Maintaining Personal Connections During Quarantine
A lot has been said about how technology separates people by creating artificial barriers to human interaction. But in the current fight against COVID-19, technology is often the only tool people have to connect with others over the real distances imposed by the quarantine. Combining modern technology with a healthy dose of careful consideration for the needs of others can help ease the angst being felt by so many during the current challenge of a global pandemic. It can also result in deeper relationships between key individuals that are important to each other’s personal and professional success.
Even if a customer or vendor is not in a position to do business with a company right now, it is important to maintain contact to get a feel for how they are doing. Perhaps the easiest way to accomplish this is for people to take a real interest in the experiences that others are having as they manage their way through the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Because so many are living the same experiences it is easier to have genuine empathy for the situation of others. Simple questions about another’s family, their personal health, and how they are managing the quarantine are easy ways to start these conversations. Do they have a family member that is a healthcare worker? How extensive is the lock-down in their state? Do they have everything they need to make it through? What lessons are they learning through this experience? And yes, ask them for new business. Although it may seem trivial, having these conversations with others can often give people the boost they need in a rough time. When things return to normal, and they will, these conversations have the potential of paying multiple dividends.
Co-workers also need to make a concerted effort to maintain personal contact with each other on a regular basis. The small conversations and daily interactions that make up a day at the office are a normal part of people’s routines, and many of them rely on those routines more than they realize. Losing regular interaction with each other can leave co-workers feeling isolated from the team and its overall mission, leading to a corresponding decrease in morale and effectiveness. Of course, team members should spend the bulk of their communication time discussing the work at hand, but it is equally important that they spend some of their time catching up with each other’s lives. In an office environment, these types of conversations happen spontaneously. But in a remote environment, individuals need to be mindful of the opportunities to talk with others, and deliberate in their efforts to do so.
Supervisors and managers have a special responsibility to be in regular contact with their team members. For many of them, managing a team remotely is a new experience, and they feel the added pressure to make sure that everyone is staying productive while working from home. Although this is an important part of their responsibilities, it should not be the only focus of the supervisor’s communication with their team. There is a lot of anxiety around work right now, and supervisors can do themselves and their team members a great service by acknowledging that anxiety and addressing it with their team. Now more than ever, it is important for supervisors to check in with their team on a regular basis to keep the lines of communication open.
Things will get back to normal eventually and everyone will most likely resume the regular rhythms of professional communication that they are used to. Until then, there is great value in using this time to focus on the practice of deepening personal connections with your business contacts. The simple act of showing genuine concern for others in times like this can forge relationships that will enrich your lives for years to come.
Stay safe out there!
E. Paul Whetten
Paul Whetten is the Managing Executive of American Life Financial, a private money lender based in Mesa, Arizona. He has 10 years of experience in enterprise management and small business accounting, and over 14 years of experience in the financial services industry. Paul holds a Master’s degree in Administration from Northern Arizona University and is an adjunct professor of business at Mesa Community College.