Who drank my cheese?

After what seemed a quiet week the first week of January, everything has suddenly leapt into life. Business development, new proposals, and key deliverables all seemed to be battling for attention this week. It was a relief to get to Friday.

Of course outside of the ‘cozy’ world of financial services and collections (if it can be even called cozy), it was even worse.

Pressing questions such as when is a party a work event, or a work event actually a party (hint: they were all parties), and a clash of culture between those who like to see what they can get away with vs those who accurately follow the rules, actually became matters of state (well at least in the UK and Australia). Plenty of arguments in the media and on social media ensued.

Then, in other news, we also had volcanoes exploding, geopolitical tensions and the onward march of Omicron… and this was all this week.

Caveman dynamics

If this is all getting a little overwhelming, you are not alone. Sometimes I feel I have the distinct desire to go and hide under a rock somewhere… it must break out the latent caveman in me somehow!

The danger here is with such a volume of change, pressure at work and external factors we cannot control, it can be easy to get overwhelmed.

And, with the pandemic timer now at over two years, are we running out of steam?

It certainly feels as if there is something going on here. This week alone I had three instances of people with open job positions looking for recommendations of good people, and four or five notifications of job moves. It is not exactly the great resignation, but certainly all change.

So what is going on? Are we all bored? Is it a search for certainty? Or is it a micro-indicator of work burn-out that is building

I am not sure, time will tell, but what I am sure of is that the one thing we cannot get more of is time. Time has ticked on throughout the lock-downs and is seems in some areas, sometimes, not much as happened. It has flown by and maybe a little too quickly with not much to show for it… other than the numbers on the birthday cards getting bigger.

Slowing down time

So how do we create more time… we need to slow down time, well at least the perception of it. The best way I have found to do this?… do more, new stuff.

An experiment along these lines in 2017 yielded interesting results. Activities included learning new skills, activity-based weekends, and a mad dash to the US to watch the solar eclipse one weekend. It showed it can be done and the year really did feel longer (albeit I was exhausted)… and what was the key, experiences must include something new, and not so routine… yes you need the routine day to day, but discover some new things too.

So maybe this is also a goal for this year… try out some new things again, learn new skills and discover new places.

If nothing else it could be a welcome distraction from everything else going on! [Ideas and suggestions welcome, please post in comments below}

Other stories this week

Will remote work stick after the pandemic?

Ovo expected to make a quarter of staff redundant due to energy crisis

British Gas owner Centrica warns high energy bills to last two years

6m UK homes may be unable to pay energy bills after price hike, charity warns

UK bank branch numbers have almost halved since 2015, analysis finds

Remote work is becoming permanent — for a sliver of the workforce

Posted in Opinion | Leave a comment

Opinionated crunch time

Well, it is the end of the first week back after the holidays and we seemed to have all survived.

This week, for me, is always tough. My body has all too easily got used to getting up late, consuming high levels of sugary products (mainly mince pies), eating unlimited unhealthy snacks and let’s just say not much exercise.

So the start of this week always feels a bit like a cold shower… you know it will do you good, but you really don’t want to step in!

Fortunately, the way it has fallen this year, everything has been relatively quiet, with many folks still off, or in planning mode at least, we seem to have had a bit of a breather to get ourselves sorted out before the intensity starts in earnest the coming Monday.

Rabbits everywhere

One of the things I did realise this break was that one of the rabbit holes I easily get sucked into, is interesting data. Over the holidays I found this excellent article on vulnerability by area across the UK. It is worth a read in itself.

This is a joint venture between the Urban Institute and Lowell, and a bit of a promo piece. However, by linking through to their site, they have also made all their data available at an even more granular level. The file is somewhat large, but merging this with other data tables yields some interesting insights on the UK over time.

All of this got me thinking… about data, raw data, and how this bubbles up to insights and opinion. It is good, refreshing sometimes, to go back to data and get the data points… it helps with forming more informed opinions.

Nowhere is this more true, unfortunately, than the pandemic, where looking at facts and stats directly sometimes feels like the only way to actually understand what is going on.

Data analysis however can be tricky, and by comparison, listening to opinions (facts digested through someone else) is quick and easy… it is no wonder we often take this path… but here is the question, does it lead to the right decisions and outcomes?

If the opinion is trusted and expert, based on facts, maybe. If the opinion is based on others opinions of opinions, well maybe not. It is the case of listener beware.

Crunch time

Of course, it is not always about the data, and this year, just in case you had not noticed, there is quite a lot going on.

Already this year we have seen increasing COVID case levels with Omicron, a return to remote working and lurid details of a potential new variant. It is clearly the impact from the pandemic is not going anywhere any time soon.

Then closer to home, in collections, are already seeing things bubbling.

  • Buy Now Pay Later – is this pushing consumers into more debt with a new survey from StepChange
  • Increasing wholesale fuel prices, further squeezing the utilities industry and the consumer
  • Increasing lending and credit card use
  • and, the prospect of inflation… even pocket money has gone up in anticipation it seems

You just wonder (one does), with all the delayed anticipated influences from the pandemic turmoil, if this is actually going to be the year when we see the big impact… hopefully not, but certainly possible.

A new objective

So this sets the plan for this year… to access and crunch more data to be able to inform better opinions… be prepared and try to define what is happening, going to happen and find actions to mitigate as best as possible beforehand… not an easy task, I know… but it is good to have an objective I suppose.

And, as we can see from the article data is less of a problem than the crunching and creating space to think and make sense of it all… still it could be very interesting

In the meantime it is the weekend… so time to return, switch off work, and finish that leftover box of chocolates… next week awaits

[If you would like to access my newsfeeds or data dashboards I can add you to the list, just drop me a note below (or find details here)]

Posted in Opinion | Leave a comment

A festive storm building… let’s hope not

Is it just me, or is the end of 2021 starting to feel all very familiar to the end of 2020?… you know the one where many of us had Christmas and the holidays cancelled at the last minute… anyone remember “Lockdown part II”.

With the introduction to Omicron and cases now increasing at quite the rate, governments have been reacting with vaccine mandates, booster programmes and this weekend travel restrictions and lockdowns.

Of course, it is not just the prospect of restrictions that are the concern for the holidays, but also the virus itself. With a high prevalence of cases, apparent repeat infections, it is all getting concerning and the risk of catching seemingly increasing too… mercifully the hospitalisation rate has been low, but still not great… it is a sure way to ruin Christmas day and spoil the week afterwards too…

All in all it is not very festive news really, and it has put a bit of a downer on the run-up to the holidays this week.

Boiling all this down, it seems like there is a choice…

  1. Be glum, go into hiding, do nothing, all to protect Christmas day… or
  2. Not worry, (yes be careful, protect others, but.. don’t worry too much) have fun and run the very real risk of being sick over Christmas.

Quite the choice really, one that reminded me of game theory type thinking… and set me thinking what is the most optimal choice.

Laying this out there are 4 real options and their impact on the Christmas season.

Isolation – avoid everyone– – +– – –
Don’t isolate – be careful – see folks+ + ++ + –

The prospect of have a glum time before Christmas, and the possibility of still getting sick does seem especially miserable.

The situation will, of course, be different for everyone, different pressures and weight of importance for different things, however, it does seem, whilst we need to be super careful not spread it more, we also need live life in the moment and enjoy the run-up to the holidays, safely, where we can… let’s make the most of it however we can.

Enjoy the week and best wishes for the season … next update in the new year, all the best for 2022 everyone

Posted in Opinion | Leave a comment