NONPROFIT STAFF WORKING FROM HOME WAS GREAT UNTIL . . .
The great thing about working with so many nonprofits, is that we get the chance to hear different thoughts and points of view. One subject that has been coming up again, has been staff working from home. Covid has made this topic really interesting. If you were to ask us during the 2nd quarter of 2020, we would have told you that nonprofit leaders were panicked, wondering how their staff were going to work from home. Then, if you were to ask us during the 2nd or 3rd quarter of 2021, we would have told you that most nonprofit leaders told us they figured things out, and it's been great for everyone . . .
. . . BUT then . . . during the end of the 4th quarter of 2021 we started to hear different. Some of our clients started to tell us:
1) They missed the feeling of "team" that you don't get with video conferencing. Cracking a joke, telling a story, saying hello, randomly throughout the day was missed and their "team" feeling was starting to fade.
2) Perhaps things started to get too lax. Maybe some trust issues on what exactly people were doing at home, as being told "answering emails" got pretty old. Other examples would be having dogs, cats, kids, dressing too casual, etc issues showing up in video conferences, as there seemed to be this shift towards this "this is real life" attitude from the biggest culprits.
So what should YOU do at your nonprofit? Here's our answer. WE DON'T KNOW! Great answer, right? You read all this way, just to get THIS advice? HA. Stay with us.
The reason we say WE DON'T KNOW, is because we don't work at your nonprofit. We don't know your mission, your duties, your work culture, etc. So there is no easy answer that works across the board for everyone. This is what we CAN tell you though . . . you need to communicate and come up with a plan. Here are some steps in which you can make that work:
1) If you notice that there is some frustration with staff or board members about working from home rules, don't ignore it. If YOU as the leader, are getting frustrated with things, don't ignore it. Ignoring issues only lets things fester and that never leads to anything good.
2) Have a staff/board work session. Don't have everyone just sit in a room talking one at a time. Bring in flip charts, sticky notes, and markers, and let lead some communication activities that get people thinking and talking. Make sure that the goal of the day is well stated, "We need to create a work from home plan". (MSG can help if needed)
3) By the end of the day, you should have a general plan of how often people should be allowed to work from home, what type of work can be done at home, how often people should communicate, expectations of home setups, how to hold people accountable, etc. You might need a few days to make things solid but a general sense of your plan should be completed.
4) Keep in mind that things might not be fair and that has to be ok. Some jobs need to be in the office more than others. Some people might not have an acceptable work set up, while others might actually rather work in the office. What does matter though is using communication like this so that everyone feels like they were part of the process. If you work at a large nonprofit, you might need representatives from different departments or surveys done beforehand, for the leadership staff to read. Make sure everyone keeps an open mind, including leadership staff.
We wish there was a simple answer to figuring out what to do but there's not. What we do know is this . . . team members get frustrated with rules but they get even more frustrated with no expectations or understanding to how decisions are made. Getting everyone on the same page is just part of the ongoing evolution of working through Covid.
Midwest Studies Group connects nonprofits to their communities, by providing feasibility studies, annual giving studies, RD planning, strategic planning, and capital campaign support. Learn more at www.midweststudiesgroup.com.