Author: Gayle Brandel, President, PNP Staffing Group
COVID-19 has reshaped nonprofits nationwide, particularly in staff management. The New Normal: Nonprofit Staffing During the Pandemic reported that in July 2020, most nonprofit organizations had at least 75% of staff working from home, and 61% reported in September that 100% of their staff were working remotely.
Driven by urgency and necessity, nonprofit organizations have explored and implemented staffing strategies for survival, recovery, renewal, and growth. Most nonprofits are moving forward with determination to deliver their mission and services by working in new ways. This includes navigating a remote work environment.
Best Practices for Nonprofit Organizations Managing a Remote Workforce
1. Develop a remote work policy
An efficient remote work policy clearly defines what your virtual workforce needs to do and what you expect from them while working in a remote or hybrid environment. A solid policy encourages accountability from employees as it lays out work guidelines and includes instructions regarding accessing an organization’s data.
2. Prioritize communication
- Set clear expectations to ensure that tasks/projects are accomplished and goals are met.
- If scheduled team meetings and one-on-one appointments are typically done face-to-face, keep to the schedule when you shift to virtual meetings. If team meetings are not a regular part of your organization’s culture, set up periodic check-ins to identify employees who need help, to check in on employee morale, and to combat the separation anxiety of a full work-from-home schedule.
- Use video conference calls when possible. People tend to tune out when it’s an audio-only call.
- Make sure that managers are readily available to connect with employees.
- Use messaging tools internally to keep in touch and give visibility into whether employees are “available” or “away”.
- If possible, it is suggested that meetings be recorded, transcribed and archived not only to accommodate workers who prefer reading to listening but also to foster a more open organization. This also extends to meetings of the leadership team. When notes of sessions that include decision made and the reasons behind them are published, it creates a more transparent organization and a safe space that allows everyone to be included and heard.
- Limit the number of emails you send to avoid overwhelming employees with inboxes overflowing with content of varying importance.
3. Trust employees to do their work
Set the right expectations regarding work hours, availability, email correspondence, meeting schedules, and communication, reporting to management, etc. and then support and trust your employees to do their work.
4. Group your meetings
Try to schedule meetings in a specific and consistent bloc of time so that employees don’t have to start and stop what they are doing. This helps maintain productivity during a time when many employees are not only working from home, but juggling remote schooling and remote schedules for multiple household members.
5. Keep schedules as close to ‘normal’ as possible
Communicate expectations about working hours and encourage transparent feedback from staff about what is feasible in terms of their schedules. Staying close to normal business hours will make it easier for everyone to stay in touch.
6. Consider flexible work arrangements for all employees
Be mindful of the fact that during this pandemic many are adjusting to not only working from home full-time, but many are also tasked with caring for their children, managing virtual learning schedules, and juggling the virtual schedules of multiple household members.
7. Invest in the right tools and the right training
Months into the pandemic, many organizations find their teams still struggling with technology. Providing not only the technology but the training needed to work from home is critical to success.
- Have a solid technology infrastructure that allows secure remote access, and if possible, provide laptops with software pre-loaded (or sufficient subscriptions in place for access. Providing these tools instead of having the employee use their own equipment helps managers control external data breaches, manage remote connectivity issues, and allows you to monitor usage.
- Don’t forget to set up a system to log and track all equipment that has been sent to employees.
8. Use feedback and constructive criticism to motivate.
Add a personal touch to an otherwise impersonal work environment by recognizing and celebrating employee achievements and good work. The distance and adjustment of a full-time work from home schedule makes validation from managers critical.
9. Encourage work-life balance.
Set limits on how much your employees work while they’re at home. Make sure work is done but be mindful of employees who are doing too much to the detriment of their personal lives, productivity and health.
10. Actively manage the security of your organization’s data
- Install tracking software
Geo-locating software can be helpful in locating and keeping your data safer if lost or stolen. Lock-down software will remotely lock down your devices and delete any stored passwords.
- Stress to employees the importance of creating strong passwords
Creating robust passwords and changing them regularly is an easy way to improve data security. Sending automated email reminders to employees to change their passwords, informing them of the dangers of repeating the same password for multiple sites, systems or applications, and encouraging them to set their passwords to expire every few months etc. is a good habit, whether working remotely or not.
- Secure essential IT tools and resources
A good data security strategy for remote employees gives your IT team control over remote activities and devices. Browser privacy, account lockouts, password management, and firewall configurations are all essential resources.
- Use a secure email program
Securing all email communication is critical to protecting your data when you work remotely, especially if you regularly discuss or share sensitive or propriety information. Email encryption services help to protect your communications. Some encryption services can be installed without changing your existing email system.
- Install updates regularly
Software update notifications are important and should not be dismissed. To protect your data and device, install updates immediately after receiving a notification. Be mindful to only allow updates and installations from trusted sources.
- Use a virtual private network (VPN)
A VPN helps keep your data secure when connecting to the web via public Wi-Fi. VPNs provide a secure tunnel through which information passing in and out of your laptop, tablet, smartphone, or other device can travel. To maintain data security, it’s especially important to use a VPN if you connect to organization, client files or applications from remote locations.
- Turn on a mobile firewall
A firewall can help fend off many of the security risks associated with using public Wi-Fi by blocking all unauthorized access to your device. Encourage employees who use public Wi-Fi network, to ensure that their mobile firewall is on and operating. You should also include a security update software, approved messaging applications, and guidelines on required back-ups.
Gayle Brandel is the CEO of PNP Staffing Group, a full service staffing firm providing talent exclusively to the nonprofit sector. Gayle is a strong believer in the power of nonprofits to make a difference in people’s lives and is proud to partner with organizations to make that difference. She sits on several nonprofit boards, has authored numerous articles, and is an in-demand speaker at nonprofit and for-profit events and conferences.