Is your organization ready for a pandemic?

This is about being prepared for the conditions a pandemic or other emergency community-wide lock-down that could happen. It’s about asking yourself if you and your organization are ready. Where might digital transformation fit?

When it comes to digital transformation this is a good time to be able to start answering questions about your organization’s policies for remote-working, internal communications and knowledge sharing, policies clearly communicated internally, how you’ll continue to serve clients if your physical offices are closed and staff are working from home or remotely (or clients don’t want to come to you). We have many examples of remote work in the sector, in particular with Settlement Workers in Schools and pre-arrival services. How can we learn from how they do their work when it comes to a potential crisis situation?

The answer is plenty. We need to get better at sharing remote service models with each other. Now is a good time to start doing that.

We can also learn a lot from other sectors that are talking about this and mobilizing resources.  I’ve coming across really good questions that are useful for organizations to start thinking about, shared below.

This article outlines some really good questions you should be starting to ask within your organization, especially if you serve clients directly (i.e. every Settlement organization in the country):  

  • How might coronavirus affect your business? What are the indicators that will alert you when certain thresholds are reached?
  • Which clients, vendors, or partners is your business reliant on & how might coronavirus affect their businesses?
  • What questions & concerns can you anticipate & get ahead of now?
  • Are you instilling confidence in team members by anticipating & answering their questions and concerns with regards to how this might affect them?
  • What are your organization’s policies for: remote-working, traveling, real-time monitoring, tracking & evaluation of business needs, supply-chain disturbances, business continuity, etc.?
  • Are these policies clearly communicated internally? How & when might these policies be adapted or evolved? 
  • Do you have an intranet or other form of internal communication platform where you are hosting relevant and timely information and directives for your teams? Who is responsible for drafting, approving and disseminating/publishing these communications—and is your internal population aware that this platform exists and is being kept current?

Here are some other useful articles (or parts of articles) worth your time:

Maybe you’re just freaking out about how to deal with this at work. Fair enough. Start here: Coronavirus and the workplace: what employers can do to prevent an outbreak
Employers have a legal obligation to ensure a safe workplace for all workers. In order to protect workers from the risk of exposure to coronavirus in the workplace, employers should consider taking some or all of the following precautions: 

  • Educate workers 
  • Provide (more) hygienic products in the workplace,
  • Assess risks of exposure
  • Evaluate workplace emergency response protocols 
  • Reschedule work travel
  • Monitor for signs of illness
  • Require workers to work from home (or provide a leave of absence)
  • Accommodate medical conditions to the point of undue hardship
  • Remain informed

Some additional guidance for workplaces:

Make sure your response is balanced across these seven dimensions: Communications, Employee needs, Travel, Remote work, Supply-chain stabilization, Business tracking and forecasting, Being part of the broader solution.
At first glance, some of these might not seem relevant for your non-profit community service organization. But, of course, they all are: “Our research on the effectiveness of organizational responses to dynamic crises indicates that there is one variable which is most predictive of eventual success – preparation and preemption. Preparing for the next crisis (or the next phase of the current crisis) now is likely to be much more effective than an ad hoc, reactive response when the crisis actually hits.”

Prepare Your Supply Chain for Coronavirus – What You Can Do Now, Designing for response, Revisit Your Supply Chain’s Design

This Maytree 2009 presentation is still very valid – Five Good Ideas for Dealing with an Influenza Pandemic

  1. Support infection prevention and control (The Public Health Good Idea)
  2. Plan for a “best guess” and don’t forget that it is a guess (The Planning and Improvising Good Idea)
  3. Develop your own plan and partner in your response (The Community Collaboration Good Idea)
  4. Clarify organizational priorities and roles during an outbreak (The Business Continuity Good Idea)
  5. Talk with your staff and your community about their concerns (The We are People First Good Idea)

Many organizations may not have a lot of what is mentioned in these articles in place. As the ​Coronavirus Forces Remote Work Conversation in Tech, it should also be sparking a conversation in the immigrant and refugee-serving sector. 

I can’t tell you how to have that conversation, but I can share some useful articles others are writing:

Coronavirus Could Force Teams to Work Remotely
Here are some strategies that leaders can employ to ensure their teams continue to collaborate effectively and maintain momentum in the business.

Coronavirus Canceled Your Conference – Let’s Organize a Virtual Event!
“With the rise of video conferencing software like Apple Facetime, Skype Video, Google Hangouts, Zoom Video, and too many chat and social media software options to list, shouldn’t we be able to recreate many aspects of in-person meetings with an online equivalent?”

What It Takes to Run a Great Virtual Meeting
Virtual meetings — even impromptu one’s sparked by fears of a contagion — can be run more effectively, using basic meeting best practices and easy-to-use, inexpensive technology.

How To Facilitate Effective Virtual Meetings
“It’s time to up your virtual facilitation and convening skills. I’ve been working remotely since the early 1990s, during the early years of the Web. My first remote job was to work with a virtual team to manage an online network for artists, called Artswire. Since those days, I have continued to hone my virtual facilitation skills to design and deliver effective virtual meetings and trainings. As nonprofits are impacted by the CoronaVirus and need more virtual meeting skills, I’d like to share what I have learned.”

Online Teaching is Here Now
“If students can’t get to campus, then there will be less need for sessional staff to teach face to face (F2F). However, if some of those students are studying online, they may need more tutor support.
The same principles and techniques used in F2F teaching apply online. The practicalities are a little different online, depending on the communications technology available.”

Educators Need to Plan for Infectious Disease Outbreak
“Educators also need to learn remote education delivery techniques, in the event their students can’t come to class. Also educators need to ensure they are equipped to work from home, in the event campuses are closed.”

Why Pandemic Preparation Will Revolutionize Online Workshops
“When it comes to event planning in the face of a pandemic, the technology is the easy part. Shifting the training model will be harder, and international development is perfectly positioned to lead.”

The options and approaches listed above can also serve as direct client service options, provided they meet privacy, confidentiality and encryption standards.

What standards, you ask? NASW, ASWB, CSWE, & CSWA Standards for Technology in Social Work Practice, to start with. Some examples:

Standard 2.07: Confidentiality and the Use of Technology
When using technology to deliver services, social workers shall establish and maintain confidentiality policies and procedures consistent with relevant statutes, regulations, rules, and ethical standards.

Standard 2.18: Confidentiality
Social workers who use technology to facilitate supervision, consultation, or other confidential meetings shall use appropriate safeguards to protect confidentiality.

Standard 3.13: Accessing Client Records Remotely
Social workers may have or desire remote access to electronic client records when they are away from their organization or usual place of practice. They should be aware that accessing records from remote locations may pose risks to client privacy and confidentiality. The use of unencrypted e-mail servers by a social worker to communicate with clients increases the risk of privacy violations and should be avoided. Confidentiality risks may increase if a social worker accesses work-related e-mail, text messages, voice mail, or other electronic messages from a nonwork computer, smartphone, or other personal electronic devices.

Standard 3.03: Handling Confidential Information
Social workers who gather, manage and store information electronically should take reasonable steps to ensure the privacy and confidentiality of information pertaining to clients.

Need some help to craft policies? This site has some useful templates:

So, how do you get started with a digital service transformation in your work? Start with this recent webinar I co-facilitated. It’s more than implementing software, developing a mobile app or upgrading digital infrastructure. It is about changing the way you provide services and enhance client outcomes, by leveraging digital capabilities. 

So, share! What is your organization doing? What policies, protocols, or procedures do you have that you could share with other organizations? Hit reply and let me know!

Oh, and wash your hands, OK?

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