Digital Loneliness: Navigating Connection in the “New Normal”


First, a quick disclaimer from IE:

We’re delighted to share this perspective with you about wanting the opportunity to work in a physical work environment. An underrepresented viewpoint that’s often left out is that of Gen Z and how they are now starting their careers.

You’ll hear from Kiera (an IE volunteer) while she talks about how her thoughts, expectations, and dreams had to shift to meet the reality of the world around us.

We want to be clear that this is one perspective and that many studies have opposite views. Equity requires collaboration and communication, and to truly create an environment that works for everyone, these conversations need to happen and be ongoing.

For more information and an example of a hybrid collaborative environment, check out this article authored by Google in Forbes: https://www.forbes.com/sites/googlecloud/2022/06/13/churn-it-down-how-media-companies-can-use-ai-to-keep-and-win-subscribers/?sh=2b8bb8f93744


Digital Loneliness: Navigating Connection in the “New Normal”

By: Kiera Lyssikatos

Lockdown may be over, but remote work is here to stay.

It all started on March 10th, 2020; I was a Junior in college, eager to head off to my Spring Break and soak up some sun, when my school announced that we would not be returning to campus due to the threat of COVID-19. In an instant, I was whisked away from the bustle of my college dorm and the buzz of a crowded lecture hall to the solitude of my bedroom at home. Alone in my room, I spent hours on Zoom calls, separated from my friends with no social interaction besides cold, distant exchanges through a screen. I finished my last three semesters of college remotely, fighting Zoom fatigue and waiting for the day when everything would return to normal. It was exhausting, confusing, and isolating to live my life online, but I knew it wouldn’t last forever, right?

Wrong.

When I graduated in May of 2021, I faced a job market that had been completely rocked by COVID and revolutionized by the onset of remote work. The digital lifestyle I thought I would leave behind followed me as I took my first job at a Commercial Insurance company, where I have a hybrid schedule of both remote and in-office work. I was excited to have my first experience at a “real” office job and had always imagined being in a busy workplace with sounds of coffee dripping and keyboards clacking. However, when I first arrived at my office, I faced rows upon rows of empty cubicles and heard nothing but silence. As a new associate fresh out of college, I was expected to come into the office regularly, while most of the experienced employees were permanently remote. My days in the office were quiet and lonely, and my days at home felt long and draining. With no in-person contact with anyone on my team, I struggled to form connections and learn how to work with my peers. I faced the beginning of my career not with excitement, but with dread for the future and no idea how I was going to manage the rest of my career in this “New Normal.”

How do I connect with others when I can only see them through a screen?

It has been a little over 10 months since I started my job, and things are slowly getting easier. People are starting to trickle back into the office, and Zoom meetings are now second nature to all of us at this point. However, the disconnection never goes away; many of my co-workers and supervisors are still 100% remote, meaning I only see them through a screen. I have never heard their real voices or seen their actual faces smiling at me; I only experience them through sound waves on phone calls and pixels on camera. I want to feel connected, present, and engaged in my work, but am still working out how to do so amid physical isolation. I am hopeful, though, that through our mutual isolation in the workforce we can find community and build a culture of connection, even in the loneliest of times.

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