2022: The Year of Great Redefinitions

Dec 13, 2022
Posted in CULTURE, NEWS
Dec 13, 2022 Agata

After the pandemic years of 2020–2021, we all wished for a return to normality, but then came 2022… And while this year we have all grown to understand the meaning of volatility, and the word “crisis” is on everyone’s lips, in our overview, we want to focus on the lessons we can take from the last twelve months.

January: The first crypto meltdown, The Great Resignation continues

The sound of New Year champagne corks popping had barely died down before the crypto industry recorded its first crash of the year

Just two months after reaching its all-time high of nearly $70,000 in November 2021, Bitcoin fell slightly under half to $37,000 in January 2022. Some summaries reported that the January crash wiped out $1.5 trillion from the industry. This was just the beginning of what awaited the sector in 2022, but it had already sparked a discussion about the need to introduce regulations to stabilize crypto.

January was the eighth straight month where more than 4 million Americans left their jobs. Although since the record November 2021, the number of quitters has gradually declined, economists continued to stress that The Great Resignation “is still in full swing.” At the same time, in January 2022, we already knew that most stories of quitting are a story of job switching. And the main reason was better wages.

February: The war

On February 24, 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine in an escalation of the war that had been ongoing since 2014. This event shook Europe and the entire world and was not insignificant for the labor market either.

The tense situation was felt in all the neighboring countries of Ukraine. Nearly 7.9 million people fleeing Ukraine arrived across Europe, many of whom, apart from looking for shelter, quickly stepped into the labor market. On the other hand, many Ukrainian employees of international companies, especially those in the tech industry – programmers, architects, and product managers – have remained in Ukraine and work remotely from various parts of the country, some safer than others.

Many places around the world, even ordinary offices, saw a mobilization of support actions, and there was a drive to provide psychological support for all those affected by these tragic events. 

The Russian invasion of Ukraine and how it gave us a glimpse of the unpredictability of reality was – in my opinion – the most important event of 2022. Since February, we have been experiencing how some elements of the surrounding world are beyond our control.  This, in turn, has sparked discussions – including in workplaces – about the importance of mental health, resistance to stress, dealing with crisis situations and resilience in a broader sense.
I think these issues will continue to be hot topics in 2023, and employers will be more likely to turn to professional solutions and tools to help employees regain their mental balance.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine and how it gave us a glimpse of the unpredictability of reality was – in my opinion – the most important event of 2022. Since February, we have been experiencing how some elements of the surrounding world are beyond our control.  This, in turn, has sparked discussions – including in workplaces – about the importance of mental health, resistance to stress, dealing with crisis situations and resilience in a broader sense.
I think these issues will continue to be hot topics in 2023, and employers will be more likely to turn to professional solutions and tools to help employees regain their mental balance.

After two years of the pandemic affecting people’s life, work, and well-being, the beginning of 2022 brought Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. On the one hand, people felt threatened and worried about their safety, while on the other, they engaged in supporting people traveling to the West. Companies allowed or even encouraged their employees to organize help, giving them time off for voluntary work and mental health support. We implemented rapid legal changes in order to welcome and integrate people from Ukraine (which dealt with aspects of crossing the border, visas with easier access, or simplified employment regulations).

After two years of the pandemic affecting people’s life, work, and well-being, the beginning of 2022 brought Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. On the one hand, people felt threatened and worried about their safety, while on the other, they engaged in supporting people traveling to the West. Companies allowed or even encouraged their employees to organize help, giving them time off for voluntary work and mental health support. We implemented rapid legal changes in order to welcome and integrate people from Ukraine (which dealt with aspects of crossing the border, visas with easier access, or simplified employment regulations).

March – April: The return to offices begins

In the spring, the discussion about returning to the office, which had been ongoing since the beginning of the year, gained momentum. Throughout the pandemic, many workers had said they’d quit if employers forced them back to the office. In March, the Robert Half company released a survey which revealed that 50% of US workers would rather resign than be forced back into the office full-time.

