Remote work – doing it, managing it, trusting it

The immigrant and refugee-serving sector is starting to close offices. That means remote work.

You are likely to start moving your teams to remote work very soon, if not already. Some of you already manage remote teams, such as Settlement Workers in Schools, Settlement Workers in Libraries, etc. Some of you already manage teams doing remote work, such as pre-arrival services, webinars, service delivery using digital messaging (such as WhatsApp, texting, etc.). 

I’m trying to be useful. I’m sharing what I know (a bit) and what I’m reading (a lot) and curating what others are sharing (so much great stuff). This is a follow-up to my last article, Is your organization ready for a pandemic? I’ll be writing more and hope you find this useful.

In this post, I’m sharing:

  • Overviews of remote work
  • How to do remote work – processes and technology
  • Remote work learning – recorded & future webinars

A caveat. There is no right way to do this. People sharing resources right now are sharing all of them. This, like the other posts I’m sharing about remote work, policies, business continuity planning, etc., are long like these. I’m sharing what I find useful. And there is a lot. But, this likely means you’ll be overwhelmed. I’m trying to put a filter on it. But there are a lot of great resources that lead to more great resources. It can seem endless. Sorry about that.

Quick tip – do what you can now, commit to doing more later

Now maybe a difficult time to try to learn and implement new technology. Start by building on your current capacity. Work with what you have. Work with what you know. If you identify something that you need that is new, ramp up your learning on it quickly.

Even if you’re very comfortable with technology and experimenting, challenges exist. From one colleague’s post (someone who is very comfortable with tech, innovation, facilitation, and :

“Today, we did an online design lab for the first time with 16 Youth Researchers!

It was totally bumpy, we had to switch platform from Google Hangouts to Discord to get us all in the same ‘room’, we had to toggle between Slack, Google Hangouts and Discord to chat to one another, we used a combination of Google Docs, audio recordings and pictures of notebooks to document conversations and we cut the day-long agenda into half so that we could maintain attention span.

We will do it again later this week.

It felt so grounding to be in a group that was ready to experiment and learn together. We have built enough trust in a short amount of time to be able to navigate some uncertainty.”

Key themes: Everyone understood it was a bit of an experiment. It was bumpy. Some tech worked and they had to pivot to another tech they were familiar with. It worked. Trust was important. Uncertainty is OK.

Remote work requires communication and strategy

Front-line practitioners may be heading home to do full-time remote work for the first time. A lot of tips for workers can be summed up by some common themes:

  • Set Aside Dedicated Space For Your “Office”
  • Be Vigilant About Work and Life Separation
  • Increase Your Productivity? Maybe
  • Develop some Work from Home Guidelines
  • Taking care of yourself – Your Weeks In Isolation
  • Be clear about how you’ll communicate and with what

The conversation will likely focus a lot on technology. Regardless of what tech you might use, there are some useful principles you should follow.

Agree on how you’ll work with the various tools you use. It could look like this:

  • Email for anything not urgent.
  • Slack (Microsoft Teams, or WhatsApp groups, etc.) for a quick question to one or more people or a heads up about something.
  • Real-time person-to-person conversation (phone/audio (via digital messaging apps like WhatsApp), video chat (Zoom, WhatsApp video, Skype, etc.) when it’s more complex that what a Slack/messaging back-and-forth can support or where there’s a high likelihood of miscommunication.
  • Meeting when more than two people need to discuss something (conference call, video chat, etc.)

The point is to have this conversation now. Agree. Abide by the agreement. Learn and adapt. Revise as necessary. Agree. Abide… you get the flow.

This is a good overview article:

So You Suddenly Work from Home. Now What?
The school closings come at a time when most families were planning to be off for spring break, but now trips have been canceled, camps have been closed…and we’re staring down weeks of homeschooling and working full-time, while figuring out how to do both without leaving our homes. If you don’t know how to work at home, let alone with kids around, we’re going to spend today talking about how to do it, how to make your life easier, and what to do when, as a friend who is quarantined in Rome put it, your cognitive energy is taxed.

How to do remote work

Remote Work How-to – Process

Tamarack Guidelines for Working Remotely (PDF)
Avery useful document from Tamarack Institute. Tamarack is a remote-based organization and developed these Guidelines to create a sense of understanding and awareness about what it means to work remotely. These Guidelines support their HR Policy.

A Guide to Remote Working for Nonprofits
This article covers:

  • How remote work can work for your organization
  • The potential drawbacks of remote work for nonprofits
  • Everything you need to consider when implementing remote work at your nonprofit

Nonprofit Work From Home Policy Template & Tips
Remote working and telecommuting are not a new concept, but it may be new for many nonprofits and for-good companies suddenly adopting a work from home (WFH, for short) policy due to the Coronavirus. This article includes one organization’s policy as a template to borrow and build on for your organization.

