What I Got Wrong About Remote Work

The end of one year and the start of another is always a good time to admit one’s mistakes. And I got something wrong — really wrong — about remote work.

In 2020, when offices shuttered and many knowledge workers began routinely clocking in from home, many skeptics decried the arrangement’s loneliness and isolation. This, I argued, was shortsighted — because although remote workers might be alone much of the day, it’s perfectly possible (in normal, non-pandemic times) to have a social life outside of work.

But after nearly three full years of remote and hybrid arrangements, the evidence is in: Most people working from home are seeing less of their friends than before Covid.

This surprised me. I thought that when pandemic-era isolation ended, remote employees would use the time saved on commuting to reinvest in their non-work relationships. Without a long commute, it would be easier to invite friends over for a home-cooked meal. Increased flexibility would allow for more midday walk-and-talks and coffee dates.

To borrow an economic metaphor, I didn’t think remote work would shrink the pie of camaraderie; personal friendships would just steal some market share from professional connections.