The value of human contact

As far as choice of workplace goes, are you a home boy/girl or an office aficionado?

Or do you prefer a hybrid existence at – and away from – your business address?

I think it all depends on what you made of the pandemic, professionally-speaking.

Was it a catastrophe in terms of your work-life balance because your office was your bedroom or did you actually revel in the chance to abandon the daily commute, dodge the colleagues you’d rather not spend too much time with and free your nostrils from the pong of accounts Kathy’s microwaved mung bean monstrosities?

After the stop-start of the last two years the government is now lifting all remaining restrictions, having announced the end of its recommendation to work from home last month.

That move was designed to ease those of us who work in offices back into the groove, partly, as I understand it, so that Pret a Manger doesn’t go bust.
The other reason, of course, is that business simply works better when it’s conducted by human beings, face-to-face.

Surely, you might think, any rational person who has the choice can clearly see the benefit of not having to rock up to the office every day if the work can be done as well or better from home.

You can talk all you like about the buzz of bouncing ideas off colleagues, sitting though essential marketing PowerPoints and choosing suitably noxious neckwear for ‘wacky tie day’.

I reckon none of us would miss all that as much as we’d miss the chance to knock off promptly at 5.30pm to go for a run, spend time with our children or uncork the first Shiraz at 5.32pm.

But all of that said, and speaking as someone who recently emerged like a particularly dandy Red Admiral from the chrysalis that was Covid isolation, I have a fresh appreciation of the value of human contact.

And, for us at Philip Elliott Associates, there is the bigger picture; one of our key services is mediation between creditors and non-payers when the relationship has broken down and meaningful communication has ceased.

You can conduct these negotiations over the phone or Zoom/Teams but it’s so much better to have a friendly sit-down in person, to find out what the obstacles to payment are for the debtor and convey to them that you’re pursuing a solution, not punishment.

Technology is convenient but it can drain the process of this important human touch, rendering it transactional, not supportive. If you want to achieve the right result for your client, it pays to put in the time in person.

This is why, we reckon, we manage to secure good outcomes via mediation for so many clients.

Still, you can go too far.

I heard of a senior person in that London media world was desperate to get back to the office to do his high-powered job, WFH having been the bane of his life during the pandemic.
Commendable, you would say. And all the more understandable when you realise that at 4pm, his office magically transformed into the pub, just as it had done for the last 30 years.