The Great Fraying?

Weaving meaningful relationships takes time to build, but only a short time to come apart.

In an interesting piece by Robin Dunbar on the BBC this morning, the coming apart can take as little as 3 months. It doesn’t need trauma, or drama, just benign neglect.

In another part of the news, JP Morgan and Linklaters have said that they are in no hurry to get people back to the office, and envisage only around 50% going back before mid 2021, if then. It mirrors a general trend elsewhere where we are learning that an office adds only marginal value to those people whose skills enable them to work remotely.

During the systemic shock that Covid has been up to now (and may yet continue to be) many of us have found our relationships a key issue. Many of us like being at home more, discovering what having a family is like again. Not commuting. Spending time outside.

The attraction of mundane relationships in cookie cutter office environments has lessened. Whilst we can overdo Zoom or Teams, it has become a valuable tool as we’ve learned to use it well. Paradoxically, it seems to have put many relationships into perspective. Zoom doesn’t have a corner office. We become seen for what we actually do, not the car we turn up in.

Our own identity and sense of meaning becomes more important to us when we are forced to be more self sufficient, and the length of time we have been dealing with Covid has been long enough for us to change habits. There’s an interesting, but unsurprising overlap between the 3 months it takes for a friendship to weaken, and the research on how long it takes to change a habit.

For my own part, I have done more good work during this pandemic than I did in the year before. I have had more really good conversations with more, interesting, people about important topics. I have become involved in more projects with real potential. I know many people who have found the same.

I haven’t been to London, or caught a train, or had a Starbucks and I don’t miss any of them.They were a habit, surprisingly easy to dispose of.

I’m reminded of one of my favourite Terry Pratchett passages:

“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.”

Hatful of Sky. Terry Pratchett.

Many of us have far more options than we thought we had. We can do work that matters, more aligned with who we are, with people we share values with, that will grow us, not just shareholder profits.

We have glimpsed more choices.

It would be a shame to waste it.

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