As I write this note, most of the world is reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic. We are in frightening, uncharted territory and concerned about friends, family and colleagues in addition to worrying about and already experiencing the economic impact of this global illness. Understandably, law firms are focused on the basics – keeping people healthy, making sure employees are informed, and (virtually) serving clients to the best of their ability. Everyone is in crisis mode.
As strange as it may sound, now is the perfect time to concentrate on developing and nurturing relationships – maintaining and deepening connections with clients, colleagues and members of your community. At a time when we are sheltering in place, social distancing and quarantining, an effort to maintain our social connections, even if we can’t do so face-to-face, is critical to maintaining our mental health. Indeed, continuing contact with others is critical to holding onto our humanity. We are social animals – we need and naturally seek connection and we thrive when we live in caring communities, checking on and making ourselves available to others. Unfortunately, our natural instinct and desire to connect has been interrupted and may be curtailed for quite some time.
Don’t fall into the trap of cutting yourself off from social and business networks simply because you are unable to see people in person. There are several ways to bridge the gap being caused by living and working behind closed doors:
- Send emails to colleagues, clients and networking contacts just to say hello and check in. Everyone is managing this situation differently and has different challenges and concerns – listen deeply to their stories and don’t be afraid to share your own.
- Pick up the phone and call! Hearing someone’s voice can raise the spirits, so if you get voicemail, don’t just hang up. Leave a message that shows you care.
- Set up “virtual coffees” by using online platforms such as Zoom, Skype or Facetime. For example, several of my clients’ networking groups are moving online. It’s different, sure – one client reported members of his group holding up cats and dogs to introduce them! – but upending the same old routine can break up the monotony.
- Consider sending a handwritten note to a few people. There’s something fun about going old-school; a personalized note, so rare these days, is always appreciated.
Reaching out to others with caring and authenticity is appropriate no matter the circumstances. Consider how you feel when someone else reaches out to you just to say hi or to check in on you and your family to see how you’re doing. It feels pretty good, doesn’t it? It’s nice to know that someone cares. During this time of stress, confusion and danger, it’s more important than ever for us to look out for one another.