Last week, I asked readers for their suggestions on ways to reward a team’s accomplishments during the coronavirus pandemic other than more online team activities.

Many people I heard from seemed to agree that a more tangible reward would be most appreciated:

“Cash! Cash! Cash!” — A reader from Laytonsville, Maryland.

Jeff from Arlington, Virginia, endorsed the idea of gift cards for food takeout or delivery, noting that it comes with a broader economic bonus:

“When everyone is stuck at home and bored of pantry staples, it feels nice to break the tedium with an exciting meal. Plus it’s a great way to support the local places we love that are all struggling right now.”

Others called for obligation-free paid time off. Denise from Washington, D.C., told of a doctor friend in New York City who had to interrupt a two-week vacation to come home and help during the pandemic: “She would really like some time off after this is all over that does not come from her vacation time.”

And even if an employer can’t afford the aforementioned options, a sincere acknowledgment and thanks from management can go a long way:

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“My team has been creating online courses for our school system, and it’s been a huge job with long hours. Our boss contacted school leaders and asked that they send each of us notes of thanks on a specific day. On my day, I was showered with beautiful, heartfelt notes. They melted away all of the exhaustion and made it all feel worthwhile. My boss has given us recognition and days off when she can. But nothing has meant as much as those letters. They were a game changer.” — A reader from Clarksburg, Maryland.

Many respondents shared my skepticism about the value of online team-bonding activities:

“OK team! Now, with your eyes closed, fall backward and let your partner catch you! Oh, wait …” — Washingtonpost.com commenter “roscoe brown.”

While others weren’t wholly against the idea:

“After spending weeks working online with the team to meet deadlines, I would feel the need for ‘me’ time. Afterward, maybe a meeting with photos or something for everyone to share what they did during their ‘me’ time.” — A reader in Hagerstown, Maryland.

And some readers made a convincing case for the value of remote team gatherings to boost morale and help colleagues bond off-the-clock. Monica Dean from Darnestown, Maryland, said her boss arranged for delivery of frozen deep-dish Chicago pizzas to employees’ homes for an online Friday happy hour:

“We were asked to start baking our pizzas when the call kicked off. Spouses and families were welcome to join. Dogs and cats made appearances. We had zany polls throughout the call that led to interaction. We laughed, drank and ate. Folks signed off as they needed to, and others stayed longer. I was surprised by how much we all enjoyed it.”

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So much for my skepticism; you had me at “deep-dish Chicago pizza.” Check back in December and find out if online pizza parties manage to supplant the much-maligned year-end holiday office party.

Technical update: Last week, businesses that received Paycheck Protection Program loans finally received a bit more guidance on how to qualify to have those loans forgiven. The Small Business Administration’s loan forgiveness application form instructions clarify how and when the eight-week clock starts running on a PPP loan and how to determine employee head count to ensure the employer meets criteria for loan forgiveness.

Although employers generally have to maintain the same number of employees to have their PPP loan converted to a grant, the new form outlines one noteworthy exception: An employer does not have to hire replacements for employees who (1) rejected a good-faith written offer by the employer to rehire them, (2) were fired for cause, or (3) voluntarily resigned or asked for reduced hours.

Karla L. Miller offers advice on surviving the ups and downs of the modern workplace.
Karla L. Miller offers advice on surviving the ups and downs of the modern workplace.