As the year comes to a close, many are wrapping up projects and reflecting on their achievements. This season holds a unique significance, encouraging us to look ahead, contemplate what the upcoming year holds, and assess how emerging trends will influence our businesses. Are you ready? It’s time for the 2023 wrap-up!
Here are a few things we’ve noticed over the past year that we expect to impact businesses of all sizes next year as well. We trust that you discover our 2023 wrap-up as intriguing as we did while you engage in reflection and forward-thinking during this holiday season.
1. Both consumers and businesses are wary of the economic future
One of the biggest concerns plaguing the world right now is economic uncertainty. On the consumer side, 70 percent of Americans believe the economy is getting worse. And 84 percent are worried about the cost of living. This situation has a direct impact on businesses. As a result of that uncertainty, more than 71 percent of consumers reported eating out less often. Meanwhile, 44 percent said they’re cutting back on holiday spending.
On the flip side, companies are also worried about the economy. Only 43 percent of business owners feel like there will be better conditions in the coming year. In addition, 23 percent say inflation is their main concern.
These economic uncertainties will persist in 2024. To mitigate the impact, companies need to build up their resiliency now in order to prepare for the future. Consider what you can do with the resources you have and how you can set yourself up for success with a potentially uncertain consumer wary of spending.
2. Economic anxiety contributes to burnout
According to this report, 59 percent of American workers currently experience moderate levels of burnout. This means they have higher levels of anxiety, depression, and other mental health concerns. More than half of employers (51%) have noticed that employee mental health affects performance.
Economic instability causes personal stress, but it can also lead to anxiety in the workplace. Workers can’t afford to lose their jobs, which means they place more pressure on themselves to perform. In fact, when Pew Research asked employees why they don’t use their paid time off, some of the top answers were disturbing:
- Worry about falling behind
- Don’t want to hurt their chances for advancement
- Don’t want to risk losing their jobs.
An unfortunate 12 percent of workers say their managers discourage taking time off. When employees don’t have time away from the office, they can get burned out. However, if they don’t feel safe taking time off, their anxiety will flare up.
It’s up to managers to set healthy boundaries to prevent burnout and make employees feel safe. Encourage team members to use their time off and create a sense of stability in the company. Scared and exhausted employees will not perform at their best.
3. Working again face-to-face
This year saw a significant increase in Return to Office (RTO) policies across the world. One survey indicated that 90 percent of companies expect employees to return to the office by the end of 2024. However, it’s worth noting that 42 percent of workers would change jobs to continue working remotely, and 68 percent support a hybrid schedule.
Companies will need to test their RTO plans and see how it impacts employee morale and churn. If mandates result in higher turnover rates, slower hiring times, and disengagement in the form of quiet quitting, adjustments may be necessary—yet again. It’s important to recognize that hybrid and remote work models might enable faster hiring and the ability to offer competitive market-rate salaries.
However, let’s not forget that working next to your team members also comes with unparalleled benefits, impossible to obtain with remote work. Here are some of them, as part of the 2023 wrap-up and after serious consideration over the past 3 (highly) unprecedented years 🙂
Enhanced collaboration, creativity, and productivity
The past years have shown us—if we didn’t already know—that in-person interactions are priceless for teamwork. They allow for immediate and nuanced communication through facial expressions, body language, and tone of voice. This richness in communication can prevent misunderstandings, promote clarity, and foster a deeper understanding of ideas.
In-person work facilitates the building of personal relationships and trust among team members. Stronger personal connections often translate to more effective collaboration, as team members are more likely to share ideas openly and feel comfortable expressing themselves. Face-to-face collaboration allows for instant feedback, enabling quick iterations and improvements. Immediate feedback loops contribute to a more dynamic and responsive creative process, fostering a culture of continuous improvement.
And let’s not forget about the cultural and social dynamics. Being physically present in an office environment encourages spontaneous conversations and idea exchanges that might not happen in a remote setting. Casual interactions near the coffee machine or during lunch can lead to the generation of innovative ideas and solutions. The ability to physically gather around a shared space fosters a sense of unity and collective effort, enhancing creativity and problem-solving.
