I’ve been going back into our building a couple days a week. It’s nice. 

Weird, though. 

My office is a time capsule. The flip calendar with pictures of our kids is still on March 2020. My whiteboard is covered with two-year-old action items, which means a bunch of things I never accomplished are memorialized in what is now a permanent marker. Wilson’s dog toys are still strewn about the floor. The same abortion protesters are outside.     

I did find new bags of Dot’s Pretzels on my desk, gifted by pen pals after I ranted about them being perpetually sold out. That’s why I love all of you people so much. (P.S. – I can’t find Titleist Pro V1 golf balls anywhere!)

Now that I’m back in the office, I want it to be more like it was – not five days a week or anything outrageous, mind you – but a couple days anyway. I miss people strolling into my office unannounced to share an idea (but not to complain about something). I miss the impromptu stroll for coffee or ad hoc lunch. I’m an extrovert, if you haven’t noticed.

On most days, there are seldom more than one or two other people in the building. Maybe more have stopped by, looking for socialization, then left when it was empty. Chicken/egg.

Or maybe 90% of our team has no interest, which is fine. We’re not requiring anything.     

Tracking job satisfaction throughout the pandemic has been fascinating. In the early days, people who couldn’t work from home were the least happy. When things initially reopened, the unhappiest people were service industry workers, dealing primarily with customers who were the most cavalier about COVID and who also happened to be the shittiest tippers. 

Today, the least happy people in the workforce are young unmarried people without kids, who are still working fully remote. I’m none of those things, but I get it. 

Some of my fondest memories are from crawling into work after late night drinking with my coworkers, praying somebody else wanted to sneak away for a Bloody Mary at lunch, so I didn’t have to go by myself. Some of those high-functioning alcoholics are among my best friends to this day.

Work may never be the same again. In many ways, it shouldn’t. It was too much.

I’ll just be happier when it looks a little more like it used to.  

Here’s what we’re seeing:    

Consumer confidence still sucks. Just when I thought it wouldn’t get any worse, our Economic Sentiment Index had its third downturn in a row, each of which establishing a new record for lousiness. Confidence in the housing market and major purchases continue to slide, while inflation and gas prices are beginning to expose cracks in household finances. There is one small sign of optimism, however, as Americans’ six-month outlook for the U.S. economy had its biggest jump in nearly six months. Maybe we’ve hit bottom.  

People are getting a little more worried about the stealth Omicron variant, but not enough to keep them from going out in public. The number of Americans who are “very concerned” about the new flavor of Omicron climbed three percentage points this week, which is still much lower than concerns we saw at similar stages of Delta and Omicron 1.0. Nonetheless, comfort levels doing all manner of public things – from shopping to going to concerts – increased noticeably over the past seven days. People are still pretty divided on masks, however, with 1 in 3 adults saying they should be gone everywhere. 

Young people are going to be just fine, despite all our efforts to f–k them up. Stress levels across the country are the highest they’ve been since the beginning of the pandemic, with a full 37% of Americans saying they suffer from chronic stress. The impact on the mental health of young people has been particularly severe. Seventeen percent of adults aged 18-24 say they began using mental health services during COVID, the highest percentage of any age group by far. The negative take on this is that we’ve messed up young people so badly that they all need therapy. The positive take (the one I agree with) is that Gen Z is uncommonly confident and enlightened, such that they’re not afraid to ask for help and don’t associate any stigma with caring for their mental health. See: Biles, Simone. Gen Z rocks. 

The cryptocurrency craze is leaving women behind. On my podcast last year, Andrea Brimmer, the CMO of Ally, went on a marvelous riff about how girls aren’t taught household finance and investment literacy at the same early ages as boys, which forces them to play catch-up throughout their adult lives. We can see signs of Andrea’s observation in the crypto space, as men vastly outnumber women among investors. The #1 reason cited by women for not investing in crypto is a lack of understanding of how it works. We’re still a long way from gender equality in STEM.

In related news, 71% of U.S. workers would be at least somewhat interested in financial wellness programs if their employers offered them. Overall financial stress this month is up YoY, for obvious reasons, with lower income groups worrying about managing their living expenses and higher income groups worrying about saving for retirement. And while the percentage of Americans who consider themselves “very financially literate” is up since the beginning of the pandemic, it’s still less than one-third of all adults. Employers could score a lot of brownie points by offering financial education programs to their team. 

Digital advertising is a mess. With all the gazillions of dollars plowed into ad tech, you’d think it would be better by now, but no. Only 35% of people think the ads they see online are relevant to them – only 5% say “very relevant.” Ad targeting does seem to be slightly more effective among young people – TikTok does a particularly good job among the social platforms. Even when ads are effective at getting people to click, the quality of the experience is dubious at best. Seventy-one percent of people who’ve bought a product by way of an online ad say they have received an item that was falsely or inaccurately advertised. Ad tech isn’t just creepy. It’s broken. 

More awesomeness from the CivicScientists this week: 

  • April Fools’ pranksters are more likely to eat Panera, drink gin;
  • We studied OnlyFans and other adult content people lie about not watching;
  • Will Smith’s popularity took a worse beating than Chris Rock.


The most popular questions this week:

Answer Key: Baguette; Too close to call; Sure; Who doesn’t?; There was one?; Never, ever.  

Hoping you’re well.


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