In Eswatini we are a week and some days into the extended lockdown period and the uncertainty of not knowing when all this is going to end is rife more especially for businesses. Depending on how you see the glass, as testing is getting more rigorous and the numbers of infected cases keep rising – to some it’s half full and to others it’s half empty. It’s a case of some people being in fear and some people being grateful that more cases are being discovered thus curbing the spread of the contagion. What is common however, is the uncertainty of not knowing when all this is going to be over so that business can go back to the normal we were used to or at-least to the new normal.

But what do we do between now and then?

Most of what has happened was unexpected but what we can ensure is the preservation of our relationships and team cultures. In most organizations team culture has been compromised as staff is disintegrated because of remote working during the past 4 weeks or so. Truth be told not all organizations are thriving in this WFH set up except for maybe Multinational Companies who were already accustomed to this practice due to Western influences.

When we finally go back, we will experience a significant drop in performance because the momentum that we had before the lockdown would have been lost. So what should we do between now and then?? Simple – preserve your relationships. Organizations need to maintain their relationships with their CUSTOMERS, both internal and external. Though the ‘non-essential’ staff is working remotely it’s very important to keep them engaged. Already calling a part of a team ‘non-essential’ is detrimental to the team culture. But that’s a story for another day.

Leaders need to appreciate that the Social Distancing that is globally being encouraged is actually Physical Distancing which is abstinence of physical contact. If we take Social Distancing literally we can stand to lose connection between us and our key stakeholders – of which we can still maintain our relationships virtually.

Relationships need to be preserved during lockdown as they determine how far the organization can recover post lockdown.  The key is to engage your workforce because if they are not engaged they will not engage the customer. If they are not engaged they lose track of their work. Staff engagement is essential in cultivating trust. The less you engage with staff the lesser the confidence they will have in you post lockdown. Your team already has a mental image of your pre-lockdown strategic capacity. However they may not have the confidence in your capacity post-lockdown if you do not continuously engage them. One key engagement effort is planning how you are going to recover together as a team post lockdown, this will give them the confidence for the future.

The same applies to Client engagement. The clients you will retain are those that have confidence in your organization’s capacity to solve problems after the lockdown. As of now your clients have an understanding of your pre-lockdown capacity and may be questioning your potential of serving their post-lockdown needs.  That is why constant engagement is critical, even now during a time when you can not sell your products and services. Cultivate trust and show them that you will hit the ground running.

What we have been requested to do is Physical Distancing which is abstinence of physical contact. But as we maintain that, let us keep the communication lines with our teams and clients open. Let us connect with these key stakeholders now than ever before.