Shelter-in-place orders, loneliness, and collaborative behavior


The outbreak of COVID-19 resulted in numerous jurisdictions instituting “shelter-in-place'' orders (SPOs). While designed to restrict or impede normal levels of social proximity, SPOs altered the way or degree to which workers interact with each other and have likely imposed a toll on employee well-being. The authors exploit the temporal and geographic variation in U.S. SPOs to investigate their effect on loneliness among online workers. Variation in loneliness is then linked to worker behavior in a simple two-person, collaborative task (a framed stag hunt). The analysis reveals a strong positive relationship between SPOs and loneliness on average, peaking during the wave associated with the most prolonged duration of isolation. SPOs disproportionately impacted workers in occupations not substantially involving teamwork or collaboration. As reported loneliness increases, the probability of an individual collaborating in a simple interactive workplace scenario decreases significantly. In the final survey wave, SPOs are scarcer, loneliness subsides, and cooperative behavior increases dramatically.

Publication Title

Economics and Human Biology