Lockdown Sessions: Which Matters More, Substance or Space?

Partisan’s digital Lockdown Sessions are about enabling and encouraging meaningful discussions during the coronavirus crisis.

We believe that communication can thrive in spite of lockdown, and also that the need for social distancing may actually inspire new, lasting approaches to both business and culture.


One effect of social distancing has been to remove many of us from the physical processes involved in going to work and doing business.

This is not just about attending meetings, or seeing clients face to face.

There is also the absence of the daily commute to consider, and travelling further afield for business purposes.

Now, for some, there is the prospect of more time to spend at home, with family.

But others will miss the substance of business: the cut and thrust of in-person meetings and negotiations; the physical atmosphere of a busy workplace; and the satisfying feeling of close collaboration.

Conference calls and remote meetings have their benefits, but there is a rhythm and flow to conversations held face to face which is hard to maintain online.

A 2014 study by InterCall found that 60% of respondents admitted to doing other work or sending emails while on a conference call. Will the current situation, and the increased importance of remote meetings, have changed this?

If you come late to a conference call, for example, you might miss out on various subtleties, or even hierarchies, that have already been established.

And how easy is it to read a room remotely? Tone is such an important part of communication, but it can be difficult to set, or gauge, via your computer screen.

Post-coronavirus, there will be the opportunity to look at how to make meetings more efficient, and to cut back on time-wasting gatherings, based on the experiences we are having at the moment.

But conference calls are unlikely to offer a blanket solution to the business of communicating well.


Lockdown means you can hear far more birdsong in city centres, and air pollution has fallen dramatically.

Coronavirus has changed cities, albeit temporarily, and made them much calmer, quieter spaces.

But cities are made to be busy, dynamic spaces. The lesson, and the challenge, from this temporary transformation is how to design cities better, to improve the quality of life of their citizens.

Is it about using a wider perspective for designing the built environment and seeing more clearly the bigger picture?

Cities can be sprawling entities, but they can also be better balanced, to serve the needs of commerce but also communities.

The technology for taking this wider view already exists: drones have the potential to change urban planning, becoming essential tools for planners and architects.

But as with conference calls, there is the question of physical engagement. Would its absence have a negative impact on the quality of the design and planning process?

Is technology a barrier to that most essential of human qualities, empathy?

Seeds of Change

Lockdown and the subsequent downturn will continue to be difficult for a great many people.

But this crisis also contains the seeds of change.

Recessions can offer opportunities for innovation, through new interdependencies and collaborations.

Much of the substance of this change comes down to mindset: learning to think differently.

This is something we are already having to do due to lockdown.

And what about making the space to enact positive change?

In the immediate future, when there is an easing of lockdown, we will have to learn to live and work together in changed circumstances. Space will be at a premium in our offices, factories and shops. The public realm may feel very different for a while.

But doing things differently can lead to doing things better.

Thanks to Our Recent Guests:

Sophie Weinnman, Ashdown Phillips
Richard Cook, Pegasus Group
Lisa Tye, Shoosmiths
Jason Eccles, Artform Architects
Mark Graham, LDA Design
Neil Eccles, Rochdale Development Agency
Danny Crump, Broadway Malyan
Lee Leston-Jones, Cundall
Justine Entezari, Iceni
Adam Wisher, LCR Property

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Eighty Twenty is a once a month invite only event for business leaders within the built environment - hosted by Partisan

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