“Mind the gap, mind the gap between the train and the platform”

This is a saying that I have not heard in what seems like an age.  It was spoken for our safety, to ensure that no harm came to us whilst traveling but has now taken on a new meaning.

We have been required to maintain a gap between ourselves, from our friends and from our families, from our work colleagues and our workplaces.  This physical gap has been essential for our safety; maintaining distance to protect those around us.  How many times, whilst on our daily walks, did we move across to the other side of the road or path to enable there to be social distance with the other walkers?  The strange reality of queuing up outside the supermarket, waiting your turn to enter.

Whilst we have been physically removed, for some, the sense of connection has been greater than ever.  I have felt this more than I could have imagined.  Having the opportunity to spend quality time with people who I have been trying to see for months.  The funniest part of this situation is two of them live in the same town as me.  How mad is it that it takes a pandemic for us to stop and take stock?

This connection has brought me closer to people from across the globe, challenged my thinking and learning beyond what I have thought was possible and allowed me to try to the new and exciting.  Health and wellbeing for us all has been brought to the forefront of our minds and this time has enabled me to be healthy and happier than I have been in a long time.

But for me the gap has also been too large.  The platform and the train have been too detached for me.  I need physical connection.  For those who know me, I am a hugger (sorry I know that this is not for everyone!)  I feel the strength of connection when I not only meet someone but are able to physically connect, seeing someone face to face rather than just on Zoom.

I have appreciated the power of technology, the ability to see my family via the screen but that does not in any way compensate for seeing them in the real world.  The levels of helplessness of not being nearer to my parents to do the shopping, help with IT or to just simply say hello and are you ok.  This has been the longest period that we have not seen each other and for me that is too long.

The gap from a business perspective was hard at the beginning of the pandemic.  Decisions by organisations to stop pieces of work, to change investment priorities based on the need to keep businesses afloat and people employed.  This should never be underestimated even when it has a negative effect on someone else.  The sense of loss and the gap in work made me appreciate the work that I had done and the relationships that I had developed even if it might mean work being delayed.

Organisations are now making decisions about staff returning to work.  I have heard many a story about businesses closing head offices, moving all team members to working remotely and fundamentally changing the working practices.  This works on so many levels for me; more flexibility of when and how to work, great engagement with families, friends, and social activities due to reduced commuting.

But think of the huggers; those like me who thrive on the human connection at a visceral level and not that via Zoom.  There are all the practicalities about working from home which I will not cover here but there is the need to bring the platform in line with the train, the need to reduce the gap.

The recent poll conducted by PTHR indicated the desire for people to continue to have some time in the office.  For me that time is needed to build connection and engage.  I chose to run my own business and one thing that I do continue to battle with is the need to be with other people, to bounce ideas off, share thoughts and a check that I am not going too “pie in the sky” (something I am guilty of).  Whilst I can do this via Zoom, having physical contact and connection works so much better for me.

We are on a new journey now and the gaps are beginning to close.  We still need to maintain distance in some cases and for some people, that distance has been appreciated and welcomed.  We feel more connected because of shared experiences and appreciate the way in which we have managed to stay together during this time.

We need to continue to grow the level of connectivity but not disregard the differing needs of different people, and therefore our solutions need to reflect this as well.    What is clear is that the everyone’s journey has been different and these need to be considered when determining the destination.  I want to make the journey in safety, not falling between the gaps but I also need to feel the movement again.