Rebuilding “Weak Ties” in the Age of Remote Work
You know those acquaintances or strangers you might have a nice conversation with while waiting for the elevator or while in line at the grocery store? Maybe even someone who’s a familiar face, like the person who works at your favorite coffee shop or your hairdresser? Those connections are called “weak ties” and the COVID pandemic essentially erased them from our lives.
While sheltering in place, we were left to communicate with those physically around us, and the people that we were close enough with to intentionally reach out. We weren’t going anywhere, so it was up to us to decide who we interact with from the comfort of our own homes.
It’s April 2022, and while the world has opened up quite a bit in the last two years, remote work is here to stay for many, which means fewer interactions with weak ties.
While I work on a distributed team, I also go to a physical coworking space most days. Yesterday, in the 20 minutes it took me to leave my apartment and get settled at a table, I talked to ten different weak ties: I said hello to my doorman, pet two dogs in the lobby and talked to their owners briefly, walked to WeWork, while smiling to some strangers along the way, scanned into the building, said hello to the person at the front desk, got into the elevator with two other people (we talked about the nice weather), walked into the office, spoke to the three community managers about our weekends, then complimented a woman on how yummy her oatmeal smelled in the kitchen, and then I sat down.
I fell full and content. I literally hopped on a team call and said, “Wow, there are great vibes happening this Monday.” In 2020, sitting at home alone working, I didn’t feel that collective positive energy.
With Groove though, it’s possible to have those weak tie connections from the comfort of your own home on a regular basis. Inside Groove, you get matched up with up to three other people from around the world looking to get sh*t done for the next 50 minutes.
There are a few moments of connection on video at the beginning and end, but for the 50 minutes of focus, you’re off video. There’s a shared structure and purpose for showing up on Groove that gives Groovers a good ‘jumping off point’ to chat briefly. Plus, the casualness of it being on a mobile device allows us to welcome these weak ties into our space in a way that doesn’t typically happen. There have been Grooves where I’ve shown others the NYC skyline outside my apartment, my new favorite seasoning from Trader Joe’s, or the book I’ve been reading.
In this age of remote work, it’s extremely important for humans to find ways to interact regularly with weak ties.
Annette Nunez, psychotherapist, and founder of Not Your Standard Doctor said, “Weak ties are important because then we’re not relying on the people that we live with. It gives individuals another outlet to express what they’re feeling.”
Lizz Schummer adds, “[Humans] need nonjudgmental outlets in order to process and work through things that we go through in our day-to-day lives.”
Not only are weak ties an incredible indicator of happiness and mental health wellness, but also how we might level up our careers.
In 1973, Stanford sociology professor Mark Granovetter published an empirical paper called The Strength of Weak Ties, which analyzed the relationship weak ties have with finding new jobs and hiring.
Granovetter finds “that within a network of strong ties, people with weak ties outside the core network are bridges to other networks. Those bridges have access to new and unique information — like job openings — relative to other members of the network with only strong ties […] People with weak ties not only find jobs that the rest of the tight network cannot see, but those jobs come with higher compensation and satisfaction.”
Last month, I was talking to a Groover who prior to the pandemic worked in a doctor’s office. She mentioned how one of the things she misses most about her pre-pandemic lifestyle are those conversations she’d have with patients briefly while she examined them. She shared that’s one of the reasons why she was initially so attracted to Groove. By Grooving, she’s fulfilled her desire to connect with new faces and bump into familiar faces.
Groove is really great at creating more weak ties, which is a huge group of people that go away when you work for yourself, at home, or live away from family and friends. Plus, as we’ve seen with some Groovers, sometimes those cravings for weak ties and accountability can turn into deep friendships.
It’s a really beautiful thing to watch people feel fulfilled by connection in a way they’ve been missing, and may not have even recognized how much it was impacting them when they didn’t have it.