The rising loneliness epidemic in tech: A call to action

By Jean-Pierre Aramouni / Guest Contributor

JP Aramouni

In a recent advisory, the Surgeon General of the United States raised a clarion call about the escalating loneliness epidemic in our country. Six out of ten young professionals report feeling ‘serious loneliness’, resulting in an economic price-tag of $6.7b annually in excess healthcare costs. This advisory comes at a crucial time, as May is recognized as Mental Health Awareness Month, a time when we collectively turn our attention to the myriad of mental health issues that affect millions of Americans.

One sector where this issue is particularly pronounced is the tech industry, where remote and hybrid work models have become the norm, and opportunities for spontaneous in-office encounters have become rare. The rapid shift to remote work has left many tech workers feeling disconnected from their colleagues and the broader community.

As someone who has spent the last 10 years in remote and hybrid roles in the tech industry, initially as an early employee at Uber launching the business in new markets where I was often the first and sometimes the only employee there, and more recently as a solo founder with a distributed team, I know this problem really well. Work and life can get lonely quickly, which increases burnout risk as isolation decreases one’s capacity for resilience from daily stressors. When loneliness combines with burnout, workers start to languish, or what we now call ‘quiet quitting’, where they become disengaged from work, and eventually, life. I was one of those employees five years ago and it’s not a good place to be.

The Surgeon General’s recent advisory is a call to action for all of us, including tech entrepreneurs and leaders. It is a reminder that we must prioritize connection and community, not just for our own well-being, but for the overall health of our organizations and our industry. This is especially true for product-driven organizations, for without healthy people, there’s no healthy product.

The silver lining here is that humans need meaningful in-person relationships and a sense of belonging. It’s ingrained in our DNA. As kids, we played freely. It was relatively easy to connect with ourselves and others around us. However, somewhere on our journey from childhood to adulthood, we forget the importance of play and we lose sight of ourselves, our true nature. Something that was once so natural to us has become challenging, and nowadays almost a foreign feeling.

I launched Plaey as an invitation to reconnect with ourselves and our surroundings in a world that is becoming increasingly disconnected. In my personal journey, learning how to play again, or in other words, doing the inner work and reconnecting with myself, helped me break out of isolation and bust burnout. It was an intentional journey to re-learn something that should be second nature to us – cultivating and savoring human connection. What if we were to explore the world around us with the same relentless curiosity and outlook we once had as kids? How would our overall well-being improve?

Plaey’s virtual ‘plaeyground’ is a gateway to meaningful real-life connections – a tech-enabled approach built on the science of human flourishing. It provides a space for remote and hybrid workers to connect with like-minded peers in their city and participate in shared in-person experiences curated to help them recharge and grow personally, together. In revitalizing connection and community among remote and hybrid workers, we can combat feelings of loneliness and isolation, re-sew our social fabric, and help the next generation of leaders unleash their potential and flourish.

As we observe Mental Health Awareness Month, let’s commit to taking action to address the loneliness epidemic in the tech industry and beyond. Tech entrepreneurs and leaders have a unique opportunity and responsibility to address this issue, and are uniquely positioned to leverage technology to foster connection and community among remote and hybrid workers.

Together, we can create a more connected, supportive, and mentally healthy tech industry.

To learn more about Plaey and its next cohort kicking off June 1, visit Mention “Refresh” in your application to qualify for a 20% discount.

Refresh Miami welcomes guest contributions. Email Nancy Dahlberg at [email protected] with your idea for a post.