16 Months Later: Return of the Road Warrior

travelling for business again

For 25 years, I have worked out of my handbag. This stopped 16 months ago.

In preparation for the return of Ping Identians to our office this week, I embarked on a bit of a road trip to visit the office and connect with the team.

I have been a ‘road warrior’ all my life. Starting in IT sales at 20, living and working out of my handbag is ‘normal’ for me. Or it was….until the pandemic hit.

Over breakfast on Monday, when I said goodbye for 4 days, my youngest son, shared that he doesn’t remember our former life and my work travels. When I explained I wouldn’t be home this week to put him to bed, it really took him a while to remember the life that was.

I was amazed. I have been travelling nearly every week since he was 6 months old.

Many of us in tech will be experiencing the same conversations and experiences as we start to open back up, so as I have had the first week on the road for some time – I thought I’d share some of my experiences from the week for those similar ‘road warriors’ like me.

The Pace is Slow – Almost Reluctant

On Tuesday, I boarded my normal commuter train from 16 months ago - the 8.07 from Leighton Buzzard to London Euston.

Normally a packed train, there was only 3 people in the carriage.

Whilst the empty train was an experience, arriving at Euston was stranger.

Pre-pandemic the train would be bleeding people at pace, rushing to their first appointment or to grab a coffee before work. Not on Tuesday.

Euston 8.50am

People slowly disembarked the train. No one rushing. No dodging people to leg-it for the train. It was all incredibly slow.

The pace was almost reluctant.

It made me think…

Who were these people I saw that day?

Was this their first trip into the office?

Or like me, was this one of their first trips into the City again?

Or had they been travelling into London all this time?

It’s easy to forget those who have been ‘out there’ for the last 16 months. Those who continued to go to a workplace rather than being in their home cocoon. They have already adjusted to the next normal.

Communities are Devastated, Abundance is Gone

From Euston I walked into the City. Not yet brave enough to try the tube (although I heard it was also dead), I decided to get my steps up and walk to Moorgate.

As I veered off the Euston Road, I walked through Russell Square, Hatton Garden, Clerkenwell, Barbican to Moorgate.

Prior to the pandemic, this was a regular walk for me. Cafes would be teeming with people consuming the never-ending abundance of cakes and pastries.

Clerkenwell 9.15am

I walked past coffee shops, restaurants, cafes and shops. Many businesses were open. Most were empty. The abundance was gone due to the unpredictable and dramatically reduced footfall.

Not just in London, but the same experience was in other cities. On Wednesday I travelled to Birmingham. At Birmingham New Street – I saw 3 people as I walked 2 blocks to meet my work colleagues.

Regards about how you feel about the reopening announcements, the economic devastation is very clear. The returning of the footfall will help these businesses (and their families – no doubt).

Extrovert Seeking People Connection

Whilst the environment was unnerving, my trip to London, Birmingham and finally to Reading, was all about reconnecting with the teams. It’s unbelievable to think – I joined Ping 9 months ago, meeting very few of the team in this time.

In those 9 months, our teams have hired another 40 Ping Identians. All hired remotely.

My trip this week was about making that human connection.

I won’t lie. I was anxious. Covid is still with us. My eldest son is asthmatic, so the idea of coming out the bubble after wrapping the family in cotton wool for the last year will be an ongoing process for all of us.

That said, as a self-aware extrovert, I need to see people.

On Thursday, we held several ‘Picnic in the Park’ events around Europe to get team connected. We held a number of small gatherings across Europe, in line with local restrictions.

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Awkward at first – perhaps a fist pump here and there, we were lucky with the weather and managed to have a few chatty hours, away from the day-to-day work and reconnecting.

For new employees, it was their first introduction to the team. For the more tenured team members, a chance to rekindle some of the older relationships and bring back some normality.

Normality is Resuming, Finding the Next Normal

Rest assured; some level of normality is still out there. London-Northwestern cancelled my train to Birmingham Thursday. And the M1 was shut Wednesday night, so I drove 2 miles in one hour!

Comforting that some things don’t change. LOL.

As we all decide on what the next normal is for each of us, now is a good time to reflect on some of the good the pandemic did bring.

For me, my reflections are supporting local businesses and family time.

The trip to London, reminded me of so many local, small businesses who have struggled during this period. Especially those with bricks and mortar reliant on footfall to survive. I am going to remind myself regularly to support these businesses. Their fight isn’t over yet.

My youngest reminded me of the increased family time we have enjoyed. Bedtime book reading, walks and the endless games of cards. I’ll work hard to keep these in the balance as we open back up.

Let’s take the best of both worlds as we exit the cocoon.

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