What’s Next? Four Productivity Predictions for 2023

by Laura Stack, MBA, CSP, CPAE

 “The best way to predict the future is to create it.”—Peter Drucker.

Making predictions about the future of productivity can be dangerous business. Remember all those people who predicted that the Internet would be a flash in the pan? Yeah, me neither. What I do remember is how wrong they were.

That said, I’m going to make a few predictions about what might happen in 2023 in the productivity field, based on what we’re all hearing lately.

  1. Inflation will continue to eat at your productivity. Inflation has many causes, so we’re not looking to blame it on anyone here. But as prices for everyday costs like food, housing, and energy rise, some substantially, your dollars buy less — especially, as has been the case for decades, when pay doesn’t rise as fast as costs do. This strikes at both individuals and businesses. When business and labor costs rise, productivity — rate of output (i.e., profit) per unit of input —inevitably drops. Until the Fed gets its act together, and if President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act works, we won’t tame inflation anytime soon — especially if it rises globally, as seems to be the case. That’s the bad news, but the next few points seem more positive.
  1. Remote work will continue to be common, and likely increase. Many knowledge workers have already proven that it works for them, and that they’re just as productive as ever, if not more so. They get to work in comfortable environs, can spend more time with family, don’t have to lay out as much money for childcare, and their commune is measured in steps rather than miles and wasted time. If you can do your work in the time required, does it matter where you do it? You may sacrifice face time with co-workers, but that’s what Zoom and GoTo are for, and no one but office planners really likes the open office or cube farm concepts anyway. Besides, less real estate used means less rent, which increases fiscal productivity.
  1. We’ll see more freelancers. In a phenomenon related to #2, as employers demand workers to return to the office, I expect to see the Great Resignation continue as happy remote workers refuse to return for the above reasons. They may have to pay for their own insurance and have few benefits, but this isn’t always a big deal for younger workers, and often contractors can nab larger per-hour wages because they do have to take care of their own benefits. As more people become contractors and tap into the gig economy, I’d expect to see more “digital nomads.” Some remote workers have already relocated to cheaper states and even cheaper countries — often without telling anyone —and can’t easily go back anyway. Their reasoning is that they can do remote work effectively almost anywhere — because they can. 
  1. We’ll see the first forays into VR conferencing. Forget Zoon and Skype. If Mark Zuckerberg has his way, virtual meetings will soon morph into virtual reality Zuckerberg is investing in getting a service called Metaverse in place, so you put on your VR headset and meet your co-workers in a shared virtual environment of your choice to discuss work topics and otherwise keep in touch. Whether this will win over those of us sick of seeing our colleagues on computer screens, some of whom may prefer phone conversations by this point, remains to be seen. But once it works, I suspect it will contribute to the predictions #2 and #3 above. We’ve already have a decentralized global workforce forming for the last few decades. Effective VR could accelerate this trend. 

Working My Way Back To You

Looking back, price inflation seems inevitable to some economists, as many workers return to the global market with plenty of savings from the lockdowns of the pandemics, while competing over fewer resources, due to closed factories and other service providers. (They could have figured this out earlier and warned us.) That will likely impact both individual and mass productivity in many disciplines. However, I think the pandemic has also freed workers in many ways, by giving them more power decide when and where they may work. This is not just to their benefits. With no commutes and fewer expenses, some workers may do the same jobs for less, and employers need not pay for nearly as much real estate and some benefits. In time, the productivity benefits should become obvious to all — and inflation won’t last forever.

Did we miss your favorite prediction? Let us know in the comments!

© 2022 Laura Stack. Laura Stack, MBA, CSP, CPAE is an award-winning keynote speaker, bestselling author, and noted authority on employee and team productivity. She is the president of The Productivity Pro, Inc., a company dedicated to helping leaders increase workplace performance in high-stress environments. Stack has authored eight books, including FASTER TOGETHER: Accelerating Your Team’s Productivity (Berrett-Koehler 2018). She is a past president of the National Speakers Association, and a member of its exclusive Speaker Hall of Fame (with fewer than 175 members worldwide). Stack’s clients include Cisco Systems, Wal-Mart, and Bank of America, and she has been featured on the CBS Early Show and CNN, and in the New York Times. To have Laura Stack speak at an upcoming meeting or event, call 303-471-7401 or contact us online.