If you think work is going back to the way it was, send me whatever edibles you’re eating.
Because it’s not.
And if anybody in a position like mine – business owner or c-something – tells you they have the perfect solution, grab their edibles too. Nobody has a clue.
We’re embarking on one of the greatest free market experiments of all time. For the overpriced consulting firms who study cubicle configurations and free lunches, it’s a gold mine. For the rest of us, it’s a high-wire act.
Now that everyone has tasted working from home, the vast majority of us prefer it – at least most of the time. And while many of us enjoy adult interaction, collaborative work experiences, happy hours, and the occasional solo business trip or conference boondoggle, it only takes a few days a week or month to scratch that itch. Otherwise, spare us the commute time, the security lines, and the pants.
It’s the life hack my Gen X brethren only dreamed of.
Forty-two percent of professionals today would be willing to work for less money if they could work from home. One-third would pull up stakes and move to another city or state if it didn’t matter. How do you get talented people to work in Bentonville or commute 90 minutes both ways to Manhattan in that paradigm? You don’t.
Companies will work feverishly to come up with models and policies that optimize for productivity and morale. But the policies won’t matter.
If I’ve told you one incontrovertible truth, it’s this: You should never, ever serve shrimp with the tails on in a dish meant to be eaten with utensils.
Here’s a second truth: Leadership trumps policy.
What you tell your team is irrelevant. Allowances are irrelevant. If people think being in the office scores points, if the boss values in-person meetings, if the human office fixtures get all the breaks, eventually your team will be 100% in-person. That’s how markets work.
Maybe we’ll have a whole index of only successful companies who can attract in-office sycophants. Maybe those companies will crush everyone else.
I doubt it.
Power in the workforce is increasingly shifting to the smart and talented workers. And those people realize it’s way better to work from home most or all of the time.
So that’s the way it’s going to be. No pressure.
Here’s what we’re seeing:
Consumer confidence returned to an upward trajectory on the back of a blazing hot job market. Our Economic Sentiment Index climbed a point or so, after two straight downward readings. Even as optimism for the super-tight housing market is plummeting, people have never (at least in the almost 10 years we’ve tracked it) thought it was a better time to find a new job than right now. Feast your eyes on the green line. The workforce is a seller’s market. Especially in the bar and restaurant industry. Yikes.
In case you ever think I’m just making this shit up as I go… Seventy-one percent of people currently in the professional workforce say they would prefer to work at least part of the time at home – 26% want to be home full-time. And in a seller’s market, that’s profound. The results don’t really change among parents and non-parents – some people want to be home with their kids, others want to get the hell out of the house. Young people are the least likely to want a hybrid solution. But the most jarring stat was the one below. The people who most want to return to the office are the least likely to get vaccinated. Chew on that.
Coffee drinking increased during the pandemic, even as favorability toward most of the major chains has fallen. I’m guessing my coffee consumption is about the same – 20 oz. every freaking day without fail. Overall, American coffee drinking increased just 1% since the pandemic, but when 83% of people already drank coffee, that’s notable. Popularity of the major chains declined, as more people drank coffee at home, with the exception of Dunkin’ and McDonald’s, who stayed pretty steady. Starbucks had a holiday bump but crashed again in Q1. By the way, standard drip coffee makers still dominate at home.
Terminating app surveillance on the iPhone was a no-brainer for Apple. Our friends in Cupertino this week launched a software update that allows device users to opt out of being tracked by the apps they install. When given the choice to be spied upon or not, duh, only 3% of people say they would definitely choose to be tracked. Notably, the move by Apple already seems to be bearing fruit from a favorability and purchase intent standpoint. Like I said last week (and many other weeks), a privacy revolution is coming.
The luster of college seems to be waning. I know a lot of people in higher ed read this thing, so feel free to skip ahead if you don’t want to ruin your Saturday morning. But most of the metrics we track about the perception of college – its value, cost, etc. – are skewing south. Naturally, people who already have college degrees think differently, but that doesn’t solve admissions problems. However, wealthy people are no more likely than average to put stock in college degrees at all. Keep an eye on this trend. Or I’ll do it for you.
Young people don’t care if you understand what NFTs are or not. I’ll admit, this whole space took me a lot of time to get my head around and I’m the last person to try to explain them to you. But “non-fungible tokens” are a thing and they aren’t going away. The trend parallels cryptocurrency in a lot of ways – appealing to younger, more tech-savvy investors. One of the biggest barriers to growth is simply that people don’t understand them, which means the market should only grow as people become educated… even though the people playing in the sandbox like having it to themselves.
Other cool studies we did:
- Over 1 in 4 people will still wear masks outside after they’re vaccinated and I’m not one of them;
- People have gotten progressively better at controlling their spending since the beginning of the pandemic;
- If you’re in the one-third of people who love the Kentucky Derby, this infographic is for you;
- Grilling – especially gas grilling – is uncannily popular across every age group;
- The big majority of Americans support brands that incentivize their employees to get vaccinated and the division on the issue is completely predictable;
- And here’s everything you need to know about COVID and vaccine trends right now.
And the greatest questions of the week:
- How do you typically defrost / thaw frozen meat?
- Have you ever gone to a completely wrong destination due to an error while using a navigation app?
- Does your house ever make any creaking / groaning sounds or other noticeable noises?
- Would you ever get a matching tattoo with someone else?
- Have issues of inheritance ever caused a rift or conflict within your family?
Answer Key: Depends on how fast I need it; Oh heavens yes; Like it has a full vocabulary; I’m planning on it; Nope, my dad planned it like a boss.
Hoping you’re well.
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