So, You Are Now Managing an Entirely Remote Team….
Some quick tips: The Right Technology is Key, tips for Communication and Collaboration, how to Your Team Culture Strong.

Team Working At Home Because Of Coronavirus? Here’s How To Lead Them Effectively
Julie Wilson, founder of the Institute for Future Learning, said helming a virtual team simply requires leaders to “double down on the fundamentals of good management, including establishing clear goals, running great meetings, communicating clearly, and leveraging team members’ individual and collective strengths.” While Wilson’s points are true, it can nonetheless be intimidating for leaders to make the switch. Here are three keys to heading a newly virtual workforce — what I call the “3 Cs of remote leadership” — that leaders can implement today, whether their organization’s shift is temporary or long lasting: Clarity, Communication, and Connection.

Preparing for Virtual Meetings When Coronavirus Cancels Face-to-Face Gatherings
If you conclude that face-to-face meetings are just not possible right now, the viable options will depend on many variables — such as the desired outcomes, how high the stakes are, the perceptions and predispositions of the participants, familiarity participants have with each other, geographic locations and cultural differences. Consider these options to augment your in-person events or to replace them altogether when necessary: virtual meetings, videoconferencing, Email, preparing for virtual real-time interactions.

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.”

The Basecamp Guide to Internal Communication
The how, where, why, and when we communicate. Long form asynchronous? Real-time chat? In-person? Video? Verbal? Written? Via email? In Basecamp? How do we keep everyone in the loop without everyone getting tangled in everyone else’s business? It’s all in here.

Remote Work How-to – Tech

Prepare.Respond.Serve – Jump Start Your Remote Working Environment
In this guide we will walk you through:

  1. Addressing basic connectivity
  2. Remote work devices
  3. Keeping your teams connected
  4. Answering your phones

Prepare.Respond.Serve – Resources
Guides on individual technologies focused on:

  • Team Collaboration and File Sharing
  • Leading and Managing Remote Teams
  • Cloud Security
  • Remote Access

Creating an Online Class or Conference – Quick Tech Guide
This guide lists a range of different types of technology you can use to create an online community, class or conference. The easiest way to do it is to simply use available online applications such as those offered by Google or other providers. But if you have a modest budget, you have some additional options.

Coronavirus Tech Handbook
A crowdsourced resource for technologists building things related to the coronavirus outbreak.

Remote work learning

Available now

Webinar Archive: Using Digital Channels in a Crisis: Community Best Practices for Connecting and Collaborating
The coronavirus, and its impact on travel and events, has organizations scrambling to adapt. Digital channels will take up much of the slack by providing alternative ways to connect. Online community professionals are experts in helping organizations engage online, whether with customers or internally with employees. Today, most organizations have the digital infrastructure that supports engagement but without professional community management, those spaces and channels are often poorly used and sub-optimized.

Managing the Impact of COVID 19 on Nonprofits
The ongoing COVID-19 outbreak has impacted many aspects of our lives, from how we travel to how we carry out day-to-day interactions with those around us. But as nonprofits, our work continues, even in this period of uncertainty. Many people rely on us and the services that we provide to our communities, especially in times of crisis. In order to continue serving your community during this outbreak, however, you may find the need to rapidly transition to working remotely rather than in an office. This TechSoup-hosted online discussion focused on the tools, strategies, and resources to help nonprofits manage remote workers. The presentation slide deck and a wide array of resources are also available.

Successful Remote and Distributed Work in Uncertain Times
It’s never been a more important time to get remote, distributed work right, so we’ve put together a roundtable discussion with some experts in the field. Join us for a timely conversation concentrating on getting to a successful and healthy remote working culture from a standing start.

Staying Informed and Connected: Resources to Help Navigate Work and Coronavirus
LinkedIn has made 16 Linkedin Learning courses available for free including tips on how to: stay productive, build relationships when you’re not face-to-face, use virtual meeting tools (Microsoft Teams, Skype, BlueJeans, Cisco Webex and Zoom), and balance family and work dynamics in a healthy way.

If you are interested in additional tech training for managers or practitioners, to access the full suite of elearning that is branded LinkedIn Learning, you can generally access elearning through your local public library website. For example – Toronto Public Library.

Microsoft Digital Skills Center for Nonprofits
Expert-led tech training designed for nonprofits and libraries. A number of courses are offered for free, such as Word for Nonprofits -Document Management, PowerPoint for Nonprofits – Creating Powerful Presentations, Excel for Nonprofits – Data Management and Reporting, Power BI 101 – Learn the Basics and more.


Webinar – Managing Remote Teams: Ideas and Advice for Thriving Online
Thursday, March 26, 2020 | 1pm ET
If you are a manager who works primarily in an office with your teams, there are real challenges to moving work online, especially as it relates to working together. Join Rachel Happe as she explores the challenges of managing remote teams, and shares best practices and advice for thriving when you’re #suddenlyremote.

Share what you’re doing, learning, wondering

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