As a member of IAPA International, a global association of independent accounting, audit, tax, legal, advisory, financial, immigration and technology services firms, we contribute to their monthly e-Newsletter publication. For the month of December, our firm decided to reflect on the unforeseen and extremely challenging year of 2020.
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Schulman Lobel, like many businesses, had to quickly adjust to working 100% remotely from a workplace that was primarily in the office. With most of our staff now working from home and getting acclimated to the change, we have focused on implementing effective work-from-home solutions that keep our team connected, motivated and productive. While we were already maintaining some virtual communication between our offices, we had to completely re-structure what a “day at the office” looked like for all. We have managed to stay in direct communication with our clients virtually and have even been able to onboard new clients without having a face-to-face meeting.
Here are Schulman Lobel’s top 3 takeaways of the COVID-19 pandemic:
1. It is essential to stay connected while staying socially distanced.
There is no walking into someone’s office to ask a question, no face-to-face client meetings, and no networking events. Video Conferencing on Zoom and Microsoft Teams quickly became our go-to for meetings, enabling us to still communicate effectively with staff and clients but also maintaining a degree of togetherness.
Not every digital thing we do is work-oriented! We wanted to keep staff socially engaged and encourage comradery in creative, but virtual ways. In addition to virtual staff meetings on Zoom and Teams, we celebrated a successful tax season with a virtual museum scavenger hunt and a fun Paint and Sip. We also held a virtual Halloween Costume contest.
2. Technology is undoubtedly our friend these days.
We adopted a cloud-based system that allowed our staff to work from wherever they are. We get a real-time look at projects, reports, and client information that can be accessed by all, paperless and most importantly secured.
On top of virtual meetings, we utilized instant messaging on Microsoft Teams. It is an easy way for staff to communicate internally; they get answers quickly, check-in with each other and on projects, and even share words of encouragement.
We also have recently adopted the Communicator App, which allows our cellphones to act just like our desk phone! Through the app, we can call office extensions directly, see who is on the phone, transfer calls to one another, and easily check our voicemails.
3. Be prepared and on top of the ever-changing legislation.
COVID-19 has continued to control the US legislative agenda. With all the new legislation and an unstable financial environment, our clients’ needs have greatly shifted, and become proficient and able to advise on new tax laws, PPP loans, client-lost revenue streams and more. We have developed a team to navigate the complex, ever-changing PPP loan forgiveness process and make sure clients are set up for full loan forgiveness.
We continue to prioritize the health, safety, and well-being of our employees, clients, and business relationships, while encouraging as much interaction and support as possible. We are hopeful for the day when we can return to “normal” or at least see some new faces back around our offices.