In April 2021, Arthur C. Brooks of the Atlantic wrote a piece titled, “The Hidden Toll of Remote Work.” He discusses how the American workforce relies heavily on work-based social interactions for fulfillment. He says that video technologies like Zoom, Microsoft 365, and Slack are not a substitute for generating happiness or gratification gained by social interactions IRL.
Back on Aug. 30 TikToker @zaidleppelin shared a video about his experience of post-college loneliness as a WFH employee still living with his parents. He says he understands how his predicament may seem self-inflicted, but today’s costs of rent and capitalist social structure makes it difficult to create community as an adult.
@zaidleppelin struggle szn, maybe some of you can relate #loneliness ♬ POV – K bye for now💘
“I’ve been experiencing a soul crushing loneliness,” he says. “That I think is best attributed to the fact that I don’t encounter opportunities to meet new people nowadays.”
He mentions in his videos that loneliness in adulthood is inherently wired into the work-life system of capitalism.
Zaid’s usual comment feed consists of videos with 6-10 comments. This video went viral with 148,000 views and 816 comments. Viewer after viewer identifies with his statements. They express gratitude, share how they relate, offer strategies they discovered through personal experience, and ask Zaid if he wants to meet in person.
The comment feed appears to be an accidental forum where people feel seen and heard within their personal struggles amid continuing WFH dynamics.
One viewer notably says, “Sometimes I just sit at cafes to see and feel people’s presence.”
“Loneliness is as deadly as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. We weren’t meant to be alone. We are social creatures,” says another.
“This is me desperately wishing I had someone to just go to Target with or like sit somewhere and have lunch with,” says a third viewer.
Viewers are hard-pressed to find a dissenting opinion. One offers a comment that vaguely resembles debate.
“Honestly take the hit and move out and rent with roommates. I got divorced at 34 and moved in with strangers… best thing for me!,” they said.
In June, Katie Bishop of the BBC wrote an article explaining new findings of long-term negative impacts on WFH employees. Some of these include working longer hours, an increase in sedentary lifestyles, prolonged isolation, and substance abuse.
Some have found that there are enough positive tradeoffs to supersede the downfalls of a WFH structure. This is reflected in adults who adhere to more strict structures around work time and activities away from their desks.
The positive trends are also more commonly correlated with adults who had established social structures and adult communities prior to lockdown.
Bishop writes that a survey “showed 81% of under-35s feared loneliness from long-term home working, and studies have shown heightened levels of stress and anxiety among younger workers since the shift to remote work.”
Since Zaid’s video went viral he created several follow-up TikToks describing the systemic contributors to loneliness. He also offers insight to the idea of “the third place” which is conceptually similar to how college students get out of their dorms and engage with the campus community.
“Because work and life are blurred as a remote worker, I feel this extra pressure to find a third place,” Zaid says.
He lists co-working spaces, coffee shops, and gyms as initial remedies for WFH employees.
The Daily Dot contacted Zaid via Instagram messenger and TikTok comments.