Why back-to-back Zooms leaves us feeling lonely
April 19, 2021
8 min read

LOTs more meetings.

Yet despite being in video conferences with colleagues all day, there has also been an increase in loneliness. In survey after survey, people cite the biggest struggle is the lack of social aspects of work.

Wait, that doesn’t make sense!

If we see and interact with our colleagues on video all day, we shouldn’t feel lonely. If anything we should feel more connected! Right?

This paradox was incredibly puzzling for the team at Commons.

However, now we see that it makes sense if you understand the type of interactions with colleagues that fill our days.

Zoom — and Slack — were made for specific types of interactions in the work context and a planned time paradigm. And these two dimensions of work—context and time—have been fundamentally altered in the shift to distributed work.  

Context

Zoom is today being used to host graduation ceremonies, high school reunions, and the dreaded office happy hours. But it's ultimately made for work, and that work context persists in how the product feels. 

We think of Zoom as the metaphorical fancy conference room in the top floor of the office. The one you only go to once a month for the big client meetings. It's always a bit too cold in there, and the thought of staying there all day is just frightening. No wonder we all have Zoom fatigue! 

Time

The second shift is that we now live in a scheduled paradigm with distributed work. This is somewhat counterintuitive: remote work is more flexible for individuals’ schedules (“I can work whenever”), but it makes it exceedingly difficult to have interactions with groups.

The ‘in between’ moments throughout the day when you got up from your desk are gone.

Some companies are so rigidly attached to passive that they’re “async first” — in other words, everything happens in isolation. While that works for many process flows, async doesn’t work for socializing.

Active vs passive socializing

In order to fill the loneliness gap, many teams have turned to active socializing. Team lunch, virtual happy hours, and games. They help, for sure, but they’re temporary fixes. And, they’re really just really replacing just one type of socializing: active socializing.

Passive socializing is more natural and happens organically.

But what teams are really missing today is passive socializing. Hanging out with your team through the day.

At Commons, we believe that "small talk" is actually big talk because it builds camaraderie. Work relationships are often formed by spending lots of time together in various contexts.

We think it's time for a new way to enable distributed teams to get more done while staying more connected.