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What Coronavirus means for your coaching business

With more and more news coming up regarding the Coronavirus outbreak, we know some of our coaches are keen to understand what they can do to support their practice as well as their own well-being during this time.

We’ve pulled together the current advice we could find (as of 19th March) regarding best-practice during the pandemic, so you can find everything you need in one place. 

Alongside some general guidance, we’ve also highlighted some advice about working online with clients if this isn’t something you already offer. 

This is a period of rapid change, so the sources we cite here may be updated frequently to reflect the latest information. We encourage you to, therefore, check the links provided to ensure they’re still relevant and keep up to date with the latest from the Government, NHS and Public Health England sites, as these will be informing most other reputable sources.

We hope you find this useful and if you would like us to include any additional information, please let us know.

In this article:

  • Working with clients during the pandemic
  • Face to face sessions
  • Providing online, telephone and text-based coaching
  • Preparing to work with clients online
  • Software applications for online coaching
  • Privacy and data protection
  • Financial support for small businesses
  • Looking after yourself during the pandemic

Working with clients during the pandemic

Several professional bodies have recently posted updates about working safely during the pandemic:

The Association for Coaching (AC) have a section regarding Covid-19 updates and are offering virtual workshops for their members: “The AC is currently scheduling online virtual sessions for our members over the coming weeks, to connect and share about the challenges and opportunities we are faced with. These sessions aim to bring our community closer together to support one another.” 

The Global Association for NLP (ANLP) shared some guidance for members including the following: “First and foremost, we do recommend you follow all advice given by your local authorities, national government and Public Health England or your regional equivalent. Keep an eye out for daily updates as the situation continues to unfold globally. 

In addition to this, we advise that you: 

  • Check your own insurance cover.
  • Carry out risk assessments to evaluate the level of risk to both you and your clients.
  • Have a business continuity plan in place to ensure you know what to do if your business is adversely affected.
  • Use your common sense.”

The International Authority for Professional Coaching & Mentoring (IAPC&M) also has advice for members, sharing tips from coaches on working online.

We’ve only listed three professional bodies here and, while the advice appears to be consistent, you may wish to check your own professional body’s site for specific details if it’s not listed here. 

Some key things to consider are:

  • How can you minimise risk for your clients and yourself? These may be as simple as increasing hygiene measures, to suspending face-to-face contact temporarily.
  • Can you coach remotely during the pandemic? Would these methods be suitable for your clients?
  • How do you plan to communicate any updates to your clients – for instance, if you become unwell and are unable to take sessions?
  • Do you have a process in place so clients can let you know if they are unwell, or have been in contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 – and if so, has this been communicated to them? 
  • Do you need to review your cancellation procedures in light of recent news? 
  • If you contract COVID-19, do you need to let your clients know that you may be asked to provide their details to the relevant authorities for contact tracing, and is this covered by your contracts and insurance?
  • How might your fees be affected? For instance, if you normally charge a cancellation fee, will this still be the case in light of the pandemic? Might this cause a client to feel compelled to break self-isolation to come to a session?
  • How will you take care of your own health during this time?

Face to face sessions

If you plan to continue face to face sessions, there are some simple steps you can take based on existing advice to minimise risk, including:

  • Practise social distancing. Stay at least one metre away from clients (ideally two metres for extended periods, i.e. over 10 minutes). Avoid hand-shaking or other physical contact.
  • Be sure to wash your hands thoroughly before and after each client.
  • Disinfect door handles, hand-rests of chairs, computers, laptops, phones, writing implements etc. between clients.
  • Ensure tissues are available to clients (if they weren’t already) so they can practice the mantra “catch it, bin it, kill it”. Divide tissues into batches so you can offer clients their own portion.
  • If you provide a bin for tissues, make sure it’s emptied between clients and use appropriate measures to prevent yourself from coming in contact with the contents – or ask clients to dispose of them themselves.
  • Open windows where possible to air out the consulting room.
  • Use your judgement: if you have any doubts about your own health or that of your client, take the appropriate steps. This may include self-isolation, sign-posting clients to resources such as NHS111 or PHE, and notifying other individuals who you may have been in contact with (or who may be affected).

These are just a few suggestions that could make a difference; consider how your practice operates, and what changes you could make that will have the greatest impact. You could even discuss ideas in our Member Notice Board, or in other online coaching groups you’re a part of.

Providing online, telephone and text-based coaching

For ease, we will refer to all of these methods as “online coaching” throughout this article unless otherwise specified.

Online coaching offers an excellent alternative to face to face sessions and means you can continue to work with clients during this time. 

There are no specific qualifications required to conduct coaching sessions online instead of face to face; however, you should be mindful of your professional body’s code of ethics and any specific competency frameworks in place. You can normally find this information on their website. 

If you offer online or telephone coaching, check that your Life Coach Directory profile has been updated to reflect this. You can specify your methods of delivering coaching here

You may also want to consider updating your profile text to refer to online or telephone coaching sessions, as we anticipate that more visitors will be looking for this over the coming months.

For those new to online coaching, you may need to adjust the way you’re used to working. You will also need to be able to competently assess your own ability to deliver coaching effectively online, and the client’s receptiveness to this approach.

There are certain steps you can take to ensure you’re prepared practically for the transition, including:

  • Insurance

Check that your insurance (and that of your employer, if applicable) covers you for online and other forms of remote coaching.

