Physical not social distancing: what a difference a word makes #covid19

Photo by Andrea Leopardi on Unsplash

I’ve now got quite a few half written blog posts from the last week trying to share what I am thinking/experiencing around the COVID 19 pandemic.  I keep getting to that point where I don’t really know where to go, so I just stop and don’t hit publish.

It’s been overwhelmingly positive to see the level of care and sharing around supporting staff and students across the education sector and an explosion of resource sharing. It’s really been open educational practice in action on a global scale. So many people have also shared tips on home working which can be a strange experience and lonely place. Of course, currently for many, there is a whole new set of juggling to be done with families all at home, trying to work, do school work, keep active (safely) and sane.

But, and of of course there is a but, in fact several of them! Whilst it’s been great to see so many people sharing their tips for home working,  as I home worker I feel a bit distanced from some of the conversations.  I don’t have/ or am part of a team – through choice! I do work with lots of different people but I took a decision to work on my own, partly so I could focus on other “stuff”.  I don’t really have anything to add to those conversations, it’s all be covered really well. So I’ve just watch/read. RT’d a bit but not been very involved – a bit distant you might say.

For almost a year now I have been self employed, working from home with my own social distancing measures in place. Of course, as they were really only known to me, they were of a totally different scale to what is happening now. I had agency and choice around that decision. Like other home workers, I’ve created my routines that include exercise, plenty of breaks and the realisation that I don’t have to reply to every email immediately.

One of the first things I noticed when I started working for myself was the immediate tail off in emails. It’s amazing how much easier your inbox is to manage when you are not part of a large organisation. That Monday morning, being out of the office for any length of time, email dread disappeared. I suspect that’s not happening for many colleagues who are now working from home. The level of comms/emails has probably just ramped up another notch or seven over the past weeks.

But it’s not just that. Like most people I guess, my emotions have been swaying from keeping calm and carrying on to screaming WTF moments. What if I never work again, how long can I keep paying the mortgage, what support will there be for self employed people, what if I get sick, what if my family get sick, will I ever see my Mum again . . .   

But this afternoon I had a small epiphany.  I was listening to  PM on radio 4 – an increasingly dangerous pass time – and there was an interview with an ex-pat Brit who is in Italy just now. He was explaining what lock down is actually like – no shortages when you go the supermarket, people being let in one at a time, getting permits to go anyway further that 50 meters from your home.  When asked about social distancing, which is all we seem to be hearing about just now, he said (sic) what you should be talking about is physical distancing, that’s what you need to do – keep your physical distance not social distance.  

Reader, it really was one of those light bulb moments.  I think my inner worries have actually been about social distancing and losing connections with people. What I should really be thinking about, and actually what the experts want us to to, is just make sure I’m 2 meters away from anyone when I’m outside.  A small but significant change, which has, for a couple of hours at least, made me feel a bit better about things.  Like Lorna said on twitter  what we need is physical distance and social connections.  


Thanks also to Evelyn who pointed out that the WHO use this terminology too.

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