The week in charts: Meta takes on Twitter, office commitment issues and performative productivity

The data behind the biggest business stories of the week, from Meta’s Twitter alternative to the future of commercial office lets – and more
230706 Weekly Digest

Threads reaches 30 million users just hours after launch

Meta launched its highly anticipated Twitter competitor, Threads, this week. More than 30 million people signed up to use the social media platform within hours of its launch – 6.5% of the size of Twitter’s active user base.

The ‘text-based conversation app’, as Meta has dubbed it, is created by the same technology firm that owns Facebook and Instagram. It allows users to create posts of up to 500 characters of text, which can also include picture or video attachments.

Meta is aiming, according to its chief executive Mark Zuckerberg, to provide a “friendly alternative” to Twitter, which has faced various reputational challenges since being taken over by the controversial tech billionaire Elon Musk last year. Indeed, Musk’s moves to monetise a number of Twitter’s previously free-to-use features, his huge cuts to personnel, and his own provocative posts, have proven unpopular with users.

While Threads is experiencing rapid early uptake, there are some concerns about the amount of personal data that Meta could hold on people. And it remains to be seen if initial interest will translate to long-term use.

The world’s biggest companies rake in $1tn in windfall profits

The 722 biggest corporations in the world have collectively seen their profits increase by 89% since 2021, when compared to the previous four-year average. This is according to new analysis from Oxfam and ActionAid, which estimates that these companies made $1.08tn (£0.85tn) in windfall profits in 2021 and $1.09tn (£0.86tn) in 2022.

Windfall profits are defined as any annual profits that exceed the previous four-year average by more than 10%. Some 18 food and beverage companies, 28 pharmaceutical firms and nine aerospace and defence businesses were included in the research. However, oil and gas companies topped the list both years.

The scale of this corporate excess has led some to accuse these businesses of ‘greedflation’ – where companies take advantage of the cost-of-living crisis to boost profits, using it as an excuse to raise prices at rates that exceed supply-side inflation. The IMF recently estimated that rising corporate profits account for 45% of Europe’s inflation. It suggests inflation is unlikely to come down unless corporate profits also take a hit.

Office buildings face commitment issues

UK companies are taking out shorter leases on offices, reflecting increasing levels of caution in the commercial property market. The average new lease length stands at two years and 10 months, down from four and a half years pre-pandemic, according to commercial property management platform Re-leased.

This reluctance to commit to long-term leases shows that companies are still uncertain about their future office requirements. Hybrid working patterns are yet to settle and, as other costs increase, cutting down on office space offers a simple way to save money. The commercial real estate sector will have to continue to adapt as UK businesses figure out their priorities.

The declining demand for office space has led to 105 million square feet of UK commercial real estate lying empty, according to commercial property analysts at CoStar. The vacancy rate in offices has reached a nine-year high of 7.6%.

Workers lose a third of day to performative work

The need to appear productive is causing UK workers to spend 30% of their working day engaging in performative work, according to a new study commissioned by Slack. 

This type of work, also known as ‘productivity theatre’, doesn’t contribute to any company goals and is simply done to make it appear as though people are working hard. Examples include scheduling in meetings that you don’t need to attend or keeping workplace messaging apps open when you’re away from your desk, so it looks as though you’re still online. 

This trend can be viewed as a response to the productivity paranoia that has hit bosses who believe they have lost oversight of their workers following the transition to remote working. According to the same study, 37% of UK workers believe their productivity is measured in terms of visibility, rather than output. If UK businesses are to become more productive, bosses need to be less concerned with this digital presenteeism and instead focus on improving worker engagement