On April 11, Apple launched its so-called “hybrid” work plan. All corporate employees were required to work in the office at least one day a week. Later, the plan was to require 2 days a week of work from the office (starting May 2) and then 3 days (starting May 23). 

Hybrid work has become a new reality that companies had to deal with in 2022. Some did it more successfully than others. From the candidates’ perspective, and we’re talking about the technology industry here, we can clearly see that remote and hybrid work was the most desirable solution in terms of company policies. At the same time, as employers, we need to remember that the policies put in place should be specific – if we expect you to be in the office once or twice a week, then it’s important for us to justify that need.

Hybrid work has become a new reality that companies had to deal with in 2022. Some did it more successfully than others. From the candidates’ perspective, and we’re talking about the technology industry here, we can clearly see that remote and hybrid work was the most desirable solution in terms of company policies. At the same time, as employers, we need to remember that the policies put in place should be specific – if we expect you to be in the office once or twice a week, then it’s important for us to justify that need.

May: Second crupto crash, layoffs, AppleTogether

In May, the cryptocurrency industry was hit by a second crash. TerraUSD (algorithmically pegged to the US dollar) plummeted amid a mass sell-off of tokens. The crash spread through the crypto market, erasing about $500 billion in value in two weeks and decimating the portfolios of retail investors. The meltdown prompted financial watchdogs to focus attention on the industry and issue proposals to regulate stablecoins such as TerraUSD. 

What’s more, increasingly frequent and larger layoffs in the tech industry were becoming a reality. In May, layoffs were recorded at some 80 companies, affecting nearly 13,000 employees. Loudly reported (and first this year) layoffs at Klarna. The biggest scandal, in this case, was caused by the way that layoffs were announced. Employees received a pre-recorded video in which Klarna’s CEO Sebastian Siemiontkowski informed everyone about a staff reduction of 10% and added that certain people would be invited to a meeting on the topic. We have written about this in our blogpost >> 

May also saw the continuation of Apple’s program as employees gradually returned to the offices. However, the company clashed with strong opposition from employees. They created an initiative called AppleTogether, and – in their open letter to executives – they strongly criticized the idea, which they said was dictated mainly by fear. 

This didn’t come as a surprise. A survey conducted a couple of weeks earlier, using an anonymous polling site Blind and covering more than 650 Apple employees, revealed that 76% of the respondents were dissatisfied with the company’s return-to-office plans; 56% said they’d consider resigning over it. These numbers show a trend not only among Apple employees but have been confirmed by numerous market studies. 

June: Musk’s memo, record inflation in the US

In June, the eyes of all managers dealing with employee returns to the office turned to Elon Musk. In his email to Tesla’s executive staff, Musk wrote: “Anyone who wishes to do remote work must be in the office for a minimum (and I mean *minimum*) of 40 hours per week or depart Tesla.” 

This, of course, triggered a flurry of comments in which two camps more or less crystallized:

1. Every CEO can require employees to work from the office; that’s his right.
2. This is not how change is carried out and communicated. 

Elon tweet

The year 2022 was the first post-pandemic year (almost without lockdowns). So, some CEOs decided to have staff return to the office. Unfortunately, this was not well received by employees. Hybrid is the most desired model by the employees (83%). Still, after two years of blending office and remote models, only 28% of business leaders have created team agreements for hybrid work to define why and when to go to the office (according to the ‘Work Trend Index Annual Report 2022’). Creating rules for hybrid and remote work was a great challenge in 2022, and it will remain so in 2023 because new legal regulations are being implemented in some countries.

The year 2022 was the first post-pandemic year (almost without lockdowns). So, some CEOs decided to have staff return to the office. Unfortunately, this was not well received by employees. Hybrid is the most desired model by the employees (83%). Still, after two years of blending office and remote models, only 28% of business leaders have created team agreements for hybrid work to define why and when to go to the office (according to the ‘Work Trend Index Annual Report 2022’). Creating rules for hybrid and remote work was a great challenge in 2022, and it will remain so in 2023 because new legal regulations are being implemented in some countries.

