It’s easy to think that a global pandemic has made connections harder to make or maintain, that we’re further apart from people than ever before. But Kerry Leigh argues otherwise, and says that this pandemic has given us a chance to connect to people in ways we’d never have done before.

Learning from a pandemic

My friends and my kids take the piss out of me for my eternal, unshaking optimism, my love of trees and rainbows and my sometimes irritating over-enthusiasm.

I’m not sorry. It’s what I do.

Has my sparkle dwindled over the last year or so? Nope. But I have had to put more conscious effort in and, of course, I’ve had bad moments, tough days, difficult weeks.

What I’ve learned, though, is that warmth and energy can transmit over a Zoom call. We can still make people laugh, smile and think differently over the internet. Authenticity is key. And in some ways, the disconnect has actually helped with this.

We’ve seen into colleagues and customers’ lives in ways we wouldn’t have done pre-pandemic. We’ve seen them in their homes. We’ve met their children and pets. We’ve really ‘seen’ each other.

I’ve also seen things I can’t unsee too. Like one customer’s partner sneaking past in the background in his boxers, doing the ‘stealth walk’ in the hope that he wouldn’t be seen.

Better connections

But, boxer shorts aside, the pandemic has actually helped us to connect better too. If you’re reading this and screaming silently at me in despair, hear me out.

Yes, we thrive on face-to-face interaction. As our CEO, Stephanie Davies, said in her March blog ‘home workers will be glad to get out of the house’ and go to the office. But how many of us took that for granted before?

We’ve got to know each other better over the last 12 months. We’ve connected with colleagues we wouldn’t have done otherwise, as they didn’t share the same geographical location. We’ve discovered what’s possible and what matters: connection. I may be turning into Brene Brown, but that’s okay, I like her.

Actually, like most women in their mid-40s, I’m turning into my mother. Fortunately, I like her too. A friend once commented after meeting my mum: ‘Wow, you’re nothing like her – she’s so glamorous’. Ouch.

They were right though. My mum always looks ‘on-point’, whereas I’ve perfected the ‘wash and go’ look. But I’ve modelled some of my behaviours on hers. She keeps it real. She can be over-enthusiastic in her likes (and dislikes). We don’t do poker faces and we’re both crap at lying. She lives overseas so, just like many other families, the pandemic has kept us physically apart. We don’t know yet when we’ll see each other in person, and that is hard.

We continue to make the most of Skype, Whatsapp, online deliveries and the post office, and practise gratefulness for the connection we do have.

Communication and connection

So, it seems that this bizarre dystopia we seem to have landed in has actually helped us to connect and learn how to connect best, according to the circumstances. We’ve broadened our horizons too. Consider the opportunities created for people who have to work from home some or all of the time because of disabilities or caring commitments.

If you’re starting to work regularly back in the office and beginning to arrange customer meetings face-to-face, my bet is you’ll use your time more wisely now, and communicate genuinely. When you ask someone how they are in person or online, you’ll genuinely mean it and listen to their answer before you get stuck into business.

Because people are business. So let’s take what we’ve learned as we move forwards and keep those connections at the heart of our communication - it’ll keep things far more real if we do.