Every day, millions of Americans head in to work and are greeted not necessarily by coworkers, but silence. While there still may be people around, people like Matt Wilder don't necessarily see as many people as they used to in a post-pandemic world.
"If there's an opportunity to meet in person, I try to take it," Wilder said of his hybrid work schedule. "There's power in being in the same room with people. Whether that is creativity or a personal connection you can't make over a screen."
As it turns out, Wilder is very much not alone when it comes to loneliness in the workplace. Connie Hadley is an organizational psychologist at Boston University and has spent the last few years studying the new ways in which we work.
"Sometimes it's the contrast effect that makes you feel worse," she said. "Say you are in the office a few days a week and you're surrounded by people but still leave feeling lonely. It feels more painful because it's like being so close yet so far."
It's estimated that the U.S. economy lost more than $400 billion in productivity last year due to workers feeling socially isolated.
A number of networking events are popping up across the country, geared at connecting people who work from home. Hadley says those working lunches or team-building activities are a good place to help teams connect on a social and personal level.
"I think there is an obligation for companies to think about this as a way to advance the lives of people in their organizations," she added.
In the meantime, people like Matt Wilder say they will continue to do their best to seek out those social opportunities for connection in their work day.
"You definitely feel the difference when you're in an office," he said. "And it isn't as busy as it used to be."
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