After 12 months of pandemic, lockdowns, social distancing and no day to day, face to face contact there are many aspects where our behaviour and attitudes have changed - some these will be temporary, others may be more permanent. For example, there are many who feel that work productivity has increased by working at home, whilst others in different circumstances, feel the opposite. Many will be reluctant to return to early mornings and lengthy uncomfortable commutes but at the same time will crave genuine interaction rather than the brutal efficiency of Zoom.
However, one element which is not yet widely recognised is relationship fatigue or "emotional capital drain down".
At the start of the pandemic, it was remarkable how readily teams adapted to working remotely and how swiftly customers and clients adapted to the new world. Companies have observed all this and concluded that offices are unnecessary and that the cost of relationship building (face to face meetings, travel, social events etc) with customers can be saved. Obviously, teams don't need any training or team building either. By cutting all this, the bottom lines are looking unexpectedly bright.
However, there are worrying signs that all is not well:
- Customer relationships are becoming increasingly fractious.
- Long established business relationships are breaking down.
- Fee disputes are escalating significantly.
- Leaders who have supported their teams as best they could in difficult circumstances are being blindsided when instead of loyalty and gratitude, their teams resign and defect to other job opportunities.
- Those new team members recruited over Zoom, just dont fit with the rest of the team and aren't excited about the slimmed down hot desk office environment.
The reality is that throughout the last year we have been trading off the relationships, goodwill and loyalty which had been established before and which in the normal course of business are topped up or recharged constantly. Over the last year we have run down the relationship battery and been unable to recharge it. Previously high energy, vibrant business relationships have gradually decayed into just practical, functional, and transactional activity. As the emotional capital has been drained, so has the value in the relationship - so there is no shame or pain in walking out or behaving badly. This has to be urgently reversed.
The most essential strategy for bounce back will be to rebuild the emotional capital so that once again your teams really want to work for your business; and your customers really want to buy from you and value your expertise.