When Kyrstin Kauchak was hired as a software engineer for a remote company with distributed employees, she was excited. “I grew up in a small town,” she says. “I wanted to get to know people with different backgrounds.”
Since taking the role, she’s had the chance to work with people from across the globe. But she often feels isolated and lonely. “At the end of my workday, I’m still sitting in my bedroom, where I watch Netflix at night,” she says. “I start to think, is this all there is?”
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Even as former U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy warns of a “loneliness epidemic” sweeping the country, remote workers relish the new connections they're making in their virtual workspaces. A recent study found that remote workers actually feel more connected to their teammates than their on-site counterparts. Paradoxically, employees trace this sense of connectedness to the same source as their loneliness: the digital tools that are the lifeblood of remote and hybrid work.
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The problem is that while remote workers are constantly connected, they’re lacking in “high-quality connections.” University of Michigan’s Jane E. Dutton introduced the term to describe interactions defined by mutual positive regard, trust, and active engagement. When people are in a high-quality interaction, Dutton writes they feel more “open, competent, and alive.”