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2023 work predictions: The ‘Elon effect’ strips away pandemic work wins

Sharing my annual predictions for the year ahead in work
2023 work predictions: The ‘Elon effect’ strips away pandemic work wins
Photo by Jonathan Cosens Photography / Unsplash

Sustain issue #89 (Get Sustain in your inbox next Thursday)

Well, well, well. We made it to the last week of 2022. What a year it was at work. The Great Resignation gave way to Quiet Quitting as we regulars continued to feel the power in the working relationship. However, as we reached the end of the year a massive amount of precarity crept in as the economic conditions changed.

Today, as we close out the year I wanted to offer my predictions for work in 2023 as it relates to burnout, well-being, and boundary-setting. I’m sorry to say it’s not a rosy picture like I predicted last year but we're going to get through it together.

The ‘Elon effect’ strips away pandemic work wins

The Elon ripple grows

Elon is to work what Trump is to politics. There’s no denying that Elon’s purchase of Twitter and ensuing chaotic management dumpster fire will (and likely already has) rippled through the CEO ranks. You’ll start seeing CEOs, emboldened by Elon, be more unapologetically brash (if that’s even possible 🙄) as economic conditions “force” them to

What it will look like: We’ll see leadership continue to gaslight employees. Your CEO will say they still care deeply about DEI, your newfound flexibility, and your well-being. But it must be achieved on their terms which essentially strips away these pandemic work wins.

The intensifying arm wrestling match

There has been an arm wrestling match between employees and management since the beginning of time. Up until the pandemic, management was always the bigger and stronger arm wrestler but the pandemic years were the great equalizer as the pendulum even swung over to us regulars for a couple of years (!). However, as the job market tightens, CEOs know they once again have power on their side.

What it will look like: Old school leadership, salivating at the day we can get back to normal and rub shoulders, will begin calling employees back to the office as their power returns.  

The rise of extreme #productivity

How to increase employee productivity might be the biggest thing CEOs are thinking about. Even if you’re doing the job of several people, there are financial obligations that must be met. So, more micromanagement and tracking may be implemented by management to squeeze more life productivity out of employees. You will likely hear the words “hustle” and “LETS GO!!!!” to motivate you to get more work done 🫠

What it will look like: Like the person administering the high jump bar, your CEO will move the bar up from a mark that is already nearly impossible to jump over on your best days. However, the amount of best days you have will be fewer precisely since the productivity bar is higher than ever (and your stress is up).

(I can't stop laughing at this GIF)

Well-being programs get cut

Citing tough economic times, and leadership's belief that well-being is discretionary spending, programs and perks will be cut. The CEO won’t want to fund things like meditation apps, gym stipends, and fancy snacks since they cost money and take away from hyper-productivity. Well-being is important when the pendulum is swung to employees and it’s necessary for recruiting and retaining people but it’s not mission-critical to the CEO when times get tough.  

What it will look like: My optimistic hope is that this can actually be a positive since these well-being programs masquerade as helpful. What most employees actually want is organizational efficiency. This requires no money to solve and will open up more productivity the CEO craves.

Employees fight always-on work

Realizing that work isn’t a family and shouldn’t be part of your identity, employees start to play hardball. We stop drinking all the Kool-aid from our company. We do great work on only the high-value work and then log off when done. By working this way, we actually find our performance and recognition from leadership improve. We start to realize it’s possible to both redefine our relationship to work AND not throw away our career. It doesn't have to be a choice between the two!

What it looks like: Something like my mantra for work in 2023 – Do great work. Not too much. Socialize it. Log off.  


🙏 Since this is the last issue of 2022, I just want to say a heartfelt THANK YOU. I’ve been writing some form of a weekly newsletter for five years (whoa!), I’ve shared nearly 100 issues of Sustain, and I launched my first paid newsletter How I Quit Burnout this year. I also started using more GIFs at the end of the year to spice things up a bit!

As you can see above, I’ll have a lot to announce early in the year and none of it would be possible without your ongoing support which gives me the energy to build this community. I believe this work is more needed than ever, especially given these predictions for next year 😬 Thanks for being here and I’ll see you in 2023!


Ready to downsize your relationship with work and quit burnout?

Hi, I'm Grant Gurewitz. I'm on a mission to eliminate burnout at work. I've been in tech for 10 years (ex-Zillow, current: Qualtrics) and suffered deep burnout and came back from it even though I never found a playbook for doing so. So, I'm writing it myself.

✉️ Want my top tips? I share my full step-by-step playbook in How I Quit Burnout, my premium newsletter. Get the next one delivered straight to your inbox >

🗄️ See the past issues of Sustain