Helping to pivot in a pandemic

Recent events surrounding COVID-19 have many of us worried about our family, friends, coworkers and customers. 

At The Rhizome Collaborative, we are luckier than most. As a virtual team working independently from our own home offices, we use video conferencing and e-communications more easily than picking up the phone. For some of us to self-quarantine it’s not a big deal, but for collaborators with kids in school it certainly is. But for all of us routines get changed, added distractions abound and focus gets lost. But one thing we’ve been very clear about is our ability to help our customers deal with change at an increased pace. 

The effect on businesses large and small is already manifesting. Luckily all our customers are leaders in their own right and are planning accordingly. We’ve been trying to pivot with them and help them get their messages out. Each of our customers has been affected in some way. Small companies are seeing a downturn in business, large businesses are trying to reassure their customers that supply chains are still up and running, and non-profits are frantically rescheduling fundraising, concerts, and events.

We’re also taking our lead and staying informed from the Washington State Council of Firefighters. We’ve been following their feeds and are so proud this customer is leading the charge across the country as they share their experiences with other EMTs, paramedics and firefighters from the front line. 

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Images by Robert J. Pennington

All of us find ourselves in a huge social experiment as humans. We think twice now about going to meetings or events. Only a week ago, we stopped shaking people’s hands and elbow bumps are the new geeky, awkward greeting. Out of town trips are cancelled, and plans are put on hold. But the one thing we’ve been able to do as a team is to be proactive and look at each customer and ask them, “What do you need?” “How can we help?” We know this pandemic has upended their worlds. We know their work has just doubled and tripled. By reaching out, we want to say to all our customers, “We’ve got your back.” We’re in a better position to do this because we already know their business and the resources they have at hand so well. As virtual collaborators, it allows us to respond quickly.

Beyond our customers, the same sentiments apply in the communities where we live. We can step back and focus on what someone may need physically, like groceries or pet food. Or recognize an elderly neighbor who might be lonely because all their social engagements have been canceled and they’re stuck not wanting to go anywhere. A conversation and a cup of tea go a long way toward easing loneliness, even if you’re sitting six feet away.

It’s also important to remember to support small businesses who will be hit financially very hard. Buy online directly from smaller producers whose products you love. Support your local grocery store and buy locally crafted goods. The arts and non-profits will especially take a hit. Spring is generally a great fundraising season for non-profits. Donate to them and remember to give to blood and food banks. They too are losing supplies quickly.

You have to wonder if in this great social experiment we have the opportunity to balance caution with compassion, and turn fear into function as we refocus the way we protect ourselves and treat each other with even more kindness. 

Some resources for businesses: