“‘I wonder how Pete’s doing?” was the question that troubled Kim Gray, the then head of diversity and inclusion at technology company NTT Data UK, as she adjusted to working from home during the first COVID-19 lockdown in the spring of 2020. For a technology company, the switch to remote working was relatively fast and painless.
But the almost complete absence of commuters proved catastrophic for 64-year-old Pete Pentecost, who earned a living handing out copies of City AM newspaper at Bank station. Initially, he was put on furlough, then he lost his job and had to apply for universal credit, waiting seven weeks for his first payment.
Gray knew none of this when she returned to NTT Data UK’s head office at London Exchange, right in the heart of the City of London. What immediately struck her was how eerily empty the streets were. The local bars, cafes and restaurants that relied on office workers for their trade had been devastated by three months of lockdown. And of Pete Pentecost, whom Gray had come to regard as a friend because of their daily chats on her way to work, there was no sign.