  • Client contracts

You may have already made provisions for any unexpected absences in your existing contracts: nevertheless, it’s a good idea to review your contracts, and re-contract with clients if necessary. For example, you may want to consider including additional security or privacy considerations that might arise from working online.

  • Client payments

You may need to investigate electronic means of being paid, such as bank transfer, Paypal or other online invoicing. Many of these options are quick and easy to set up.

Working remotely can be challenging when you’re used to interacting with clients face to face, and it’s important to recognise that you may need to up your self-care while at home. We’ll talk more about looking after yourself later in this article.

Preparing to work with clients online

Software applications for online coaching

To coach clients remotely, you’ll need a platform that you can both use to speak to each other – and, often, see each other too. 

Here we’ve put together some options you may want to consider.

Video-calling and Instant Messaging

Here are three popular video-calling and messaging services to consider: use the links to see which one fits the bill for your practice.

Trusted by household names such as Sonos, Delta Airlines and 21st Century Fox, Zoom offers a free Basic package with no limit on one to one meetings (meetings with 3+ participants have a 40-minute cut off).

VSee is the platform of choice for 1000+ telemedical companies, as well as NASA for the Space Station. It offers HIPAA-approved secure video communications, and their Free packages offer up to 25 video calls per month plus unlimited secure messaging.

Signal provides end-to-end encryption on calls and messages and is available in desktop and mobile app form. As an open-source project, it is free to use.

While a popular option, some therapeutic organisations have expressed concerns about the security and overall suitability of Skype as a platform for confidential sessions such as counselling and coaching. Offering familiarity and ease of use during periods of distress, however, you should assess the pros and cons of this platform yourself, and check that your client has familiarised themselves with the terms of this product. You may find ACTO’s guidance notes on Skype an interesting read.

Email

If you’re planning to offer email coaching, think about the security of your email provider and the implications of transmitting more personal data via this platform than you would normally. Regardless of the platform you use, it’s important to be open and honest about the ways you process client data in your company privacy policy.

The following platforms offer enhanced privacy and may be of interest if you’re planning to conduct sessions in this way:

  • Hushmail
    Designed for the healthcare industry, Hushmail provides encrypted email and secure webforms for clients to contact you. Fees start at $5.99 per month per user (a small business will typically only require one email address), and a one-off setup fee of $9.99. It has a 60-day cooling-off period, during which you can get a full refund.
  • ProtonMail
    Switzerland-based ProtonMail offers end-to-end email encryption and is open-source – meaning it’s free to use.

Privacy and data protection

Your obligations to protect the data you process don’t change when you work online with clients; however, you will need to apply the same kinds of security measures while working in this way that you would have to normally. For example:

  • Who has access to your computer/applications that you’re using?
  • If you’re using third-party applications to process your clients’ data, what are their security policies? How will they protect this data?
  • If you’re using applications based outside of the EEA, will you need to update your privacy notice or client contracts?

For general advice on privacy and data protection, visit The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) Guide to Data Protection. ICO has also recently published a statement on Data protection and coronavirus, with specific information for data controllers (organisations).

In the statement, they confirm that communicating updates to your clients about public health are not direct marketing, and so are not restricted by data protection laws. Ensure you have a way to communicate with your clients quickly and easily so that you can keep them informed of any factors that affect them.

ICO has stated that they “recognise the unprecedented challenges we are all facing during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic”, and are happy to answer questions. You can contact them on 0303 123 1113.

Financial support for small businesses

Following the 2020 Budget, the Government has released information on financial support for employees, benefit claimants and businesses, including how small businesses and self-employed people can protect themselves during the pandemic.

This includes a dedicated helpline for businesses and self-employed individuals in financial difficulty, and how to access support.

If you have income protection included on your insurance policy, you may wish to check for any updates your insurer has provided in light of the pandemic.

Looking after yourself during the pandemic

We now want to take a moment to talk about you. First and foremost, we can’t stress enough that following official guidance on social distancing and hygiene is paramount. It goes without saying that you can’t look after others without looking after yourself first.

When it comes to seeing clients, your own judgement is key. You’ll need to weigh up the following:

  • your ethical duty to protect the welfare of clients
  • being responsible for your own health and wellbeing

Measures such as working with clients remotely may strike an excellent balance between the two, and offer you a way to continue coaching while minimising the risk of infection.

If you find yourself unable to commit to sessions for the immediate future, that’s OK too. Make sure that your clients are informed, and signpost them to alternative support where appropriate in your absence. 

If you’re used to working alongside others regularly, you may find the switch to home working tricky at first. Happiful have put together some helpful tips for working from home which you may find useful. 

Finally – even though we’re pretty sure we’re preaching to the choir (or even the pastor!) – we wanted to take a moment to share some articles we’ve produced for the public in the last few days. As you know, this is something that we truly believe in at Life Coach Directory and Happiful, and sometimes the little things really do have a big impact.

Stay safe!

Please note: Life Coach Directory and Happiful are not affiliated with any of the organisations referenced in this article, and this article has not been sponsored by any third parties. We strongly recommend that you carry out your own research to make sure that you can make an informed choice that best suits your business. While we hope that this information is useful, we cannot be held responsible for any business decisions you make based on this article, or for the information published on third party sites.

All information correct as of 19/03/2020.

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Katherine

Written by Katherine

Kat is a Senior Writer for Life Coach Directory and Happiful magazine.

Written by Katherine

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