In this segment of our Stories from the Couch, our employees share short stories about how they’re staying connected with their families, friends and communities in a virtual environment.
We’ve been connecting virtually with our team members for over 20 years. So hopping online for a virtual chat or sharing documents with one another while in entirely different locations can sometimes be old hat for us.
But that doesn’t mean we take it for granted. Team members across the country are working hard to maintain connections with their families, friends, and communities by chatting over video, lending a helping hand, and even playing dress-up.
Because after all, the best way we’ll get through this is together.
short Stories on Staying Connected
Be Wary of Sneaky Screenshots
My mother is alone on the farm in Iowa. I spent a month helping her get to doctor’s appointments, refilling prescriptions, stocking her with food and helping her understand the importance of distancing, even though this means she can’t physically be with the great grandchildren, neighbors and the rest of us.
She has had some experience with FaceTime and Marco Polo for interacting with the grandchildren and great grandchildren. Her proficiency with video chat and Zoom has been, let’s say, a little more entertaining.
Tutorials on the following were needed:
- Hand placement while video chatting on the phone and iPad. Close ups of the thumb and palm is a common occurrence.
- Video angles while video chatting in the recliner. As you can imagine, not always the best view when you are fully reclined and video chatting.
- How to switch locations without creating a roller-coaster experience of watching the ceiling, sidewalk, jacket, the hyperactive dog looking for treats or the gravel when the device is dropped.
The other caution that I have is be wary of your family and friends who like to capture screen shots during the call and post them online.
Applying some of the available filters or playing interactive games are at risk for not as flattering screen shots. I now know I cannot trust my sister or some of the team members of the client I am working with during their first “virtual happy hour”.
With this in mind, I have chosen not to share any of the incriminating screenshots mentioned above, but please feel free to share yours if you have any! Stay safe and well!
— Joel Gray, National Healthcare Lead, Tucson, AZ
Embrace Funny Backdrops and Costumes
We had a cousin virtual happy hour on Zoom, yet added a twist: You had to come dressed as your favorite streaming television show or movie.
Our family took full advantage of the “Tiger King” phenomenon, and we each took a role to dress the part. We added funny backdrops to our Zoom meeting of “Big Cat Rescue” signage. Since we had much more time, doing the costumes was a fun activity during the day.
My oldest son gave us a virtual tour of his apartment, which opened him up to much harassment about the number of frozen pizzas in his freezer!
One interesting aspect of this gathering: we typically would NOT have connected in March with the cousins. We see them mostly in the summertime and over the holidays. We all felt a need to connect and actually see one another, to be with family — a much-needed party in these unprecedented times.
— Amy McJoynt, Director and Chicago Practice Lead, Chicago, IL
Bubbles Are The Best Medicine
Social distancing has been difficult for my 83- and 85-year-old parents.
My siblings and I have taken care of their grocery needs, helped with my mom’s health issues and made sure they have not left their home to stay quarantined from the outside world.
Their biggest disappointment is not seeing their only great-grandchild, my grandson James. Today, we set up a patio party. “Kids” stayed on the patio, where James blew bubbles and played, while the grandparents watched from inside the house.
Both of my parents loved it, and it was the best medicine ever for my mom! James, the bubble maker, and his bubbles brought joy to all of us!
— Susan Jepsen, Senior Accountant, Urbana, IL
Smile For The Camera
I am working hard to stay connected with my co-workers at Centric, my clients, and my family with “social distancing” rules in place.
Microsoft Teams helps me connect with clients and co-workers, and I love the video calls, screen share and document collaboration features.
I have 10 brothers and sisters, and we use Zoom for video calls to connect with my parents and siblings on Sunday evenings. It is great to see the smiling faces of friends and families, even though we cannot connect in person.
— Steve Ellis, Senior People & Change Management Consultant, Cincinnati, OH
Find A Way To Give Back
My 7-year-old daughter heard my husband and I, along with some neighbors, planning meal deliveries for our local fire and police departments. She wanted to find a way that she could contribute as well.
She had been helping my husband make dog collars for our own dogs out of paracord and came up with the idea to sell them and use the profits to buy a meal for people that work at a local hospital.
We “advertised” for her via various social media platforms and purchased supplies for her to use. She has been very busy the past few weeks, making custom dog collars for family and friends. She even includes a hand-written note and picture with each. She has already made 11 collars and has a few more on order with the plan to have a meal delivered at the hospital next week.
It has been amazing to see her drive and willingness to support those within our community who are on the front lines fighting this pandemic. She is already trying to come up with new ways that she can continue to play a small part in supporting others!
— Jen Kern, Talent Acquisition Specialist, Indianapolis, IN
Be A Good Samaritan
This morning, my husband and I went to the grocery store to get a few things. In front of us in the checkout line was an elderly woman.
She was paying for her groceries, but her credit card would not cover the total amount of her purchase. She expressed surprise at first, and then I could see the anxiety in her face as she wondered what to do next.
