${ company.text }

Be the first to rate this company   Not rated   ${ company.score } stars     ${ company.industry}     ${ company.headquarters}


${ getArticleTitle(article) }


${ tag.display_name }


${ getCommunityPostText(community_post) }


${ contributor.full_name }

${ contributor.short_bio }

Jobs For Employers

Join InHerSight's growing community of professional women and get matched to great jobs and more!

Sign up now

Already have an account? Log in ›

  1. Blog
  2. Mental Health
  3. June 24, 2024

Is Everyone Else Happily Remote Without Me? Exploring Social Wellbeing

It’s high time we adapt our social lives to our virtual reality

Woman working remotely alone
Photo courtesy of cottonbro studio

In 2019, women told InHerSight they valued three workplace must-haves more than anything else: pay, paid time off, and great workers. We called these the bread-and-butter benefits, because they surfaced so often over the course of years that we deemed them vital. Then the pandemic began.

As 2020, 2021, 2022, and 2023 ticked on, we watched the top must-haves on our platform shift. Remote work and flexible work hours floated upward, and our metric for great coworkers, The People You Work With, descended. Down, down, down it went on our list of 17 metrics until it landed in fifth place, where it currently resides. In 2024, only about 48.2 percent of women say having great coworkers is one of their top-three must-haves in the workplace. 

That’s about half of all women, but compared to the 87.8 percent of women who are searching for remote work right now, half is a small percentage indeed. And while this new era has had its boons—remote and flexible work offer people the freedom to flourish in the way that suits them best—the shift does beg the question: Does it matter that interpersonal relationships are seemingly being “deprioritized” in the workplace?

Social wellness, the workplace, and the disappearance of connection 

The surface-level answer is yes, because work has long been a passive avenue for in-person connection, and the need for such interactions is intrinsic. 

“Humans are inherently social creatures,” says Dr. Kate Sullivan, a work and wellbeing psychologist who teaches at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland. “We’re designed to hang out in groups and rely on each other for help and support. The old saying, ‘no man is an island,’ is used for a reason—we can live in isolation and get along more or less fine, but to truly thrive, we need connections to others.”

What Sullivan is describing are elements of our social wellbeing, the relationships we have and how we interact with others. It’s the cocktail of strong and weak ties to our “regulars” that makes us feel like we belong. Work used to be a heady ingredient in said cocktail. 

Once upon a time, the watercooler was where you laughed with your work bestie or flirted with your office crush. Company parties were for schmoozing—and sometimes boozing—and even if you had zero social plans after you clocked out, being at work could sustain you. You got up, you got dressed, and you interacted.

For many remote workers, this isn’t the case anymore, and the stark difference in our daily lives has made an impact. In a remote work survey by Promoleaf, more than a third of women (39 percent) and more than half of men (53 percent) reported struggling with loneliness. A study by Glassdoor reported similar findings, with a third of employees of all genders feeling the weight of isolation. 

“I’m a proponent of flexible, hybrid, and remote work, because it’s often the best solution for people—the way we can create balance and improve our lives and identities outside the work context (and thereby help boost our work performance!),” Sullivan says. “But because work has been so central to modern life and identity, moving into an age where we get fewer quality in-person interactions centered around our work can be a problem.”

On top of that, lack of connection has been a major health concern for years. Factors such as the rise in physically isolating technology like social media, the male loneliness epidemic, the disappearance of free places to hang out and meet people (these are called third places), and the pandemic continue to dissolve opportunities to build interpersonal relationships. In 2023, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy even declared loneliness and isolation to be an epidemic, noting the steep price of disconnection:

“Loneliness is far more than just a bad feeling—it harms both individual and societal health. It is associated with a greater risk of cardiovascular disease, dementia, stroke, depression, anxiety, and premature death. The mortality impact of being socially disconnected is similar to that caused by smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day, and even greater than that associated with obesity and physical inactivity. And the harmful consequences of a society that lacks social connection can be felt in our schools, workplaces, and civic organizations, where performance, productivity, and engagement are diminished.”

After reading Murthy’s quote, it’s likely some executive somewhere just fist-pumped: “Finally! A case for return to office!” Simmer down. More context is required. 

Remote work has been proven to support more equitable lifestyles and needs of groups such as working parents, women, and people with disabilities. And even with loneliness on the rise, many employees, regardless of demographic, don’t want to go back to in-person work. In that same Promoleaf survey, 95 percent of remote workers said they felt more engaged with their employer while working from home, and 52 percent said they would actually quit or look for a different job if asked to return to the office full-time. 

