20201019 The Loneliness of the Long Distance Manager

Monday, 19 October, 2020 – 09:44

We are, once more, seeing unprecedented times as country after country sets records for daily infections with CoVid-19. But there’s a forgotten, perhaps unrecognised, group of people who are deserving of attention.

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Across the world, across all sectors of commerce and industry as well as government service and agencies, there is one largely forgotten group of people who are bearing a burden that no one signed up for.

And which no one is, in any sense of the term, equipped to handle.

The reason is this: the last true pandemic was a century ago and followed on from a near-world war. It was different times: the latest office technology was the 200 year concept of a typewriter that found its way into a handful of offices before WW1 and grew in popularity as prices fell later, the fountain pen (invented 80 years earlier but too expensive for clerks who used quills into the 20th Century) and the relatively recent ball-point pen.

And the telephone was still a rarity. Indeed, even in the highly advanced world of Sherlock Holmes, in the last decade of the 19th Century, hand-written messages or cables transmitted between central points, later known as ″telegrams″ were the only means, other than a postal service, of communicating with someone in another room, much less another building, town or country.

Fast forward to the always on, instant message, video-phone and conferencing lives we lead and it seems as if life should be simpler. The evangelists for video conferencing, the current iterations of which are dominated by Zoom and MS Teams, were delighted: they had always had a solution looking for a problem.
But no matter what, working from home is not the same as working from the office. Talking down a line, by voice or video, is not the same as being in the same room.
What has happened is that the tech has increased availability yet, at the same time, increased the sense of isolation for the people who are on the front line of dealing with the effects of the pandemic on businesses.

So how did we get here?