In-person work provides a cultural and social context that helps team members better understand each other’s perspectives and work styles. This understanding can lead to more effective collaboration, as individuals are better attuned to the nuances of their colleagues’ thought processes.
Mental health and work-life balance
According to this survey, 51 percent of tech professionals reported that remote work negatively impacted their mental health. In contrast, working in person can contribute to enhanced mental health for various reasons.
In-person work provides opportunities for face-to-face social interactions with colleagues, fostering a sense of connection and reducing feelings of isolation. Social engagement can positively impact mental health by offering emotional support and promoting a sense of belonging. Social connections and a sense of community at the workplace can act as protective factors against feelings of loneliness and isolation.
Working in an office often establishes a structured, consistent routine, including set working hours and defined breaks.In turn, this can contribute to a sense of stability, helping individuals manage stress and anxiety associated with uncertainty.
There’s also the separation of work and home life. Commuting to a physical workplace creates a clear boundary between professional and personal life. This separation helps individuals mentally disengage from work when at home, reducing the risk of burnout and promoting a healthier work-life balance.
At the same time, commuting to an office often involves physical activity, whether walking, cycling, or using public transportation. And as we proved time and time again, regular physical activity is associated with enhanced mental well-being, as it releases endorphins and contributes to overall health.
Furthermore, in-person work allows for immediate access to a support network, including supervisors, colleagues, and HR personnel. Having a readily available support system can help individuals address challenges, seek guidance, and receive assistance with work-related stressors.
It’s important to note that individual preferences and circumstances vary, and remote work may be suitable for some individuals. The key is to find a work arrangement that aligns with an individual’s needs and promotes a healthy work-life balance.
4. Attention spans are shrinking (even more)
Social media usage keeps people in a constant state of stimulation. As soon as one reel or post gets boring, users can scroll on to the next source of entertainment. Because there is always something new around the corner, tolerance for boring things is lower than ever before and attention spans are shrinking.
Brands are already studying how this impacts consumers, but it will also change how companies engage with employees. Workers might struggle to focus on one task at a time or pay attention in long meetings. Managers might need to adjust their plans to focus on short tasks that employees can switch between throughout the day.
It’s easy to make fun of teens who are seemingly glued to their smartphones. However, within the next few years, the majority of Gen Z will be part of the American workplace. Now is the time to figure out how to work with employees of this generation.
5. Artificial intelligence is here to stay
AI has been used by countless businesses in the past decade, but it reached a new level in 2023. A key driver of this was ChatGPT, a free chatbot created by OpenAI. Just two months after it launched in late 2022, it reached 100 million monthly active users, setting a record for the fastest-growing user base in consumer application history.
With this change, AI moved from a business tool to a commonplace app for consumers. Everyone from podcasters to students can use ChatGPT in some capacity.
We’re interested to see how this rapid adoption will unfold in 2024, for both businesses and consumers. The latter might be more willing to use AI-based tools because they are more familiar with and trusting of the technology. Meanwhile, businesses will definitely invest more in AI because, when done right, it provides a boost in productivity. Furthermore, it can help reduce costs at a time when budget is at the forefront of many decisions.
The 2023 wrap-up while looking at 2024
It has been a challenging year from many perspectives, yet it has also offered fresh insights, both economically and socially. We’re definitely better than we were a year ago, yet there are (still) so many things to do.
2024 has the potential to be successful for companies and consumers alike. However, there’s still a lot of anxiety and burnout across teams and businesses of all sizes. At the very least, if you focus on creating a healthy workplace, you can better prepare everyone to be resilient no matter what comes our way.
When it comes to the tech darling this year, our forecast is that AI is here to stick around—it simply needs a couple of mechanisms and tools to become more widely adopted by businesses of all sizes.
And to finish on a positive note, our entire 4PSA team is wishing you all a very normal (read that as the opposite of unprecedented) and blissful 2024.