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Setting Staff Up for Remote Success with a Well-Planned Policy

Most nonprofits have standard policies and procedures for working in an office setting. But when a crisis hits such as the current pandemic, many organizations are just navigating the waters when it comes to how to react to such global threats and shift to a remote working environment.

No one can predict when a possible crisis that affects the health and safety of staff will happen. The spread of COVID-19, as with many pandemic viral diseases, happened more quickly than most had imagined. In this post, we'll go over examples of pandemic policies and remote working policies. Please feel free to share with your community or modify these templates to best fit the needs of your organization.

Developing a Pandemic Policy at Your Nonprofit

Since pandemics are fundamentally different from other emergencies, having separate procedures in place will help to minimize disruptions to the workflow and keep your employees as safe as possible. A pandemic policy, including the one in this template (Word download), courtesy of the SANS Institute, should contain information about how to protect staff health and privacy, business continuity operations, and communication strategies to stakeholders. The policy should also address working remotely.

Developing a Remote Working Policy at Your Nonprofit

More than a third of full-time employees are projected to work remotely in the next decade, according to a report from Upwork, and more than 63 percent of organizations now have some remote workers. That statistic may have increased substantially during the past few weeks as governments mitigate the spread of COVID-19 by keeping people in their homes.

Yet one thing is certain: A majority of nonprofits don't have a remote work policy in place. In our recent workshop on Managing the Impact of COVID-19 on Nonprofits, 36 percent of the participating organizations said they had no remote work policy, and another 32 percent only had an informal policy or weren't sure what they had. Some jobs, of course, don't lend themselves to remote work. But for those jobs where it's an option, the need for a policy is essential. It eliminates confusion and keeps your vital information secure.

When you develop a policy, consider the following:

  • Be fair. Consider the consequences on morale and culture if only part of your workforce is eligible for remote work. Think about how a policy can be applied throughout the workforce.
  • Be transparent. A policy itself is not enough. It needs to be clear. Will all positions be eligible for remote work? Will there be key performance indicators to allow for working from home? You may want to check with an attorney to help with this.
  • Be flexible. Circumstances change; technology advances. Policies will need to adjust as needed. Ask other nonprofit leaders who already have remote workers (or your current remote staff) what has worked well and what hasn't. Start with a generic framework, such as this TechSoup template (Word download), and add what's needed as you develop and grow your remote team.

By getting these policies in place, employees and managers will clearly understand each other's expectations during a pandemic crisis, ensuring consistent performance and productivity whether in or out of the office.

We know it's challenging to bring things to scale as circumstances change so rapidly. We feel it too. We hope this information and these resources help you to continue the work so vital to our communities. Please reach out to us if you need anything to help support your organization.

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