Remote work and the collapse of the social network (no, not that one)

We’ve been practically living (and working) on video for the past 20 months or so, and I’ve written about some of the problems that have cropped up involving employee engagement, management, and the need for side conversation tools. When thinking about the “Great Resignation” and the massive number of employees looking to leave their companies, I see another issue emerging. 

People are not developing relationships at work and, as a result, they are less loyal to their employer. It’s an issue built on top of other concerns such as effective mentoring and a near complete collapse of internship programs. 

Let’s explore this problem, which is likely to be particularly pronounced during the holidays. 

The lack of a social network

There are a variety of secondary benefits to working in an office that we often take for granted. These include the creation of mentors, developing new friendships, being made aware of unpublished opportunities, internship opportunities, and even being part of the internal rumor mill (so you know what’s going on behind the scenes). 

Many people have been able to maintain relationships while working remotely. But relationships that were often defined by lunch-time get-togethers or break-room chats are becoming infrequent, if they happen at all. For instance, the practice of going to co-workers’ homes for dinner has all but evaporated. In addition, it’s usually a few key people in the office who actively put together birthday celebrations, organize group events, and generally build the camaraderie critical to a healthy functioning company. 

With these mini-events no longer happening, organizers feel ineffective and dissatisfied, and companies can lose the human glue that keeps teams together. It’s an ugly dilemma; we know some people are leaving when asked to return to the office, while others may be leaving because they aren’t in the office and no longer have the deep ties that bind them to the company. Damned if you do and damned if you don’t get people back in the office. It’s a challenging problem to fix. 

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

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