When lockdowns happened in mid-march I got standard in Dhaka without flights to return home. Therefore my experience is quite different to those who were with families and had to spend a lot of time with them while working or not working from home. However since returning home about 2 months ago I have been largely working from home that gives me the experience to reflect on that reality as well.
Being away from home with the uncertainty of when I will return home increased the concern towards me by mother, wife and daughters at home as well as my siblings and other relatives from various part of the world. The 10 weeks in Dhaka resulted in more communications with all my close family and other relatives more than ever before. Conversations among relatives resulted in each one inquiring from others about how they are affected by the pandemic, the impact on livelihood etc. Therefore there was concerned among each other for each other, much more than usual.
By the time I returned home, Sri Lanka was open to business. My daughters had a mix of work from home and in office. My work also gave me the opportunity to work away from home at least once a week. By this time the family was used to working from home. The relief of having me back home may have helped the family to easily adjust to my presence in home. Therefore I did not experience a negative impact to relationships with family, which many others had experienced. In addition to circumstances that I had to face, the mutuality and peace of mind I had developed due to my attempt to live purposefully over the last two decades helped my family and me to make the most of the new reality.
The concern for the team came next. I had two teams in Colombo and Dhaka. Working out the cash flow realities to ensure that teams in both officers were paid fully without any retrenchment was my first priority. It was easy to be more empathetic towards my teams and make some personal sacrifices to ensure this. The quality of relationships with my teams got strengthened as a result.
The next group concerning relationships is my customers. Some of my customers got busier as their business was demanded to deal with the situation. Some other customers were neither benefited or affected and some other customers were negatively affected. Ou first concern was the well being of our customers and therefore we stated communicating with customers offering them complimentary guidance from strategic decisions to mental well-being of their team members. The sincerity with which this was done have strengthened our relationships with them. Some companies engaged us to provide them support on a commercial basis.
We also reached out the larger public around the world offering guidance on how to use tools of Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) and other psychological tools through free webinars that lasted about 90 minutes each. We may have conduced about 20 such webinars so far and based on the request from the many participants, we had the opportunity of giving them a deeper learning experience through a 10 week certificate course on NLP. These conversations have also led to the development of online sales, leadership and releasing workshops as well. Therefore I feel our approach helped strengthen the relationships with our clients and our way of servicing them.
At the beginning of the pandemic many groups from my school, past work places, social clubs such as the Rotary, groups of past participants of our courses formed WhatsApp groups. While there were a lot off interactions at the beginning the level of involvement in such groups have decline, with the commencement of commercial activity. These helped to reconnect with many old friends and contacts.
Attempts to return home to Sri Lanka required communication with the high commission, Sri Lankan association in Bangladedh, foreign ministry etc. and this resulted in forming of new relationships. Engaging with buisness newspapers, chambers, social clubs, institutes etc to provide inputs on stopping the spread, sustaining the economy and restarting business has resulted in forming new relationships. While most of these relationships were formed through online communication channels, I feel it is important to have personal interactions to further strengthen these relationships.
The sense I make from this writing is that the pandemic has helped strengthen existing relationships and formed new relationships. While the reduction in face-to-face interactions may have reduced the quality of relationships, I have still not felt the difference due to the lack of such interactions yet. It is discussed that there have been deterioration of relationships among family members as they did not have the skills to manage tension that got built up between family members due to conflicting attitudes, needs, space, etc. I hope that they would use this opportunity to build the required skills and strengthen the relationships.
I hope this posts will give you some food for thought to reflect on how the pandemic affected your relationships and how to use it to strengthen the quantity and quality of relationships.