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Staff connectivity ideas in the age of COVID-19

Corey Butler, MNCPA communications manager | December 2020/January 2021 Footnote

Editor's note: Updated November 30, 2020

It’s been quite the year.

CPAs pivoted to respond to the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, foregoing the rituals and traditions that would normally bring staff together. Casual Fridays and a rotation of food delivery were put on the backburner. Gone were the staff outings to a Minnesota Twins game.

Now, firms and companies will need to look at the coming months a bit differently. But, as many CPAs will share, having time to connect with your peers and refresh is a pillar as important to the process as the W-2 and a direct line to an IRS advocate.

So, to help our members with ideas, we reached out to firms to collect some ideas they plan to put in place to keep team chemistry and connectivity alive. Thank you to Baker Tilly Virchow Krause, LLP; LB Carlson, LLP; and Schlenner Wenner & Co. for sharing ideas.

Food still leads the way

  • Send lunch or coffee gift cards electronically to team members.
  • Have a casual Zoom lunch with team leaders. No talking work!
  • Don't fear the winter! If your staff is in the office, bring a food truck onsite for some delicious food and outdoor socialization. This can wait until march if you want to wait for -- hopefully -- warmer weather.

Yes, more screen time (the basics)

  • Schedule occasional happy hours (best to wait until the end of the day) via video meeting. Keep it simple with sharing scenarios, like asking everyone to prepare to answer a fun question. Need ideas?
    • Where do you wish to travel once travel restrictions are lifted?
    • What has been your go-to snack during quarantine? Keep it light. Keep it short. This is meant as a refresh and break from work.
  • Small, informal meetings with other members can also be beneficial. If two or three people don’t work together often (or at all), this might be an opportunity to connect in place of the bygone hallway and water cooler chatter. You know your staff best, so consider their comfort levels. This can be scheduled or there can be a Zoom/Teams room setup for a virtual water cooler where people can join when they want.

Get creative on- and off-screen

  • Trivia! Take turns hosting/creating a quiz and challenge other team members. Seek out trivia podcasts for inspiration.
  • Support the local economy and highlight different cultures by purchasing gift cards and products from minority-owned businesses as gifts for staff.
  • Create a March Madness pool to spur healthy competition.
  • Get outside. Contrary to popular belief, Minnesota’s climate is habitable year-round, even in the throes of winter. Layer up, head outside with peers (if in office) and let the cool air freshen your faces. At home? Still get outside and relish the calm and silence of a winter day.
  • Get social. Ask for specific photos from employees for the firm Facebook page. Topics to consider:
    • Working from home with your pets.
    • Volunteering.
    • How you unwind.
    • What you love about a particular month.