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Australians feeling less connected to their local communities since returning to the office

Return to work_Australia

In this post Guest Analyst Stu Spiers from Silverlining Strategy, looks at our Catalyst data from August 2021 onwards to investigate how connected Aussies feel to their local communities.


In August 2021 when Catalyst last asked Australians about their sense of local community, Sydney and Melbourne had already endured over a month of a lockdown that was to last through until late October.

Since then, much has shifted. Western Australia excepted, the rest of Australia is now largely in the same position in terms of both vaccination rates and infection rates from the omicron variant. So how has the shift out of government-imposed lockdown for some, and shift into self-imposed caution and isolation for most, impacted people’s connection to and pride in their community? In this month’s Catalyst, we revisit these two questions to see.


As seen in the chart above, there has been a marginal decline in Australians as a whole feeling connected to their local community. Whilst at this aggregate level the differences appear minor, analysis by employment status uncovers very different results from wave to wave. 

Those in full time employment felt significantly less connected to their local community with 60% stating they felt connected in August, this dropped to just 48% in January. Conversely, those who were retired, or full-time students clearly felt more connected to their local communities than they did in August. In the case of retired people, 51% felt connected in August, whilst in January this rose to 57%.

These results were particularly pronounced in NSW and Victoria. These findings suggest that as workplaces in Sydney and Melbourne returned slowly to working in offices, (or at least less at home than before), it came at the expense of those employees feeling a part of their local community. Conversely, as the lockdown lifted in NSW and Victoria, many retired people and full-time students clearly used that time to reconnect with their local community.

Pride in local community - Catalyst


As was the case with “feeling connected” (48% in January 2022 and 60% in August 2021), there were significant dips in full time employed people feeling proud of their community (56% in January 2022 and 65% in August 2021). These dips were largely offset by significant uplifts in local community pride amongst students and retirees (59% in August 2021 and 68% in January 2022).

When looking at these two questions by gender, age, household income and geography, the only significant difference found was when comparing capital cities. As was the case in the August wave, less than a third (31%) of Adelaide residents feel connected. The other four mainland capital cities all register above 40%, with more than half of Sydney and Perth residents stating they feel connected to their local communities. For those concerned about the wellbeing of those in Adelaide, this result warrants further investigation to find out the ‘why’ behind this result.

The final piece of analysis on these two statements was done according to whether the respondent owned a pet. In keeping with the age-old saying of a dog being “man’s best friend”, a much larger slice of dog owners felt connected to their local community (55%), than those without a dog (42%). Notably, owners of cats, and other pets were closer to the average score for the community as a whole. 

So, for those looking to feel that connection to their community, if you’re a full time worker heading back to the office, take your dog in with you. If you’re a student or retiree, keep on getting out there and re-connecting with those you perhaps weren’t in the back half of 2021…you’re likely to feel better for doing it.



Silverlining Strategy

Stu Spiers is the founder and Director at Silver Lining Strategy

Silver Lining Strategy is a boutique consultancy that specialises in Major Event strategy, planning and evaluation – helping event owners and investors answer their most important questions.