As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise in South Africa, organisations, business and corporates are encouraging their staff to work remotely if possible. While a planned transition to a remote workforce would typically be staged over time, one may need to be implemented quickly in this scenario.
Because the current situation with COVID-19 is changing so rapidly, the resources we’re providing below (most of which are free) are options that can be implemented relatively quickly, with little to no external IT support needed to do so and with a focus on remote communications and information sharing solutions.
Of course, there are many types of nonprofits that are not able to implement work-from-home policies due to the nature of their work, including museums, shelters, and health care providers. But if you are part of an organisation that is able to continue to operate if your staff are all working remotely from home, we hope that what follows is of use to you and your nonprofit:
Communications Solutions for Staff Working Remotely
Most organisations are now working with email that is hosted in the cloud, including Office 365, Gmail, or email hosted by your Internet service provider. If you are using either Office 365 Nonprofit or G Suite for Nonprofits, you are really well set up to work remotely already. Both solutions have great communication and collaboration features that you may just need to activate.
Office 365 Users
Teams is included with all Office 365 Business and Enterprise licenses and can be used to:
- Collaborate on documents
- Share files
- Chat with team members or specific groups
- Host meetings
- Create channels to house specific workgroups — which can include document storage, chat functionality, and shared notes
Using Advanced Functions in Microsoft Teams – Microsoft recently published a blog post on using Teams during these challenging times.
G Suite for Nonprofit Users
If you’re already using the Nonprofit G Suite Basic, Google has just announced that it is making Google Hangouts Meet’s premium functionality available for free until July 1. This includes the ability to host virtual meetings for up to 250 people and live-streaming for up to 100,000 viewers for free.
Options for Nonusers of Office 365 or G Suite That Are Quick and Easy to Set Up
Zoom is a video and audio conferencing platform that enables both simple online meetings and group messaging. Staff can participate in Zoom meetings from both mobile devices and laptop or desktop computers.
Workplace from Facebook is another great option that’s free to nonprofits. It’s sort of like an internal Facebook just for you and your employees and volunteers, but it’s on a separate application from your personal Facebook accounts. Workplace is designed to help teams communicate, share, and make decisions together in a secure and private space online that’s independent of whatever other platforms you use for email and document storage. Here’s a recent blog post from the folks at Workplace that highlights how this tool can be used to stay connected during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Document Management and Collaboration for Remote Work
Working with remote staff is also about being able to easily share and co-edit documents in real time, which can be critical to getting projects done or grant proposals out the door. Again, if you already have Office 365 or Google for Nonprofits, those solutions have document storage and collaboration tools built in, and you’ll just need to activate them.
Office 365 Users – apply for 10 free M365 licences today
Office 365 comes with many options for cloud document storage and sharing. You can also leverage OneDrive, which is essentially an online folder system for file storage. This could be helpful if you are trying to ensure that you have access to the documents and files you will need if you work remotely.
To collaborate on files and documents, you can use Microsoft Teams (as stated above) or Microsoft SharePoint sites. SharePoint requires a bit more setup, but it can be useful, particularly if you are trying to share documents with external stakeholders.
G Suite for Nonprofits Users – apply today
For G Suite users or for those not using G Suite, the free Google for Nonprofits offer includes Google Drive Basic, a business version of Google Drive that allows you to set sharing and access permissions. This can be used by any organisation, even if you’re using Office 365, and is a fast way to create a document repository in the cloud.
Box Users – apply today
Box is another great option for small organisations (needing 10 or fewer licenses) looking to move documents quickly into the cloud. Box is relatively easy to get set up, but if you need help, please contact us here.
Access and Permissions
For any online document storage and collaboration solution, you should take a moment to think about the access and permissions you want on different folders, particularly if you are dealing with sensitive data about donors or constituents that requires compliance.
