year from the likes of Gartner and David Green and what joyous read this is because if this is true we’ll all be very busy making people’s lives so much better.
Meanwhile, Huston, we have an immediate and urgent problem:
A 2022 study by the work management platform Asana found that 70% of the more than 10,000 knowledge workers it surveyed across seven countries had experienced burnout or imposter syndrome in the past year.
That's a lot of private suffering that won't be touched by the positive trends above for aeons to come so instead it needs your efforts. So I have a proposal. Don’t shun and ridicule new year’s eve resolutions this year. Resolve to make 2023 a year when you return to yourself - pay attention, take care, and improve. A year of self-care and self-improvement. If that means breathing or meditation, do it. If it means you’ll rethink how you take care of your body - the fuel, the sleep, the gym, do that. If it means you’ll intentionally destress, help your nerves vagus or just learn to be mindful, go ahead. If it means working on your personal brand or learning how to decipher your productivity spurs or getting more breaks and undisturbed time for creation and reflection, do that. If it means being more intentional about deeper and kinder interactions and relationships both at work and out of it then be intentional about that.
More importantly, if it means finding a new job where you can sense the purpose every day and live and breathe impact and emotional involvement - fine, if, on the contrary, it means disconnecting from the “why” of your work for a while and even quiet quitting then fine again. Chances are that your quiet quitting input is good enough. Do what’s right for you. What you need. What most benefits you? Define some goals, whatever they may mean for you and to the extent that you can, focus on them alone.
We deserve a year to gather our thoughts, breath and hearts and then we’ll be whole again and ready again. Don’t rush yourself and don’t think yourself selfish. You’re the only one who can invest in your absolute best asset - you, so please do so.