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Welcome to my 2023 outlook

12th January 2023

What to look out for in business (and society) this year

I shared my thoughts at the beginning of this year with CEO monthly where this content first appeared.

It’s no secret that 2023 is going to be a rough ride for most, with the cost of living and soaring energy prices weighing heavily on consumers and businesses alike. We’re additionally going to continue to feel the labour shortage, especially given Keir Starmer’s reversal of the Labour Party’s support of freedom of movement.

That said, 2023 must be a year of momentum. Trends around flexible and hybrid work will rightfully continue to become normalised. Antiquated business leaders who force people into the office should be consigned to the past.

This new year will require thinking differently to solve problems. For example, innovations leveraging AR and VR technologies to upskill and reskill employees to combat the labour shortage and integrating gamification in business supply chains to help reach Net Zero.

Here are some of the key developments to look out for in 2023:

Cost of living will continue to hurt consumers and businesses

The immense pressures of the cost of living crisis will continue into 2023 and beyond, wreaking havoc on consumer confidence and spending. The writing is on the wall, inflation was sitting at 12% in October 2022 and is expected to remain well above 10% into 2023. As ever, it’s the everyday people that are under the weight of this financial burden. Consumers have already been adapting, the choice to travel to work is a toss up between commuting fees and energy prices, and spending is only reserved for the bare essentials.

The most frightening impact, however, is the detrimental effects on mental health. ONS reports that people living in the most deprived 10% of areas in the UK are more than twice as likely to die from suicide as those living in the wealthiest 10% of areas. The reality is this cost of living crisis could claim lives. Therefore, businesses need to put a greater emphasis on supporting and protecting their staff as much as they can, whether that’s offering loans or implementing mental health programmes.

Big Tech’s decline provides opportunities for the greater tech industry

Big Tech layoffs actually provide an opportunity for the tech industry. With the big players throwing away top talent, there’s a clear opportunity for them to join innovative start-ups looking beyond the failing ad-based models, albeit with intense competition.

Layoffs are by no means easy. But what matters is doing the right thing, giving appropriate notice time and severance packages to tide people over until they can find new opportunities. This is something Twitter failed to do, and it will no doubt reduce trust in Big Tech. In November, 50% of Twitter’s workforce was let go and a class-action lawsuit was filed asserting that Twitter violated the law by not providing the required notice.

Although Big Tech might build back its workforce, it will not so easily recover from its self-inflicted reputational damage, dismissing employees as though they are merely cogs in the wheel. People must be put first regardless and it’s a lesson all businesses can learn from.

The government’s lack of leadership must be addressed

For successive governments, we’ve seen leaders not only shirking their responsibilities, but choosing to leave problems to weaken those that come after them. Jeremy Hunt’s November 2022 budget was another example of this, delaying the pain of an austerity package to give the Tories a chance. The budget continues the same theme, whereby rampant inflation and state borrowing are kicked down the road to the next government.

I have encountered many different types of leaders and leadership approaches. Those that were successful and well-respected all had a willingness and desire to face problems head on and devise solutions, especially difficult ones. The need for effective leadership has never been more apparent, but it remains to be seen whether this government and its budget are up for the task in 2023. 

Hybrid work demands re-thinking office design

Over the course of my life, I’ve seen the decline of ‘third places.’ This is defined as any place you go to spend time that isn’t your home (first place) or your workplace (second place). They are a space to meet friends and family, interact with local activities and build a sense of community unity, often without any cost.

Government cuts have removed many places like youth centres and libraries. The effects on our communities shouldn’t be underestimated. This, combined with the cost of living crisis and aftershocks of the COVID-19 pandemic, is hugely impacting overall employee well-being. It isn’t just a moral issue, as low engagement alone costs the global economy $7.8 trillion. We need to invest in our employees’ wellbeing in 2023 as this influences both their lives outside work and their experiences at work. Office spaces should be designed with emotional wellbeing in mind. For example, be casual and collaborative, with couches, TVs, games etc. Beyond that, offices should be places where employees can make life moments rather than just do what they can do when working from home.

Read more on how Cloudfm is transforming our offices into a third space for employees and the community.

Innovation is needed more than ever

In 2023, we will increasingly need to look to business leaders and innovators to solve pressing problems due to failing politicians’ lack of action. For example, with the world significantly off course to achieving emissions targets due to the absence of effective global political policies. Gamification is a tool which can be widely utilised to address the engagement gap in the fight against climate change. Behavioural Gamification is the process whereby game mechanics are incorporated into everyday activities to motivate behaviour change. Studies indicate that gamification can impact cognitive and behavioural engagement, while being enjoyable. Business leaders should consider how they can implement techniques such as gamification across their business and supply chain to encourage green behaviour and change within.

The labour shortage is another problem that demands innovation. Some employers are offering greater flexibility, thinking creatively about their recruitment approach, and offering higher wages to attract the talent they want. However, this simply moves the problem around. It’s crucial we upskill and reskill existing employees across industries, ensuring the expertise is readily available. This can be done using augmented reality (AR), a highly visual and interactive method of presenting digitised information in the context of the physical environment that democratises knowledge and information sharing irrespective of physical limitations.

Overall, it’s important CEOs understand their larger impact on society. Businesses can make a real impact in 2023 by leading where the government lacks, innovating and protecting employees and the environment. To do so businesses need to be agile and open to change.

Wishing you all the very best for 2023, here’s to positive change and progress!
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