She started rummaging through her purse and found a $20 bill, which she gave to the cashier. After this, she still was short $17.
Both my husband and I, as well as the woman behind us, jumped in to offer to cover the difference. Relief took over for the elderly woman, and she was very thankful. It wasn’t much money for us, but it made a difference to her.
— Kim Caruthers, Miami Practice Lead, Fort Lauderdale, FL
Make Crucial Connections
“Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.” ― Desmond Tutu
While on lockdown, my colleague Christy Burns in Cincinnati sent a request via Teams chat.
Christy’s sister-in-law works as a physician’s assistant in an ER locally in Indianapolis, where my other colleague Raquel Richardson and I live. She had been told to reuse her one and only mask for the next five 12 hour shifts on staff, helping to treat those who had come to the Emergency Room with COVID-19 symptoms.
Christy was desperate to find help and personal protective equipment (PPE) for her sister-in-law and was reaching out to her local contacts for any kind of help that we could provide.
Due to my husband’s position with Indiana’s Department of Homeland Security, I was able to provide direct contacts at the Indiana Department of Health and the Indiana Department of Homeland Security for the hospital administration to request masks that were coming in that next day from the National Guard.
However, Raquel was able to track down two physical masks to deliver to Christy’s sister-in-law that same day! This required minimal effort on our part based on our connections locally, but it made a meaningful impact on Christy’s sister-in-law, in helping her to protect herself while serving the community.
— Jennifer Sturm, Operations Manager for Indianapolis and Seattle Practices, Indianapolis, IN
Join Weekly Trivia Night
My friends and I are used to getting together and doing pub trivia every now and then.
Typically, it’s my husband, Michael, who has the wealth of trivial knowledge that we lean on 95% of the time, and every now and then, one of the other five of us will actually know a single answer! We usually always come in second place.
Last week, one of our favorite local breweries hosted their first live virtual trivia session! We created a Zoom meeting so we could discuss our answers together as a team before submitting questions to the online form they had put together.
It actually didn’t go very well, haha! We came in third, and then from there, the night transitioned to all of us playing together (an online “party room”-style game), which was tons of fun!
The best part was we discovered ways we can now connect to some of our friends who live out-of-state in a way we hadn’t thought of before and honestly, probably would never have thought of if it weren’t for this global pandemic (nuts, right?).
We will most likely make this a weekly event for us to all stay connected — both now and in the future.
— Ruth Harrell, Client Services and Delivery Analyst, Seattle, WA
Make More Time Together
Staying connected as a family is incredibly important all the time, but especially during such unsettled times as these.
My children are all out of the house and spread out to St. Paul, South Bend and Cincinnati. We certainly don’t see them as often as we’d like, but we travel around whenever we can, and we frequently talk on the phone. As the seriousness of the pandemic grew and we all stayed closer to home, whether by decree or just to be smart, we realized we should spend more time together.
So, on Saturday, March 21, we had our first Family Game Night using Zoom to bring us all together. We kicked off around 8 p.m. local time, chatting for a bit and then playing a fun mobile game, JackBox. We spent over three hours together, just laughing, talking and playing games.
We hosted another night on March 28, equally fun and nearly four hours of togetherness at that gathering. We’ll be continuing this new tradition every Saturday night for the duration of the shelter in place directives, and I’d bet we keep it up once society opens back up. It’s been great so far!
— Brad Nellis, Market Development Executive in Cleveland Practice, Cleveland, OH
Take Time To Listen
Over the weekend, our large family had the first ever video chat. It was great to see everyone, and just talking to them helped me feel more connected to people outside my own quarantined house.
But the most meaningful part was when several of them talked about the challenges of working in healthcare right now, even in relatively less affected Kansas City.
Hearing their stories of only being allowed one mask per shift, the rash that develops around their faces from wearing masks all day, the stream of patients, and the crazy hours made me feel closer to them.
Several others are teachers, and they shared their experiences of how they’re learning to hold online classes and interact with students in a virtual environment.
We all just listened because they needed a safe place to vent. I would encourage anyone with family members or friends who are front-line workers or in other critical fields like education to give them a voice and just listen. Sometimes it is the best thing you can do.
— Tim Fox, Content Specialist for National Marketing, St. Louis, MO
As people and companies abandon the office, how can a business build and maintain a great virtual culture?
In “Office Optional: How to Build a Connected Culture With Virtual Teams,” Centric Consulting President and Cofounder Larry English provides a roadmap for venturing into the remote-work world.
Together we will get through this.
As you take common sense precautions to protect yourself, your family and your business from the impact of COVID-19, we’ve compiled some tips, tools and techniques to help you better collaborate, communicate and work from anywhere.
In our portal, you can learn how to work better virtually, weather crisis challenges, shift to a modern workplace, foster a remote culture, maintain productivity and be a great leader.