How will the loneliness epidemic impact employers?
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One of my research interests is how the workforce is changing in the Digital Covid Age. Less about employment statistics, and more around where people find financial security, belonging, and sense of purpose.
Our needs are fairly consistent, but how we fulfil them is swirling around in an age of streaming money, tiktokification, and masks.
The ‘traditional job’ has ticked some of these boxes for some people, but is now being dismantled.
The Loneliness of the Long Distance Worker
In his article, Rex Woodbury describes How the Internet Is Reacting to the Loneliness Epidemic.
Half of Brits over 65 consider the television📺 or a pet🐶 to be their main source of company.
And more evidence of loneliness is provided from changes in the family to different expectations of generations.
What problem does Facebook solve? Loneliness.
A few years ago, I heard Alain de Botton explain that platforms need to fulfil deep-seated problems. The challenge to entrepreneurs was to solve problems higher up the hierarchy of needs.
If the 2010s were about people’s need for ‘status’ online — manifesting in curated Instagram feeds and filtered selfies — then the 2020s are about people’s need for ‘belonging’.
The article outlines three main ways that the internet is reacting to the loneliness epidemic:
the commodification of intimacy — an example with online relationships with OnlyFans creators becoming replacements for real-life intimacy.
the shift from status to belonging — an example of gaming becoming more social, less about winning, and more about hanging out with friends.
the socialization of the economy — every aspect of the economy is becoming more community-centric. From Finance (social investing) to Education (cohort courses) and Healthcare (apps to connect people with similar health issues).
What will be the impact on Employers?
The biggest competition for workers in some sectors is not the rival supermarket, but the pull of 24/7 streaming entertainment from Discord, YouTube, Twitch.
Expensive status symbols exchanged for months of hard graft aren’t required to attract a mate or a date.
Some employers are going to struggle to persuade people it’s worth turning up for work.
In competitive labor markets, winning employers will need to provide better financial security, a sense of belonging, and a smattering of purpose.
One finding from my research on the impact of work-matching platforms is that it will lead to much more frequent job/contract/project changes as people move around more. The platforms make this easier, and expected improved social protection for independent workers will accelerate it.
Although the narrative of the so-called ‘creator economy’ is all about individualistic freedom to follow your passions, the real story will be the millions of teams that are created.
The employer brand — aka Why would I want to work for you?
This now includes all types of contract, agency, and freelance workers, not just the ones who show up on an internal org chart or payroll.
Employers will need to provide opportunities for earning digital cash but also solve some of our higher-order needs too.
For in-demand skills, watch out for the rise of Workforce Anthropologists as the ‘new Epidemiologists’.
You can read the full article here -> The Loneliness of the Long Distance Worker