What happens when “social creatures are deprived of social contact”, asks Martha Gill in The Observer. It’s the type of experiment that would “get animal rights extremists in a lather” if conducted on monkeys, and yet for three years, we’ve happily tested it out on ourselves. The “main convener of community” – the workplace – has been split up, leaving us sequestered in our homes. Sure, remote working made sense during Covid. But when the “cage doors finally opened”, many of us refused to venture back out into the wild. In 2019, around 12% of Brits surveyed said they had worked from home in the previous seven days; that figure is now 40%, with 16% not going into the office at all.
Unsurprisingly, it turns out “depriving social creatures of social contact isn’t very good for them”. Depression and anxiety rates have surged, with 80% of employees claiming that remote working has damaged their mental health. Without the “gossip, flirting, jokes, lunches and drinks”, our days have become a “dull to-do list”. The result is plummeting productivity, with firms reporting up to a 20% drop in output. It’s yet another example of our society’s increasingly harmful atomisation. We’ve already removed most of the social element from dating: we no longer meet people at parties through mutual friends or “chat people up in bars”. Instead, we sit on our own and mindlessly swipe through apps, denying ourselves real interaction. Now we’ve done the same with work. Perhaps it’s time for bosses to prod us out of this lonely pattern of “typing and swiping”.