Our society has a loneliness crisis.
Since 2019, the amount of time Americans spend alone has more than doubled.
Working from home every day of the week – with all its great benefits for flexibility and work-life balance – seems to have come at a serious cost.
In this article, we’ll explore why hybrid work plays a vital role in the loneliness crisis — and how transitioning to Hybrid could massively impact the mental health of your employees, and the success of your business as a whole.
The inconvenient truth of fully remote work
Remote work has sky rocketed.
It’s the allure of excellent work-life balance, flexibility, and a tailor made office set up that mean as many as 36.2 million Americans will be working remotely by 2025.
But this way of working comes with its own set of challenges – inconvenient truths that seem to fly under the radar in modern “remote empowerment” narratives.
Most notable of these challenges is loneliness.
Source: American Time Use Survey
A recent survey discovered that the number of hours spent alone in a week had doubled since before the pandemic. Another study revealed that full-time remote work was found to increase loneliness by 67% when compared to in-person work.
The knock on effects of loneliness on mental health are well documented. Insomnia, stress, anxiety and a whole host of other physical and mental conditions are commonly linked to spending too much time alone.
In their search for the perfect work-life balance, employees are unknowingly putting themselves at risk of deteriorating mental health. This, in turn, impacts businesses’ bottom line – their employees are less happy, less engaged and less productive.
So what do we do? How do we find our way out of this loneliness crisis?
Hybrid work and community building
Hybrid work — the system of combining both remote and in-person work — is becoming an increasingly popular system for companies looking to create a sustainable future for themselves and their employees.
The reason Hybrid is so popular is that it plays to the strengths of both remote and in-person work.
The way a company does Hybrid lays the foundations for a company’s entire sense of self — its implicit support of every employee’s unique working needs, but also a strong focus on community building.
As humans, we have certain needs that are rooted deep within us. Developing real connections with other humans is one of them — and research has shown just how fundamental to our mental health it is.
Communities are powerful things. They forge relationships, act as strong sources of support and validation, and strengthen bonds between coworkers.
But community building is significantly more difficult when everything is done online. Left to their own digital work silos, remote workers will speak to fewer colleagues, less often, for less time. Their autonomy comes at the expense of real relationships.
The thing is — community and autonomy are interdependent. Knowing who we are in a community is at the core of knowing who we are as an individual. Communities give us purpose, and a sense of personhood.
This is important information for companies managing the transition to hybrid. Any decision to enforce more in-person work will likely encounter resistance — on the face of it, your employees may see it as an attempt to strip them of their much-valued autonomy.
That’s where you need to be crystal clear with your message: a small sacrifice of independence is essential to building a healthy community of individuals in the long term.
Meaningful collaboration above individual burnout
Recently, in our Hybrid Manifesto, we laid out the three core benefits of Hybrid work. One of these is meaningful collaboration.
That means that — when Hybrid workers come into the office — it’s not just to forge relationships and be part of a community. It’s to collaborate with colleagues and produce results together.
In-person collaboration has some key advantages over online collaboration:
- Trust is built quicker in person
- Productively challenging your coworkers is easier
- People are much more focused (we all get Zoom fatigue)
Ultimately, the collaboration that ensues from in-person work can be much more effective than online work — both in terms of the output produced and the insights that are reached.
Just as importantly, this kind of collaboration is also a major contributor to employee satisfaction and flourishing.
Connecting with your colleagues is one thing — but when connections yield real results, the power of human connection comes through stronger than ever.
The more we see companies transition to Hybrid work, the less we’ll see the negative effects of loneliness on our workers and society.
A Hybrid future is a healthy future!
In many ways, the struggles we face as modern professionals can be viewed as a series of contradictions:
- We want independence, but we also need social validation and praise.
- We want flexibility, but we also need some kind of structure or framework.
- We want to feel fulfilled professionally, but also personally.
Hybrid work exists to give sense to these contradictions. The truth is — we don’t need to pick one over the other!
Implementing Hybrid work properly will enable your employees to find the right balance in each of those three areas — and subsequently bring huge benefits to the productivity and success of your business.