I caught a Peroni TV spot earlier this week, seeking, as UK pubs and restaurants re-open their doors, to inspire us with the spirit of La Passeggiata. In short, let this time-honoured Italian tradition for an early evening stroll help encourage a return to the streets, to connect, socialise and drink beer (at a safe distance, of course).

The ad’s endline, ‘Walk with us’, touched a nerve. Despite the successful adoption of a new generation of video meeting tools, my work as a business relationship consultant confirms that the lack of personal contact endured over the past few months has placed significant pressure on all commercial liaisons.

We must never return to the tyranny of presenteeism but, equally, remote working must have limits and the magic that happens when people share the same space must be cherished and championed anew. Hybrid working is the way to go, enjoying the best of both worlds.

Studies led by Dr Albert Mehrabian in the 1960s remind us how important are physical cues in effective communication, suggesting that only 7% of meaning is conveyed by words, with tone of voice accounting for 38% and, crucially, body language making up a weighty 55%. 

Clearly, getting together in office space will be vexed for some time but meeting outdoors presents a vanishingly small risk, accepting the now well-known caveats.

Maybe weaving in some work-related perambulation is a step in the right direction for now? There are practical obstacles but, for key relationships, for important conversations, from time to time, why not commit to meet face-to-face or at least side to side? With some planning and imagination, it could even be fun. And it’s exercise.

Walk with me…