 

In June, US inflation, which had been rising since the beginning of the year, peaked at 9.1% (year-on-year increase). This meant that consumer prices were 9.1% higher than in June 2021. It was the largest annual increase since 1981. Of course, rising inflation was not just seen in the United States – the economic crisis also began to be felt in Europe, accelerated by war, disruption in supply chains, and rising gas prices. 

June – July: Another wave of layoffs 

June and July went down in 2022 history as the months in which another wave of layoffs swept through the tech industry (these were near-record months in terms of both the number of employees laid off and the number of companies that decided to do so). According to Layoffs.fyi, as many as 194 companies laid off almost 18,000 employees in June, while in July layoffs were conducted by 160 companies, impacting more than 16,000 workers (those numbers are probably underestimated). We have seen layoffs at brands such as Tesla, Netflix, Coinbase, Bitpanda, Twitter, Shopify, Microsoft, TikTok, Vimeo, and the list continues. 

The way big tech companies conducted their dismissal process raised the question of how it should be done correctly. In the media, there were comparisons of how companies (e.g. Stripe vs. Twitter) handle downsizing. We looked at the CEOs’ layoffs memo, separation packages (severance, etc.), and the process itself. Layoffs will stay with us in 2023 – some companies will have to do it again, which means that they will put twice the effort into doing it right to keep the best talents and attract new ones. 

The way big tech companies conducted their dismissal process raised the question of how it should be done correctly. In the media, there were comparisons of how companies (e.g. Stripe vs. Twitter) handle downsizing. We looked at the CEOs’ layoffs memo, separation packages (severance, etc.), and the process itself. Layoffs will stay with us in 2023 – some companies will have to do it again, which means that they will put twice the effort into doing it right to keep the best talents and attract new ones. 

August: Quiet quitting 

If we look at the results of Google Trends, August was a month that saw intense discussions of the quiet quitting phenomenon. The main channel where this keyword gained popularity was TikTok; hence, this phenomenon was often later linked to Generation Z. 

According to the Gallup Institute, so-called “Quiet Quitters” make up at least 50% of American workers. The percentage of those “actively disengaged” has risen from 14% in 2020 to 18% in 2022. Keeping employees engaged is therefore becoming a major challenge for employers, especially with new generations entering the job market.

You can find more about this phenomenon on our blogpost >>

To be honest, this phenomenon does not seem to indicate a generation. Rather, it is an indicator of a historical moment – fatigue and exhaustion with the economic, social and personal situation after the events of the past two and a half years. It seems that quiet quitting is “the younger sister” of the burnout and zoom fatigue crisis that the pandemic has brought us. 

To be honest, this phenomenon does not seem to indicate a generation. Rather, it is an indicator of a historical moment – fatigue and exhaustion with the economic, social and personal situation after the events of the past two and a half years. It seems that quiet quitting is “the younger sister” of the burnout and zoom fatigue crisis that the pandemic has brought us. 

While I don’t think quitting is a generational issue, I’m sure that Gen Z is entering the labor market and dictating their own terms. These are people who, according to various research, seek authenticity and are willing to engage, but only in the initiatives they believe in (e.g., climate, equity).
They are unfairly credited with laziness – but they are certainly more aware of their work-life balance and mental health than previous generations. They are also allergic to “marketing bullshit,” so EVPs about employer branding must come from the company’s authentic values.

While I don’t think quitting is a generational issue, I’m sure that Gen Z is entering the labor market and dictating their own terms. These are people who, according to various research, seek authenticity and are willing to engage, but only in the initiatives they believe in (e.g., climate, equity).
They are unfairly credited with laziness – but they are certainly more aware of their work-life balance and mental health than previous generations. They are also allergic to “marketing bullshit,” so EVPs about employer branding must come from the company’s authentic values.

