This isolation and physical distancing has created an explosion of online techniques to deal with business ‘not as usual’. Where we were generally meeting each other face to face, we now zoom and google meet, duo and face time to accomplish our social gatherings and, to the point of this blog, our business.
Where this live streaming has been successful and even efficient, society, namely clients and customers, need to understand that even though I seem to be, I am not on call. We are now beginning to take advantage of the ability to do everything online. Ever since many businesses sent their employees home and then set them up to work from their home offices, places like the kitchen table, the dining room table or as I’ve heard, the walk-in closet, too many customers are now viewing them as on call 24-7. After all, the customer figures they are in the same boat. They are working from home and thus their vendor or agent or whomever, must be as well. It really doesn’t matter that it’s Saturday afternoon or evening or even Sunday.
When this is all over, and I hope that is sooner than we seem to be now bracing for, we are going to be in a new normal. Why go to the grocery store once I got used to delivery? Why bother heading downtown to shop when a purchase and delivery were just a click or two away? Why head into my investment broker’s office when zooming with them worked just fine? For that matter, why should I even have to leave the house to do any business? This just might be the backside of this experiment in isolation. We might end up becoming a non-social culture. And as such, we might start forgetting that the person on the other end of that internet connection might actually have a life. Or at least, used to have one.
I for one am not ready for that new normal. Don’t get me wrong, I was reasonably tech savvy. I could conduct a long distance business relationship with the best of them, but I will also admit that the inability to disconnect was at times overwhelming. Between voice mails, emails and texts, there were days when I felt like I was on a string and that all you had to do was tug it and I would answer your every need. Weekends became a struggle to not check my emails and voice mails. Vacations became exercises in trying to relax. My fear is that once we have led our customers to the water, they will expect to drink whenever they feel thirsty.
We owe it to our families, our social circles and above all else, to ourselves, to draw a line in the sand. It is not too late to begin educating our clients and customers to our own needs. That process needs to manifest itself as hours and days of operation. In the good old days, we walked up to the store or office door, and when it didn’t open, we saw the closed sign and the hours of operations. We might have been slightly inconvenienced, maybe even a little irritated, but then we realized life’s priorities and we respected them.
This new normal needs to be a two way street. When we go back to business as usual, I hope that we haven’t lost sight of the value of personal touch. That we will remember why the calendar has weekends. And that no matter how big our problems seem in the immediate, there is a better time and place to work the solution. Wouldn’t it be great if the new normal was all people realizing that if we respected each other enough to stay six feet away during the crisis, we will now respect them enough to give them time to enjoy their free time.
I may not be on call for business after hours, but I am always on call for friendship, courtesy and a little social time together. So call me sometime, just not after hours if this can wait.