By Adelia Chung
As we head into our first COVID-19 winter, and with a vaccine at least several months away, advisors and clients alike must prepare for increased social distancing and additional reliance on virtual meetings.
I won’t sugarcoat how hard this will be for many of us, especially now that we have pandemic fatigue. But preserving our relationships over the winter months will form a critical component of keeping ourselves personally and professionally healthy.
Luckily, we now have several months of experience and lesson-learning to augment our decision-making capabilities. With the right mix of revamped strategies we put in place last spring and newer tools, advisors can hunker down without losing their bonds with clients, coworkers and their communities.
Relationships With Clients
Last spring, advisors and clients alike had to learn to use tools like Go To Meeting or Zoom. If – like I was – you or your clients had previously been resistant to new technologies, COVID might actually have been the kick in the pants you needed to catch up to current times.
Advisors who have been hosting in-person meetings in recent months should prepare for the possibility of going back to virtual meetings as temperatures dip and flu and COVID numbers rise.
This also means prepping clients. Whereas clients might have needed mostly tech support at the start of the pandemic, advisors might now be dealing with confusion or misinformation about exactly how severe the pandemic is. Don’t be afraid to be firm with clients on your own comfort levels – you don’t need to get political to communicate personal boundaries.
One unfortunate reality of working as an advisor is seeing clients die, and these instances will be more difficult this winter due to our physical separation from clients and the fact that some of our clients may die of COVID. Clients’ deaths can leave advisors in a strange emotional place.
On one hand, advisors “only” have a professional relationship with clients, but those relationships can be some of the deepest and most open clients have with anyone. In your work, you have done a good job when clients are prepared for death even when they’re not expecting it. Should a client die before their time this winter, you can find comfort knowing you helped prepare them and their family for the unexpected.
If you own or operate a practice, you also have responsibilities to your employees and coworkers. Listen to your own fears about the pandemic: your fear of contracting COVID, your fear of passing it on, your fear of not being able to do work.
Fear of something like COVID is a barometer of the need for change, and you likely share your fears with others in the office. Have the conversation about whether your office needs to close or have limits on how many people can be present at once.
For employees working from home, do your best to introduce more flexibility on topics like locations and working hours. Allowing people to be with their families or tweak their working hours to take care of children can make all the difference in keeping employees happy and productive.
Don’t underestimate your employees, either. Everything can be hard if people want it to be, but many advisors have found room to thrive even under these unusual work conditions. While specific steps will depend on the specific office, every manager can help empower their employees to excel within corporate and government guidelines.
Clients and coworkers hold incredible importance in advisors’ lives, but everyone’s most important relationship is with themselves. Keeping yourself as healthy and happy as possible as the days get shorter should be a top priority.
Self-care looks different based on numerous factors, from personality traits to weather to community values. As more of an introvert, I’ve used my periods of isolation for self-improvement: taking up the piano again, learning calligraphy and power-washing my driveway. For extroverts, self-care may look like more virtual check-ins with family, friends, faith communities and others.
Winter always brings seasonal challenges for many people, and this year’s will unfortunately bring increased COVID risk with it. But advisors can power through while attending to their important relationships in both personal and professional spheres. With the right mindset and toolkits, you can be ready to come out of hibernation when springtime arrives.
About The Author
Adelia Chung, CLU, ChFC, is the owner of Spectrum Wealth Management and has been an MDRT member for 37 years. She served as MDRT’s first woman Executive Committee President and first President of color in 2005. Adelia has also qualified for multiple Top of the Table and Court of the Table honors, and she has been honored as a YWCA Outstanding Woman Leader. She serves on the Board of Governors at Chaminade University, as a Deacon at First Presbyterian Church and she is past President at the Friends of the University of Hawaii Cancer Center. She lives in Honolulu, Hawaii.