October: Twitter acquisition 

In October, Elon Musk ended a saga that had been dragging on for months (since April) involving the acquisition of Twitter. He began leading the new company in his own style. One of his first moves was to fire top executives whom he accused of misleading him about the number of spam accounts on the platform.

Musk has laid off more than half of Twitter’s employees (3,700) who worked in departments such as product trust and safety, policy, communications, tweet curation, ethical AI, data science, and many others. Many of the employees resigned by themselves.

In fact, Elon Musk demonstrated how layoffs should not be carried out. His style of managing the situation is clearly not conducive to people being creative, coherent and innovative. With his behavior, Musk has introduced an atmosphere of panic and uncertainty at Twitter, destroyed trust and discouraged employees from feeling respect for him and the company. The backfire was spectacular. There have been claims that this was a sensible remedy because Twitter was overly bloated and wasted a lot of money on salaries, and the change had to be made quickly, but this lack of caution and care during the process is evidently a feature of poor, short-sighted management.

In fact, Elon Musk demonstrated how layoffs should not be carried out. His style of managing the situation is clearly not conducive to people being creative, coherent and innovative. With his behavior, Musk has introduced an atmosphere of panic and uncertainty at Twitter, destroyed trust and discouraged employees from feeling respect for him and the company. The backfire was spectacular. There have been claims that this was a sensible remedy because Twitter was overly bloated and wasted a lot of money on salaries, and the change had to be made quickly, but this lack of caution and care during the process is evidently a feature of poor, short-sighted management.

November: Third crypto crash, record layoffs and Elizabeth Holmes’ sentence

In November, the crypto market was shaken by the bankruptcy of the FTX exchange and the subsequent shocking news of irregularities in its operation. The collapse of the world’s third-largest cryptocurrency exchange has recently contributed to a significant discount in the virtual currency market. A crisis of confidence, along with the cryptocurrency discount, affected many companies in the industry and brought some of them to the brink of bankruptcy.

November saw the biggest wave of layoffs this year, affecting more than 50,000 workers from more than 200 companies. These included companies such as Meta (with an infamous record of 11,000 layoffs), Adobe, PepsiCo, Cisco, Asana, and Amazon (which, according to media reports, plans to lay off another 20,000 people in the coming months). 

We also saw the former youngest self-made female billionaire Elizabeth Holmes being sentenced to more than 11 years in prison plus three years of supervised release. During her trial, she was found guilty of four of eleven charges related to defrauding investors but was not found guilty of defrauding patients.

A prison conviction for Elizabeth Holmes for defrauding investors, the winning of the top prize by a Russian startup on Slush (and, by extension, a potential investment of such VCs as Accel, General Catalyst, Lightspeed, NEA, and Northzone) and then the withdrawal of the award after industry outrage, as well as the collapse of FTX and the emerging news of the extravagant lifestyles of its young founders in the Bahamas – these year-end events have cast a shadow over the startup industry and will probably affect future investments. They are likely to cool investor enthusiasm to a degree and make them more cautious about investing in startups. On the other hand, startups are likely to examine more attentively the values held by potential investors before they invite them to make an investment. 

A prison conviction for Elizabeth Holmes for defrauding investors, the winning of the top prize by a Russian startup on Slush (and, by extension, a potential investment of such VCs as Accel, General Catalyst, Lightspeed, NEA, and Northzone) and then the withdrawal of the award after industry outrage, as well as the collapse of FTX and the emerging news of the extravagant lifestyles of its young founders in the Bahamas – these year-end events have cast a shadow over the startup industry and will probably affect future investments. They are likely to cool investor enthusiasm to a degree and make them more cautious about investing in startups. On the other hand, startups are likely to examine more attentively the values held by potential investors before they invite them to make an investment. 

2022: The Year of Redefinition

2022 was a year of redefining many of the “constants” in our lives. But one thing is certain – this story has a sequel.

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