A home environment is very different from an office space, and it can be difficult to stay focused. Below are some helpful tips:
- Create a routine – Often, one of the perks from working from home is having a more flexible schedule but it still helps to start with a basic routine to give your day structure. That way, the things you’ve left “until later” won’t go undone because “later” you will need personal time to do the things you would normally do after working hours. If you have to keep “catching up” early mornings, or evenings, you will find yourself becoming resentful of the fact that your organisation seems to be stealing your time.
- Have a dedicated workspace – It’s not always possible to have a separate office but you should at least have a dedicated desk or table for your computer and paperwork. Make sure that the table and chair you are sitting on is comfortable. Avoid lying on your bed or sitting on a couch as much as possible.
- Keep your workspace tidy – A cluttered or messy workspace can be a distraction. Try to keep your desk clear of unnecessary paperwork, files, empty coffee mugs or anything else that might get in the way. Don’t eat or drink in front of your company devices as this could cost you quite a bit of money to replace if the insurance does not cover the cost of mishaps like spilling water over your keyboard.
- Use task management software – Online apps that help you manage and track your tasks, (Workspace, Google Drive, Teams) , can be a lifesaver. At a glance, you can see all your current tasks, their deadlines and the order of priority plus keep your colleagues up to date on what you are doing and the changes being made.
- Schedule a day for meetings – If you’re going to leave your home-office, make it a worthwhile day out. Where possible, assign a day of the week for meetings. This way, you’ll know ahead of time which day you’ll have less time for other tasks and you can plan around it.
- Check your email at specific intervals – A common trick for avoiding distractions is to only open your email every hour. This way you don’t stop what you’re busy with to read an email that might not be important.
- Avoid social media – Social media is fairly addictive and scrolling through your various timelines can eat up a lot of your day. Log out of your accounts and remove visible bookmarks to avoid temptation. Schedule a few minutes each day to check your work-related social media for example, each time you make a cup of tea.
- Working hours – Working from home allows you to work during your most productive time of the day. Some of us are morning people while others work better in the afternoon or evening. If you are working as part of a team, then work the office hours set out by the organisation so that you are all working the same hours for the day.
- Take breaks from your screen – Staring at a screen for hours on end is not good for our eyes or posture. Take multiple short breaks throughout the day to stretch and walk around a bit.
- Minimise distractions – This can be tricky depending on your home situation but try to keep kids, pets and roommates out of your workspace while you’re working. Attempting to multitasking is another form of distraction. This causes lost time and productivity. Commit to a single task to completion before moving onto the next task.
- Make calls at a scheduled time – Phone calls can end up taking more time than you thought they would so try to set aside some time, preferably towards the end of the day, to get them all done. Schedule regular calls on zoom with your colleagues to stay connected.
- Avoid unhealthy snacking – Having a kitchen full of food only a few steps away can result in some bad eating habits. Keep healthy snacks at your desk and avoid big heavy lunches which can sap your energy and cause you to want to take a nap.
- Drink plenty of water – It’s common to forget to drink water when working which can lead to headaches and lethargy. Keep a reusable water bottle on your desk to remind yourself to drink.
- Take your lunch break and other breaks – It can be tempting to work through your lunch break when you’re very busy but your lunch break is important for recharging and refuelling to avoid burnout. Scheduling breaks can help improve concentration.
- Focus on one task at a time – You may have a very long to-do list but trying to do too many things at once just results in a long list of half-completed tasks.
- Have a filing system for documentation – Working from home doesn’t eliminate paperwork, unfortunately. Set up a filing system specifically for work documents so they don’t get mixed up with personal documentation. As far as possible, print less and file as much as possible digitally and save to the cloud.
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On Thursday, March 12, TechSoup is hosting a virtual workshop on managing the impact of COVID-19 on nonprofits at 7 a.m. Pacific time. They will be discussing tools, strategies, and resources to help nonprofits manage remote workers. You’ll also have an opportunity to ask questions and discuss best practices with other members of the nonprofit community. If this is something you can benefit from, please sign up today.