July 18, 2024

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2023: The year of the workplace gridlock

2 min read

Maybe forecasts were best left to Paul the Octopus or even Punxsutwaney Phil; from the workplace to the economy, experts were full of clashing predictions for 2023—none of which really came to light, bringing everyone to a stalemate.

It was supposed to be the year inflation finally came under control; the year remote work won out and office mandates finally proved futile—or maybe, depending on who you ask, the year office attendance won out and remote workers were shown the door. It was meant to be the year Gen Z showed their bosses who was in charge—or young upstarts were put in their place. The year the work uniform became more forgiving. 

But none of that quite happened. An avalanche of fresh data showing that alternate ways of working are possible could have bolstered bold, enduring strides towards a new era of work that many workers have been dreaming of. But many workplaces seemed to dig in their heels on a return to the office, relying on the familiar and waiting for things to return to “normal”—whatever that means.  

Expectations may be partly to blame; many experts said an “inevitable recession” was coming as the Fed hiked interest rates to tame inflation, with all the crushing realities therein: widespread layoffs, hiring freezes, and a sharp drop in consumer spending. But the worst of those expectations soured like old milk.  

“Many people expected there would be a huge uptick in layoffs, and a recession, and that consumer spending would pull back and hiring would drop off substantially,” Julia Pollak, chief economist at ZipRecruiter, tells Fortune. “That never happened.”

While there were waves of layoffs in the beginning of the year and there are signs that the pandemic spending boom is close to over as we end the year, data points to a pretty healthy workforce. But healthy doesn’t mean forward-thinking—and while the worst predictions for the year didn’t come to pass, neither did the broad workplace…

Jane Thier, Chloe Berger

2023-12-22 07:30:00

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