There's a laminated sign pinned to the fence of my local park that reads: "What comes up must come down. Please don't feed the birds." Sadly, the sign is pretty ineffective. Birds prey on the leftover French fries of careless humans; half-eaten falafel and pizza crusts beckon already-obese pigeons to have a third lunch. It's an all-you-can-eat buffet for birds, and that's why it's nearly always a certified, ahem, crapstorm in New York City.
For the past two years, humanity has been metaphorically feeding the economy all sorts of inadvisable substances. A deadly cocktail consisting of a pandemic, a supply-chain crunch, a meme-stock craze and a literal war has naturally caused a bit of bloating. But what started as a temporary tummy ache is now a full-blown appendicitis emergency. Societal costs are inflated beyond repair, from rents to food prices and everything in between. John Authers notes that "price increases are digging in and broadening," which is just a nice way of saying that sky-high price stickers on things like used cars and trucks are giving way to a broader, more widespread inflation that is anything but transitory. Expect your dog's sighs to get a lot more pronounced in the coming months:
Lots of people are eye-rolling at the prospect of a pUtiN PrICe H!Ke causing the latest bout of inflation, but perhaps everyone just needs to stop pointing fingers and get over it! Allison Schrager says higher inflation isn't a death sentence. The big issue is the uncertainty it creates. Am I going to miss my best friend's wedding because the plane ticket is over $1,500? Should I order 50 boxes of dried pasta on Amazon now, before it's too late? All of this confusion and uncertainty causes people to dial back on their purchases, which causes yet another boo-boo for the already-injured economy. Andrea Felsted believes that companies risk making matters worse by being overly pessimistic. British grocer Tesco is *frantically waves arms* warning about the coming "cost-of-living crisis," saying that 2023 will be absolutely dreadful, a prophecy that just might come true if it keeps crying wolf.
RTC (Return to Closet)
And now for your regularly scheduled RTO programming.
Managers are itching to have all of their direct reports back under their watchful eye to make sure "To-The-Moon Tony" doesn't spend 42 minutes chatting with his buddies on Discord about grilled tendies & roasted hedgies. But Sarah Green Carmichael writes that "9 out of 10 people working remotely would like to continue to do so at least some of the time." Who are these people, and what have they done to the go-getting, by-the-bootstraps breed of Americans who craved face time almost as much as they craved Diet Coke? Maybe they … changed their minds?
Here's the thing: Office life can be kinda miserable! I'm no stranger to this, and you probably aren't, either. Throughout my career, I've worked from and eaten lunch at:
- Makeshift desks in hallways
- Storage rooms
- Windowless offices
To get people back in the office, CEOs need to tone down their crooning about all the ~mentoring~ and ~idea generation~ and ~synergies~ that occur once you're in the office … because a lot of those things are either nonexistent or they don't help the business! Sarah charts out the facts:
- Open offices are associated with less collaboration, not more.
- Only about half of employees actually have mentors.
- A focus on "company culture" often leads to everyone wearing the same Patagonia vests.
"It might be more persuasive to acknowledge that the office hasn't been all that beneficial for a lot of employees — and to focus instead on making it better," Sarah writes. Companies would be wise to make the office a place where people want to show up. Company culture does not, and will never, thrive in a sunless closet. No amount of marching band performances will change that.
When the pandemic began, airlines could secure a gallon of jet fuel in New York for just 27 cents. Fast-forward to 2022, and the cost of a gallon has multiplied by 28 times (!!!) to $7.61. Javier Blas writes that these insane prices are screwing up virtually everything in the skies, from commercial airline costs to supply chains that rely on planes to move goods.
The cost of jet fuel in the New York harbor physical market recently surged to an all-time high as air travel recovers
Continuing the topsy-turvy post-pandemic trend is the city of London, which somehow managed to clock worse pollution levels than Beijing last month. The head-scratching fact isn't all that surprising to Justin Fox, who explains that the Big Smoke's foray into the pollution hall of fame isn't an anomaly. These days, there are a bunch of big cities that rank far above China:
No Longer Topping the Charts
Capital cities with the highest 2021 average small-particulate (PM2.5) concentration, in micrograms per cubic meter of air
Disclaimer: This article first appeared on Bloomberg, and is published by special syndication arrangement.