The issue, then, in our wilting social wellbeing isn’t remote work itself. It’s how we adapt to build social networks—and support our teams and ourselves—in what is now the new normal. 

Read more: A Word-for-Word Guide to Discussing Mental Health with Direct Reports

Social wellbeing in a remote or hybrid work environment

Let’s start with adapting workplaces themselves. Amid the pandemic lockdown, your company might have instituted a number of tactics to maintain some semblance of culture. Regular standups, town hall meetings, fireside chats, and rules requiring employees to keep their cameras on—these are all common ways employers have tried to increase face time. Yet, rarely do they make people feel more connected.

“Forced interactions like mandatory weekly meetings or monthly ‘catch-up socials’ aren’t the way to foster social wellbeing on your team,” Sullivan says. “Instead, folks start to wonder what else they could do with the time, whether that’s getting ahead on their reports or getting a little more sleep.” 

Social wellbeing is about quality, authentic interactions. That’s what boosts employee satisfaction, wellbeing, and performance. “Those ‘all hands’ calls just so everyone can see each other’s faces aren’t actually helpful,” she says. “Instead, consider quarterly meetings that combine work and social time in a less structured way, or look into a yearly offsite that brings remote, hybrid, and onsite workers together in a low-pressure environment. Let workers organize their own social activities or just hang out together.”

With that comes a mindset shift, because “work isn’t for hanging out, is it?” Yes, yes it is. Building a culture where employees feel supported in taking time for those casual and, dare we say it, fun connections requires many of us to acknowledge what we knew about in-person work all along: that part of the day was always spent gabbing with your coworkers. That time “slacking off” mattered, and what appeared to be unproductive chit-chat was very productive indeed.

“Just as in the rest of life, work is a place where we’re not in isolation—even a freelancer who works from home is involved in a complex network of other people they must interact with in a working capacity,” Sullivan says. “Think about it. Your assignments come from someone. You submit work to someone. You count on others to do their work in order to help you complete yours. Having solid connections to those people—respecting them in a working capacity, even if you wouldn’t hang out with them on the weekend—is critical to helping you do your best work.”

As for the authenticity Sullivan spoke of, that happens most often when leaders and managers untether themselves from employee interactions entirely. “Today, you might have an ‘off-topic’ Slack channel or offer to help set up group chats for employees with shared hobbies or interests—but then you absolutely must step away,” she says. “If workers feel their social interactions with colleagues are being monitored or assessed by management, they won’t gain any benefit from those interactions and, in fact, might resent them or stop using them entirely.”

The best thing for employers to do is set up multiple ways for workers to choose their own interactions and engagement. “Give them the platforms and opportunities, then walk away. Allow people to sign off at the end of the day or when their work is finished. Let their free time be just that—free to exercise their identities outside work. You’d be amazed how much social wellbeing is boosted by trust and authentic connection opportunities both at work and away.”

Read more: Work Remotely? Experts Share Tips for Staying Motivated & Connected When Working From Home

Monitoring the health of your own social wellbeing 

Employers and the environment they cultivate are one key player, but the other main influencer in social wellbeing in the workplace is someone you hopefully know really, really well. You. How you approach the health of your social wellness will depend entirely on what you enjoy and how you like to communicate and connect.

“Some people may be perfectly happy and thriving with online friendships, while others wither without seeing friends in person six nights out of seven,” Sullivan says. “We instinctively know our own needs and boundaries—the trick is starting to honor those rather than trying to alter them based on what we think ‘society’ wants or prefers.”

That means, introverts or folks with social anxiety, don’t force yourself to meet 20 new people at the bar. “Instead, think about the interactions that leave you feeling full and satisfied, and try to cultivate more of those,” Sullivan says. Extroverts and ambiverts, join coworking spaces, local amateur sports groups, theaters, or other in-person activities to increase your interactions. 

And while there are dozens of surveys and research instruments designed to help people assess the health of their social connections, Sullivan recommends instead relying on a simple self-reflection question: “How am I feeling about my social life?”

By looking inward, you may find that you’re already exhibiting signals that something needs to change. “Do you find yourself regularly missing the good ol’ days of coffee breaks with your work bestie? Do you shudder every time someone mentions after-work drinks?” she says. “Listen to your gut and don’t be afraid to double down on the stuff that makes you feel whole, healthy, and validated—even if it’s not ‘normal.’ Normal is literally what we decide it is—and your normal may not be someone else’s.”

