In 2020, the work-life balance crumbled. The ‘home office’ took on a whole new meaning. Frequent flyers switched to Zoom calls while working parents juggled childcare, housework and their full-time jobs. When COVID-19 hit, workers quickly realized how consuming work-life was and how unbalanced their lives truly were. Now, Forbes says there’s a new “life-work balance” revolution that’s taking over, and it is here to stay.

The Labor Department says a record four million people quit their jobs in April 2021, triggering what is called the “Great Resignation” period. If people didn’t quit, they were thinking about it. In its 2021 Work Trend Index report, recent research by Microsoft showed that 41% of the workforce considered leaving their employer last year.

Along with resignations, businesses are dealing with a shortage of workers. In January, The Conference Board held a media briefing about U.S. inflation trends, discussing key drivers and what to expect ahead. Experts said persistent pressures like labor shortages will continue to drive inflation.

“We saw labor shortages driven by the pandemic, but now we are seeing labor shortages driven by a very low unemployment rate,” says Gad Levanon, head of The Conference Board’s Labor Market Institute. “Now, it is 3.9% and we could probably reach 3% by the end of the year, which will be a 70-year low. I think this is the new normal—even after the pandemic—a very tight labor market for the foreseeable future.”

With a life-work balance, life literally comes first. Well-being is a top priority and employees will not compromise. In 2022, Harvard Business Review says more companies will use wellness as a metric to understand employees. A Gartner 2020 survey of 52 HR executives found that 94% of companies made significant investments in their well-being programs.

To protect their life-work balance, workers are demanding more flexibility in how, where and when they work. Gad Levanon, head of The Conference Board’s Labor Market Institute, says businesses can do a lot as they prepare to retain or recruit talent. “They can raise wages and benefits, start internship programs, improve recruiting and allow more flexible work policies,” he says. According to Microsoft, 73% of workers surveyed want flexible remote work options to continue.

At home, people are working harder than ever. According to a study of 30,000 Americans by researchers at the Becker Friedman Institute for Economics at the University of Chicago, flexible work arrangements did not materially damage business productivity. Instead, this new way of working boosted productivity by 5% as workers adopted new technology and spent less time commuting.

But Forbes says high productivity is masking an exhausted workforce with 54% feeling overworked. Along with an increase in time spent in meetings, Microsoft found that the average Teams meeting is 10 minutes longer (up from 35 to 45 minutes). Plus, the average Teams user sends 45% more chats per week and 42% more chats per person after hours, with 62% of meetings not planned.

For this overworked, health-conscious workforce, promotional desk and office supplies will become practical daily tools. According to The NPD Group’s new annual forecast, the Future of Office Supplies, the U.S. office supplies industry is expected to end 2021 with revenue up 8% compared to 2020. Compared to pre-pandemic revenue in 2019, this is also an increase of 8%.

Back-to-school shopping drove revenue, but The NPD Group expects low single-digit declines for 2022 and 2023. With less paper sales and the push to digitalization, a demand towards home offices and devices like PCs and printers is expected to increase at least until 2022.

As clients look for ways to retain and recruit top talent, distributors can offer functional desk and office products to create a connection. Desk and office-related promotional products will be used and seen daily, generating unlimited exposure for a client’s brand.


Desk and office-related promo can help women out of the “she-cession.” According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 3.5 million mothers with school-aged children either took a leave, lost their job or left the job market. According to The New York Times, C. Nicole Mason, president and chief executive of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, called the disproportionate loss of jobs by women throughout the COVID-19 pandemic a “she-cession.”

Unlike previous economic crises where men bore the brunt, industries hardest hit by the pandemic—hospitality, education, health care, and travel—traditionally skew more female. Even with recent drops in jobless rates, women are still significantly 2.3 million jobs behind pre-Covid rates. The National Women’s Law Center also estimates that it would take 30 months for women’s employment levels to reach pre-pandemic rates.

Campaigns with office-related promo could inspire women to rejoin the workforce or enhance the work-from-home experience. A survey about work-life balance conducted by Real Simple (which included 436 women respondents between the ages of 18 and 74), revealed that respondents had mixed feelings about remote work (some love the freedom, some find it monotonous) virtually none of them are interested in returning to working full-time in an office.

