Post-pandemic wellbeing lessons with Kira Newman, Editor-in-Chief of Greater Good

Stephanie Ricci contributed to this story.

The collective psyche appears to have changed more than two years after the Covid-19 pandemic was declared. People have abandoned the notion of loose work in exchange for success, while labor shortages and increasingly flexible work indicate a new attitude towards working life – and a greater search for happiness and meaning.

As Editor-in-Chief of Greater Good Magazine, Kira Newman has sifted through scientific research to bring readers stories of happier and more compassionate living. The latest research she uncovered sheds light on our ability to experience happiness and altruism in the current traumatic moment marked by a seemingly never-ending pandemic.

In the spring of 2021, Newman felt like she and others were withdrawing from friends. Curious about her antisocial behavior, she investigated whether it might be an effect of the pandemic and uncovered a kind of paradoxical crisis of loneliness.

“Social connections are pretty much the most important route to well-being and happiness, but I think we just got to a point where technology wasn’t enough and we were exhausted,” Newman said.

The widespread feelings of increased stress, loneliness, and depression in the context of the pandemic led to social avoidance, despite longing for face-to-face interactions.

At the same time, the home became a public space (and families isolated themselves together), leaving many feeling that they did not have enough alone time. This can lead to a condition that researchers call loneliness — or the “perception that one is not spending enough time alone” — even though we also feel lonely because of social connections.

“We need people, but we also need solitude,” she said.

The good news is that if we use this knowledge as a reminder of our vulnerability, we can accelerate our ability to recover from trauma caused by a pandemic.

Teleworking increases employee satisfaction and retention

It’s no secret that remote workers are often happier, more engaged, and more productive. Newman, who has 12 years of working from home, believes flexible working holds promise for well-being at work.

A recent McKinsey poll found that over 87% of Americans would choose to work remotely if given the opportunity — a widespread trend across demographics, occupations and regions. According to Stanford professor and remote work expert Nicholas Bloom, hybrid work can also reduce a company’s attrition rate by 35%.

Yet there are good reasons for new hires to join a face-to-face company, said Newman, who made a conscious move from Toronto to the Bay Area after joining greater goodwhich is based at the University of California, Berkeley.

“At greater good, we appreciate this personal retreat because it really helps build deep trust in relationships,” she said. “It makes it easier to collaborate and collaborate remotely when you know someone better. They have that sense of confidence and good will to help people interpret their words and their behavior when in doubt.”

After laying a solid foundation with her team, Newman felt comfortable returning to Canada and enjoying the flexibility of working remotely.

To make it work

Part of being a successful remote worker is maintaining a relationship with colleagues by getting to know them on a personal level. However, the distance has increased the importance of choosing the right technology for it.

“It can be helpful to just pick up the phone and call someone,” says Newman. “Anytime I’ve done this with my colleagues, it’s always nice to just talk to them for five minutes, hear their voice and resolve something very quickly.”

A 2021 study found that interactions involving speech resulted in stronger social bonds and no increase in awkwardness compared to written communication.

Digital Wellbeing

Despite its benefits for social connectedness, overuse of digital technology has been linked to negative mental health effects, blurring the line between healthy and harmful digital connectivity. However, research shows that it is far from black or white.

“There’s so much nuance about when using social media makes you unhappy or depressed,” Newman said. “The boring but complicated answer is that it’s neither good nor bad. It’s contextual and depends on how you use it.”

For example, there is a growing adoption of mental health-based apps. According to a recent report by Grand View Research, the global market for mental health apps is expected to grow at a CAGR of 16.5% from 2022 to 2030, reaching US$17.5 billion by 2030.

Digital media remain a tool. By adopting healthier digital habits, such as By reducing screen time, for example, we can unlock the powerful potential of technology to reinvent access to help, therapy, and other health practices.

What is certain is that technology is here to stay, so we should find ways to improve our well-being, encourage social connections rather than detract from them, and ultimately increase job satisfaction.

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