Beyond those initial pangs, if longterm you’re feeling depleted or upset, these are red flags that your social wellbeing is flagging. But if you’re feeling numb, exhausted, or like everything is pointless or a “non-event" and you’re no longer enjoying even your favorite meetups, these may be signs of burnout or depression. Seek professional help and, if you’re employed, inform your manager. 

“A good manager will help you adjust your workload and conditions to better recover, while a trained therapist, counselor, or medical professional can help you address the root causes,” she says.

“Please don’t just ‘soldier on,’ and please don’t ignore the value of having interests, interactions, and identity that have absolutely nothing to do with your work—that’s one of the fastest ways to burn yourself out very thoroughly indeed. We don’t want that for you.”

Read more: A Word-for-Word Guide to Discussing Mental Health with Direct Reports

Sullivan offers four ways to improve your social wellbeing at work and beyond:

1. At work, participate in activities that speak to you

Like Sullivan says, it’s important that you don’t simply do social activities because everyone else is doing them. You won’t gain fulfillment by following the crowd. “At work, take advantage of any opportunities for interaction that resonate with you,” she says. “If you don’t enjoy company softball, don’t join—but consider posting a call for a company Fall Guys tournament online if gaming is your thing, or open a Slack channel for everyone to share Animal Crossing tips and turnip prices.” 

2. Explore beyond a ‘work bestie’

Not only can work friends significantly improve your job satisfaction, but they can also boost your social wellbeing… somewhat. “Having a ‘work bestie’ can be a great form of social support, but it can also cause a lot of anxiety when one of you inevitably changes jobs,” Sullivan says. “Our social wellbeing improves the most when we have a range of connections—some stronger and deeper, some more surface-level or irregular—because we’re not static beings. Ideally, all parts of you will feel supported and engaged, whether you just want to be silly and send cat pics or have a deep conversation about your life or career. And this flexibility and variability includes where your social network comes from—you need connections both at work and away from it.”

3. Step away from your work

Burnout is one of our least favorite seven-letter words, yet hustle culture continues to glamorize the grind. For the sake of your wellbeing on all fronts, social included, create boundaries between work and the person you are. “There may be times when you have to work long hours and extra days to meet a deadline, but you need to balance that out,” Sullivan says. “If you’re working 24/7, you’re going to burn out hard eventually. Don’t be afraid to have times when you’re doing what’s required and not going the extra mile. Having a life outside work, with hobbies and social connections that aren’t linked to your job, will improve so much of your life and wellbeing, and will actually make you a better employee in the long run.”

4. Build an identity outside of work

Speaking of stepping away, that person who is job title first, human second? Let that not be you anymore. Start cultivating relationships outside of the office, following your passions, interests, and curiosities. Whatever sparks joy. “Are you feeling isolated or challenged to have that non-work social life? Try reaching out to a community based on your interests, whether that’s online or IRL,” Sullivan says. “Reddit forums for your area, craft groups at a local coffee shop, or taking lessons in something that you’ve always wanted to try can all be fabulous ways to build up your connections. And don’t discount the importance of long-distance connections, either—again, we need a mix of types to thrive, and having your text messages full of people you’re happy to hear from can go a long way to improving your social wellbeing even if you’re not currently in a position where in-person interaction is easy to come by.”

Finally, in all of this, remember why you’re evaluating your social wellbeing in the first place. 

“If you used to be the life of the party, out every night, but now you find that exhausting and you’d rather bake some bread and get a good night’s sleep? Good for you,” Sullivan says. “But you can only eat so much bread before it gets stale. Who are you sharing it with? Learn, honor, and respect your own needs and boundaries, as well as those of others. Fill up your tank every chance you get, and don’t be afraid to let others around you support you sometimes; you’ll return the favor when someone else needs you.” 

Social wellbeing is about connection, support, and learning to share the load. In our increasingly disconnected world, playing the long game means building a community that allows you to be healthy and happy well into the future—remote or in-person, at work or outside of work. Healthy and happy as a whole human.

About our expert${ getPlural(experts) }

About our author${ getPlural(authors) }

Share this article

Don't Miss Out

Create a free account to get unlimited access to our articles and to join millions of women growing with the InHerSight community

Looks like you already have an account!
Click here to login ›

Invalid email. Please try again!

Sign up with a social account or...

If you already have an account, click here to log in. By signing up, you agree to InHerSight's Terms and Privacy Policy


You now have access to all of our awesome content

Looking for a New Job?

InHerSight matches job seekers and companies based on millions of workplace ratings from women. Find a job at a place that supports the kinds of things you're looking for.