If you’re working remotely during the Coronavirus pandemic, you might be tempted to hide under the blankets and wait for the situation to resolve. Between the 24/7 news cycle, the scramble to organize immediate work and disperse teams, life feels chaotic.
Don’t forget about your clients in the midst of the chaos. Clients – no matter where they’re located or what their business needs are – need comfort and caring in addition to professional expertise in times of uncertainty.
Five simple actions to take when business is anything but usual:
1. Manage your own state of mind. Fear, anxiety and catastrophic thinking will not help you or your clients. Be good to yourself – take a step back and observe how you’re feeling. Could you reframe the situation from a different perspective? How would someone you admire handle it? Above all, remember that you’re not alone.
2. Practice radical empathy. The people who “get ahead of the situation” aren’t necessarily the smartest or most technologically proficient. They’re the most empathetic. Ask clients “What do you need to get through the next few weeks?” and work at understanding their answers.
This is a time to listen with your ears, your brain and your heart.
3. Be human. Ask your contacts how their families are. Maybe they have aging parents who live alone or they’re suddenly home-schooling children. Maybe their spouse is a health care worker coping with exhaustion. I’m surprised by how many professionals know absolutely nothing about their clients’ personal lives, despite professing to care about them. Client care means more than caring about clients’ legal budgets.
4. Take initiative. My dad was a criminal defence lawyer in a small prairie city. After he’d visit clients in jail, he’d usually call or visit someone in their family to let them know how the person was doing and to ask how everyone was coping. As a child, I was often beside him when he did this. I witnessed elders sobbing, heard siblings express deep worries and felt gratitude that someone with the power to do something helpful actually followed through. It was a small gesture that made a big impact. If my dad could do it, you can do it.
If you can help, now is the time to do so. Buy grocery gift cards for their staff, purchase something from their business or offer a discount on your services (as I’ve done for my current clients).
5. Follow up. COVID-19 will impact every part of our economic, technological and social infrastructure for a long, long time. I have no scientific backing for this statement; I’m basing it on my observations of the stock market, economic policy and the reduced hours so many businesses are being forced to adopt.
Your clients will need personal and regular communication as they navigate the uncertainty. Brief email bulletins and social media updates convey your efficiency, but a phone call to inquire about someone’s well being will speak volumes about your character.
I wish you, your families and your businesses well as we all face the crisis. Stay calm if you can and stay healthy. If you need help, know that you are welcome to reach out at any time. I’ve always offered phone consultations free of charge; I don’t plan on changing that policy anytime soon.