By Betsy Krisher, CPA
Pennsylvania is steadily moving from the red through the yellow to the green levels of its COVID-19 social distancing scale, but I am still working at my dining room table. While I don’t miss the commute or the weight I have lost with fewer lunches and networking events, I continue to grapple with what the future will bring.
In this blog I share some of the issues our partner group and our firm administrator at Maher Duessel have addressed thus far for you to consider as we all move forward into an uncertain new normal.
We have established written guidelines for working in any of our six offices in western and central Pennsylvania. As of June 5, 2020, these guidelines are as follows:
- Work from home is still preferred.
- As clients request us to come onsite (which to date has been limited), we will ask that we have space that allows for social distancing, access to disinfecting wipes, and assurances that the client site has had no recent exposure to COVID-19. We also will wear masks on site. We remain committed to excellent client service and to a healthy working environment for our employees.
- We are limiting the number of team members that can be in our own offices. Folks that want to come in are being asked to register on a shared calendar. Masks and social distancing throughout the offices are required.
- In the office, there will be limitations on the kitchen and conference rooms so that social distancing can be achieved.
- For now, a ban continues on firm in-person gatherings, firm travel, and visitors to our offices (other than mail and package deliveries).
We will continue to rely heavily on online resources. For instance, our seven interns received orientation through Microsoft Teams. Many were taking the internship for credit, and we didn’t want to disturb those plans. We will begin our new hires in August on their original start dates, given our client needs.
To assist our employees with the pandemic forced changes, we provided them with an internet usage allowance for March 15 to June 15 and an opportunity to participate in a one-time vacation buyback program. We’ve also had virtual social events that included trivia contests and happy hours.
As more of our clients are returning to their offices, we anticipate that they will want us to be on-site for at least part of, if not all of, the audit fieldwork. As mentioned above, we will continue to want a level of social distancing at client sites.
The more we progress into office reopenings and as safety measures prove effective, we will slowly begin to have some in-person meetings in the office and more team members will be allowed into the office. Working from home for all staff levels will continue to be offered, and we expect it to be much more prevalent than the same time period last year. This will be especially true for team members with children as they navigate a lack of summer camps and desirable childcare options. We realize we must continue to pivot nimbly to meet societal and public health expectations as to how best to conduct business in a post-COVID-19 shutdown environment.
Working through the pandemic has been challenging, but it has had its rewards. We have learned new ways of working together while apart. Maher Duessel, as firm, has proven to be capable of rapid change while still providing exceptional service to our clients. We are confident now, more than ever before, that will continue.
Betsy Krisher, CPA, is managing partner for Maher Duessel in Pittsburgh. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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