Make working from home work for you — and your clients

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Until recently, most advisers had a choice about working from home. They might have done it occasionally, while battling a cold or during a child’s day off from school. But due to the spread of the new coronavirus, it's now a firm requirement in many cities.

Working from home is a particular challenge for planners. Advising is a people business; it’s all about relationships and personal connections. How do you maintain those relationships and further your work when both you and your clients are self-isolating?

As tempting as it is to hunker down with Netflix and wine for the next few weeks (or months), advisors should see the tumult caused by COVID-19 as an opportunity to think creatively about communication.

Before you do anything else, make sure your practice is optimized for a work-from-home situation. There may be compliance standards you need to meet. For instance, do you have secure connections to maintain private client data?

Advisers should consult with their RIA’s internal IT department or their CTO to ensure online conversations from home are secure and private. Also make sure to record all of your client conversations, and keep your records up to date — especially with the start date of Reg BI looming.

Virtual handshake
I always advocate for the use of social media, and our quarantined existence makes social media interactions even more appealing and necessary. If you aren’t already using social media for your professional life, now is the time to do so. If you already have a professional Twitter profile or are on LinkedIn, beef up your content. Your clients are likely very nervous about the volatile state of the markets right now. Use your social media accounts to share articles that you find relevant or insightful.

Write a post about how you’re dealing with the change in your life, and what these scary times mean to you. Pay close attention to the comments you receive and engage with your audience — respond to any posts they make. Making these virtual, personal connections will strengthen the relationships you already have and build new ones that will last into the future.

While you’re at it, do some virtual handshaking. Conferences have been canceled for the foreseeable future but that doesn’t prohibit us from making introductions. Think creatively about how to virtually meet new contacts, including those that you hoped to run into at industry events. Send them a message or email about a problem you can solve for them, an idea you had hoped to discuss or a trend you’ve noticed. Set up a remote coffee meeting through Skype.

Not so remote
In the last few weeks, you’ve probably received emails from every company you’ve ever encountered telling you how they’re dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak. Now is the time for you to do the same.

Be transparent about the challenges you’re facing when you communicate with colleagues and clients. The “new normal” we’ve been hearing so much about requires acknowledgement and transparency. No one is proceeding with business as usual right now, so don’t pretend as if you are. Clients want facts and clarity in this environment. Connect with them by being honest and empathize with the difficulties and fears they have as a result of this unique situation. You’ll find a receptive and understanding audience in return.

This is especially necessary when it comes to strengthening your client relationships. People are scared. Think creatively about what challenges your clients are facing or will face in the coming months. Offer them strategic and smart recommendations. Keep interacting with them and be available on multiple remote channels. If you can reinforce these relationships now, they’ll be significantly stronger when things do return to normal.

We’re lucky to live in an age where our lives don’t have to grind to a halt when we’re confined to our homes. Technology allows us to work from anywhere and everywhere (for better or for worse). Now is the time to embrace that opportunity like you never have before and use it to your advantage.

Remember, we’re all in the same position. As awkward as it may feel to form connections through a screen, we’re doing this together, and these relationships will last when we’re back in the office.

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Work from home Coronavirus Client relations Employee relations Benefit communication