We brought our whole team together in Pittsburgh this week. 

We try to do it a couple times a year, with two days of breakout meetings followed by a party the final night. With everyone working remotely, scattered around the world, it’s always a blast. We have a fun gaggle of geniuses at CivicScience. 

Before COVID, 90% of our team lived and worked in Pittsburgh. Notwithstanding business travel or PTO, everyone was in the office daily. Today, we’re three times larger, less than half of the team resides in the 412 and, most days, our building is empty. 

If it were up to me, we’d be back in the office – at least a few days a week. The value of in-person collaboration, learning, and camaraderie is undeniable. And I miss it, dearly.  

Alas, it’s not up to me, regardless of what my job title might suggest. Last fall, we surveyed everyone about the prospects of returning to the office, proposing different scenarios and carrots. Under any model or any enticement, fewer than 15% were interested. Our company is nothing without the talented (and highly coveted) people who make it all work. If it’s flexibility they want, it’s flexibility they get. And our best and brightest stay.

For the younger members of the team, I worry they don’t know what they’re missing – the vibrancy, the mentoring, the friendships. It’s easy for me to say. I’m old. One of my kids is in college and the other drives herself everywhere. Family logistics aren’t the challenge they used to be.

Building and maintaining company culture is hard under any circumstances. Doing it while growing in size, growing out in geography, and growing up in maturity – all while working and interacting entirely on screen – is like playing the back tees at Oakmont in 30-mile-an-hour winds with the rough grown out and the greens running at 17. And if you don’t play enough golf to know what all that means, trust me. It’s damn-near impossible. And humbling.

But we’ll keep grinding. Communication, transparency, honesty, and empathy are the only things we can control. We subscribe to a strict “no assholes” rule, while preaching the virtues of radical candor. We do exciting, make-the-world-a-better-place type of work. And we throw good parties.

And, as I saw again this week, we love being together.

We just don’t do it enough.

Here’s what we’re seeing:

Gender equality seems to be slowly improving, but not really. The number of women who report being concerned about gender equality in America (66%) has fallen two percentage points since 2022 and seven percentage points since 2019. The percentage of men who are concerned about it (55%) has actually increased two points since 2022. The workplace, however, is a different story. Men and women, alike, are less likely today to believe their employer values gender equity than they did in 2021. Only 38% of women believe they’re fairly compensated in their job, compared to 51% of men. Our society still has a long way to go.

Oprah just did GLP-1 drug manufacturers a big favor. You may have seen that Oprah Winfrey did what amounted to a full-blown infomercial for weight-loss drugs last week, shortly after stepping down from the WeightWatchers board. Needless to say, that kind of exposure is a big deal. Nearly 1-in-10 GLP-1 users say celebrities had some influence on their decision to try the drugs, even before Oprah flexed her muscle. It will likely further accelerate a trend, as consumers look for quick-fix weight-loss solutions at the expense of hard work like exercise regimens or dieticians.

Dollar stores are picking up a bigger share of grocery shoppers, particularly among debt-strapped Gen Zs and Millennials. In our 3 Things to Know this week, we found a growing number of Americans are turning to dollar stores for their grocery needs, with rates climbing among younger groups of consumers. In somewhat related news, more than double the number of consumers plan to spend whatever tax refund they receive for basic shopping – with fewer planning to pay down their (much higher) debts. Lastly, a majority of U.S. adults agree with the Supreme Court’s decision to allow Donald Trump on the Colorado ballot, numbers that go well beyond the typical partisan divide. 

Taxpayers are looking to save money filing their returns this year. Another sign of the inflationary times, more Americans are turning to low-cost methods for filing their taxes. Use of paid tax software is down nearly 25% compared to 2022 and reliance on personal accountants is down over 10% (although still the most popular method among Baby Boomers). Instead, more of those filers will be using free tax software or preparing their returns by hand. Intuit TurboTax is the most popular software tool, by a lot. 

Interest in the Paris Olympics is up compared to Tokyo. Forty-nine percent of Americans say they plan to follow the summer games this year, a notable uptick from the 41% who said the same before the 2021 Tokyo Olympiad. The percentage of viewers who plan to watch via traditional cable or satellite will reach record lows – 32% will tune in via a streaming service and another 18% via antenna. Gymnastics and swimming are likely to draw the most attention, per usual, but curiosity around new events, like skateboarding, is fairly high.

More awesomeness from the InsightStore this week:

The most popular questions this week:

Is home location or home style more important to you?

How confident are you in your March Madness bracket?

Do you tend to sleep on your side, back, or stomach?

Do you have a green thumb?

Do you personally enjoy fishing?

Answer Key: Location for sure; I didn’t do one, for the first time in maybe 30 years; Side; Definitely not; It’s one of my favorite things.

Hoping you’re well.