Employee Wellness News South Africa

What impact does remote work have on our social lives?

Remote working opportunities remain in high demand in the post-pandemic era, but the lure and comfort of working from home could have a negative side effect on the social lives and careers of young employees, says Linda Trim, director at workplace design consultancy, Giant Leap.
Image source: Vlada Karpovich from
Image source: Vlada Karpovich from Pexels

"Traditionally, the office has been a breeding ground for friendships. Our research shows that work is second only to school as a place where people meet their closest friends,” said Trim.

The rise of remote work is changing this dynamic, with Gen Z feeling the effects most acutely. The less time we are in the office, the less time we have to form and cement the bonds of friendship.

“That’s true for all remote or hybrid workers. But the impact is being felt most strongly for people with the least time working — Gen Z. With few experiences to draw from, young remote workers increasingly don’t even think of the office as a place to make friends,” Trim noted.

The impact on people’s personal and professional lives could be profound.

Removing the social aspect of work further encourages remote workers to keep their jobs at arm’s length. This detachment could have the twin effects of maintaining a better work-life balance, but leave workers lonelier than they would be had they made office friends.

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Benefits of work friends

A study University of Kansas surveyed over 4,300 American adults, revealing that work friendships offer a multitude of benefits. "It showed that having a close work friend provides invaluable support, acts as a source of career advice, and boosts overall happiness and well-being," Trim explains.

The study found that people over 51 are twice as likely to have met a close friend at work compared to those under 30. This disparity can be attributed to the limited time Gen Z spends in physical office spaces.

"Many young remote workers haven't experienced the social aspects of traditional office life," said Trim.

"It's easy for older generations to wonder why young people prefer remote work, especially considering the strong social bonds often formed in early careers," Trim said. "The reality is, many young workers haven't experienced the benefits of workplace friendships because they haven't had the opportunity to build them."

Trim suggested that remote workers may not engage in the same level of after-work socialising with colleagues, leading to a more distinct separation between work and personal life.

"Studies suggest young adults of all generations tend to experience loneliness, the pandemic's social and educational disruptions have likely exacerbated this for Gen Z," Trim noted

"If they don't learn to navigate workplace friendships and view the office as a social space, they may face greater social isolation than previous generations."

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