The past couple of years have brought severe challenges and stress to the already hardworking people of the promotional products industry. Pandemic-related shifts in buyer preferences, supply chain disorder and rising inflation have pushed plenty of end buyers, distributors and suppliers to their limits.

Everyone could use a vacation, but what if the demands of work make you feel like you can’t get away with getting away?

Across all industries, a major trend over the course of 2020 and 2021 was the rise of the working vacation. Dubbed a “workation” in a Passport-Photo.Online poll of more than 1,100 Americans on their recent workation experiences, most respondents reported significant returns from their on-task getaways, and 94% said they would take a similar trip again.

While it might be presumed that working on vacation would mean both less productivity and less enjoyment, time off has been shown to have positive effects both before and long after a trip. So while it might not be the most accomplished week or two of your career, the benefits can be felt on either side of a working getaway.

In the survey, 86% of employees agreed that their workation boosted their productivity and 81% reported growing more creative at work after their getaway.

There is also a benefit to retention, and 69% said they are less likely to quit their jobs following a workation, and 83% saying that the time away from their usual surroundings helped them cope with burnout. Eighty-four percent were more satisfied with their positions after the workation.


  • 67%, to recharge mental and emotional batteries
  • 62%, to avoid feeling stuck in one place
  • 60%, to explore a new destination without having to use vacation time
  • 57%, to escape the routine and enjoy a change of scenery 
  • 42%, to meet new friends, business contracts or love
  • 18%, to prevent or cope with burnout

Make desk organization easier with the Memo Cube. This compact desk organizer is a recyclable kraft paper folding box case. It comes with notepad, sticky notes and flag stickies. Recipients can also enjoy the built-in holder for pens, scissors and more.   

Ariel Premium Supply, Inc.  /  PPAI 161650, S10  /

Perfect for days in the office, this wheat straw bento box has dual lunch compartments that stack neatly and are secured with an elastic strap. Each compartment comes with its own plastic lid and a plastic knife, fork and spoon. The compartments are constructed of 30% wheat straw and 70% plastic. Each compartment holds 20 ounces and are microwave and dishwasher safe.

High Caliber Line  /  PPAI 205801, S10  /

Built with high quality materials, this charging pad is surrounded by a metal exterior for a sleek look and durable finish. When in use, a blue LED light appears, letting the user know the device is being charged. Recipients can charge their devices faster, wirelessly.

Tomax  /  PPAI 113176, S6  /

Suggest this eco-inspired spiral notebook and pen as an onboarding gift. This 80-page lined notebook has a matching pen with a paper barrel in an elastic pen loop. The notebook has an elastic band closure and a cardboard cover.

Hit Promotional Products  /  PPAI 113910, S13  /

These 11-ounce personalized ceramic coffee mugs are made with excellent durability. They are smooth molded with ceramic composite, and they have a c-curved handle for an easy comfort grip. Although these ceramic mugs have a traditional design, your clients’ logos and slogans will stand out.

Bel Promo  /  PPAI 362224, S10  /

Great for desks, The Hive™ True Wireless speaker allows recipients to enjoy music with a portable surround sound system using true wireless technology. Designed to stand on a solid surface or mounted on the wall, this speaker will definitely capture attention.

Origaudio  /  PPAI 421483, S7   /

This natural wood coaster adds a rustic touch to any desktop. A slim slice of actual wood, it looks great with either pad print or engraving. Due to the handmade nature of this natural wood, product variations in size and color can be expected.

Alpi International, Ltd.  /  PPAI 111221, S6  /


With this mini bean bag toss game, recipients can enjoy the gaming classic Cornhole without leaving the comfort of their desks. This set includes an angled playing board with a cutout center hole and four bean bags in contrasting colors for two person play. The board is available with custom full bleed/full color graphic that can incorporate your organizational or company logo, emblem or message.

Peerless Umbrella Company  /  PPAI 112666, S10  /

Kristina Valdez is associate editor at PPAI.