Cast your mind back….

You have a big pitch today. It’s 8:30ish, you’re standing at the top of the steps down to the Waterloo & City line at Waterloo station. You’ve already spent an hour or so on a mainline train, sometimes with a seat, sometimes not. More often than not the air conditioning has frozen you to the core, or the heating is up so high and no one wants the windows open so you are sweating into your freshly pressed shirt - a great start. Hundreds of people stand in front of you waiting like hens in a cage to jump on a tube to take you to Bank.

You squeeze on to the tube, tut as one more person wedges themselves on with just enough space to brush their backpack as the doors close. What an idiot you think to yourself, couldn’t they wait for the next train. Nevertheless you continue to stare at the floor, even hotter now than you were on the mainline train but finally on your way.

You’re eventually off the train, one last mad dash to get through the barriers, and fresh air approaches. But wait, someone’s run out of funds on their Oyster, or they see that message on the barriers everyone dreads “Seek assistance” cue more tuts and head shakes behind you.

There’s no substitute for shared experiences but you don’t need to share that experience with a bunch of sweaty people on the Waterloo & City line.

That ‘fresh’ London air has never smelt or tasted so good. Time to get to the offices for the big pitch. You’re slightly sweaty but you keep stomping the pavement, why are people walking so slowly?.

A glamorous building, clad in glass stands in front of you and a plethora of receptionists who need to check your name is on the list before giving you a pass and letting you upstairs. All checks done and you’re in the lift.

You’ve got this, you’ve worked on this pitch for months, you know the product, you’ve spoken to the attendees over email and on the phone, you know what they need. They need what you’re offering. Finally your host greets you, this way Warren - we’re really excited to see and hear what you have to show us today.

You enter the room, full of strangers, you’re engaging, making eye contact, shaking hands and making small talk about the journey in and the weather. You’re in full swing now.

The meeting ends, you agree on the next steps and when you should catch up again. Perhaps you can run this through with some of our other colleagues next week Warren. Would you mind coming back in again?. Of course not, I look forward to it.

Plus ca change

What these past 2 years have taught me is that, while some form of return to the office is a benefit, we don’t need the rat race. I get 3, sometimes 4 (if there aren’t leaves on the line) hours extra to my day. My office is downstairs, I walk the dog each morning along the waterfront with my wife, a coffee in hand and we discuss the meetings we have that day or what we should have for lunch and dinner. This is my favourite time of the day. I’m ready for whatever the day throws at me.

Home for breakfast and I’m at my desk before 9.

I have a big pitch today, I've rehearsed what I’m going to say, I have it nailed. I’m not too hot, nor too cold and sometimes I'm even wearing shorts (we all do it). The meeting goes well, I’m as engaging as I was in person, the only thing I can’t do is shake hands. But most people are scared to do that these days anyway. Can you do this again next week Warren, with some of our other colleagues. We think they’d really like to see what you have showcased. Absolutely, what time?

Technology allows me to do everything remotely. But now I do it with a clear and healthier mind.

As the world opens up more, I find myself wondering if we really need a ‘base’. Sure I like to see people and I built my career on relationships (people buy people right?) but I think the days of meeting in person are long gone. I have more time now, sometimes I work more hours, but I am comfortable and I have a stable internet connection which means I am always able to work. Striking the balance is key and we must find time to sit back and relax. It’s far easier to do this from home. Technology allows me to do everything remotely. But now I do it with a clear and healthier mind.

That said, it’s true that my viewpoint isn't the only one and obviously this only applies to roles like mine. Doctors, the police and fire services (and apparently investment bankers), for example, can’t very well work from home. Indeed, only last month, the BBC ran an article pointing out that people just starting out in their careers would benefit from a return to the office and all the social opportunities that brings. Admittedly, the story was built on a comment from the chair of City Pub Group, who may or may not have a vested interest in increased social activity. Nonetheless, he raises a valid point

Our industry - like many others - is relationship based. How does one form relationships without actually meeting the person? Well, maybe us old-timers are mistakenly judging the younger generation by our own standards. Relationships no longer have to be in person. While physically being in the same space as someone is clearly important, it doesn’t stand in the way of closing a deal, so why should it of a friendship? Friendships between people, sometimes thousands of miles apart, are formed every day on platforms like Xbox Live, Steam or Playstation Plus. All you need is an internet connection and a common interest.

The mechanics of creating relationships hasn’t changed but the enabling technology has. There’s no substitute for shared experiences but you don’t need to share that experience with a bunch of sweaty people on the Waterloo & City line.

I’m off to London next week for a meeting for the first time in over two years. I haven’t missed it but I am looking forward to seeing if I’m still as good at riding the tube as I once was.