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The Do’s and Don’ts of Socializing With Clients This Summer

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The big question is: Can I socialize with anyone during the summer?

Life in some places is getting gradually closer to normal. Maybe it won’t be exactly the same, but humans are social. We like to see people, meet and greet our friends.

“Clients” is a category that covers lots of people. The average agent or advisor has clients who are immediate family members, in-laws, close friends and many more tiers leading to people who are almost strangers. You can’t eliminate risk entirely, but you can make your own personal choices that control risk to a degree.

Let’s assume the clients you want to see are also friends. You consider them responsible. What might you do? These ideas can be interchanged between your personal and professional lives.

A major factor will be if the U.S. revises our guidelines on social distancing. We are currently using the 6-foot rule. Some other parts of the world are going to a 3-foot (1 meter) standard.

If you live in a coronavirus hotspot, stick to virtual meetups for now. But if you are ready to venture out, here are some things to keep in mind.

Some Ideas for Gatherings

  1. Video calls. These are the safest. You’ve been doing this for the past four months. You and they are getting good at it.
  2. Sitting in the driveway. You are still respecting the rules. Your friend or client lives nearby. Set up chairs in the driveway. Draw chalk lines at least six feet apart, like a big “equal” sign. Sit on either side of your respective line. Drinks and munchies are set up on respective sides of the line.
  3. Sitting in the yard, six feet apart. We’ve done this one-on-one with people we know. We have a seating area where benches are 6-8 feet apart with a table in the middle. One couple sits on one side, we are on the other. The table is the barrier.
  4. Eating at a restaurant with outside dining. We’ve done this with a couple we know well. Restaurants vary in procedures, but this one was excellent. Outdoor seating at patio tables. Enter through the south gate, depart through the north gate. Tables were 10-plus feet apart. The only people who were close were the couple who joined us for dinner.
  5. Drinks and snacks in the living room. Neighbors had us over. Four seats at a round table, like points on a compass. Spacing was about 4-5 feet. Snacks were on a Lazy Susan, you spun the round shelf, the food came to you. Lots of toothpicks to spear food. We felt very safe.

Things to Avoid

There are certain activities you should avoid. It can be tricky if it was your client’s idea.

  1. Neglecting the safety discussion. I tell our friends “We took our temperatures.” Ice is being handled with plastic gloves or a plastic bag over my hand. We are being respectful of distancing. Let them know you are taking this seriously. Show them the container of handy wipes.
  2. Hugging. Some people are huggers. It’s awkward, but I step back with my hands in front of me. I think most people understand. It’s an easy risk to avoid.
  3. Shaking hands. It seems so natural, but now should be avoided. Touching elbows seems to be the substitute.
  4. Gathering with older folks. If the majority of deaths have taken place within residents of nursing homes, that should be a red flag. If your friend or client is very old or has underlying conditions, you don’t want to be later thought of as the person who “got them sick.”
  5. Gathering with strangers. It’s all about controlling risk. We assume our friends follow the rules. We don’t know about strangers. We’ve seen an outdoor bar that’s done the 6-foot spacing very well. I wouldn’t get closer. If I did, I would be wearing a mask.
  6. Eating with your hands. I think we can agree the self-service buffet is dead. We are all used to reaching for a platter at a party and taking a few shrimp. Today, if you are hosting, the rules have changed. Think tapas. Individual small plates. Three guests. Three snacks. Nine small plates or three prepared plates, each with those three selections. Toothpicks and cocktail forms.

Regardless of what you do, you are taking a degree of personal responsibility. Your firm might have rules about what you can and cannot do. Their protocol for reopening offices is a good clue. Follow their rules. You still intend to interact with people you know. This includes friends and family members. You need a plan.

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