Setting Up A Successful Work from Home Environment for Your Nonprofit
Don’t worry, it’s not really Monday! Erik is busy running a conference this week, so he asked me to fill in one more day this week. So welcome to Tuesday with Marissa!
Working from home is more popular than ever. In a time when salaries might not be able to grow as fast as they used to, offering employees an opportunity to work remotely can be a welcomed perk. While your employee might not be in the office, it is important to ensure that she feels connected to her team. Today we’re going to look at some ways to set up a successful work from home environment.
If your organization has the funds to set up a VPN system, I highly recommend it. VPN stands for Virtual Private Network and allows users to log in from anywhere. Upon doing so they would have the same access to the servers and systems they would have if they were working in the office. They can be a bit costly to set up but this set up offers the most flexibility for you and your employee. The employee working from home would have no restrictions on access to the resources they need, allowing them to complete projects no matter where they were located.
VPNs are best set up on agency owned laptops that employees can take anywhere. I recommend upon setting it up that it is tested somewhere outside of your building to make sure everything is set up correctly. It would be the worst to plan your day working from home only to find out that your VPN doesn’t connect.
If VPN doesn’t work for your organization, there are plenty of other options to share files with people working remotely. Services such as Dropbox and Google Drive allows users to share documents, spreadsheets, presentations, ect, with anyone who has access to them. However, keep in mind that these files would live in the cloud on third party server. If something happened to that server you would loose your files. Keeping a copy of files shared in the cloud stored on your hard drive is highly recommended.
One of the challenges I find with working from home sometimes is feeling connected to the office. While working from a remote location can help some employees focus, they can miss out on communication that happens around the office. Using a chat client like Gchat or Skype can help fill that void. I had one job where I worked exclusively from and getting a “good morning” from other team members made a world of difference. I didn’t feel as isolated.
Furthermore, it is important for managers of people who work remotely to still manage their employees even if they aren’t in the building. Too often the relationship between manager and employee can fall victim to the “out of mind, out of site” mentality. You can even go beyond chat conversations and have a video call from time to time to check in and see how everything is going or congratulate the employee on a job well done.
While working remotely is becoming more and more a norm these days, I hope these few tips help you and your agency think about the best environment to set up for your employees. Based on your set up, you might be able to work something out for work from home volunteers using cloud computing services and chat clients. What do you think? Do you work from home? What tool do you find to be the most successful in helping you be productive? Let us know in the comments!
Why Nonprofits Should Use Skype
Communication has come a long way since quill and parchment. Today information is sent through the air at high speeds and people can get what they need in a matter of seconds. Email is a standard in today’s communication arsenal, but today I’m going talk about voice calls. Talking is still faster than writing and today we are going to look at how Skype can help when it comes to communicating through voice.
Skype is a powerful tool that can be a great benefit to any nonprofit organization. Skype can be used to make voice or video calls to people in your contact list. I know what you might be thinking, “we already have phones for this, Marissa”, but allow me to show you the flexibility of using Skype for calls.
Calls (voice or video) to users in your contact list who are also using Skype are free. That’s right, FREE. This can add up to big cell phone savings. How many times do you send an email knowing it’s going to take longer than you’d like to get the information you need just because everyone has a ton of email to go through? If everyone in your organization was on Skype if a person had a question, they could just Skype call them and get the information in a matter of seconds. Skype calls can be answered no matter where the person is logged in from, if that’s home, a cafe, or the cubicle next door.
By adding money to your Skype account, phone calls can be made to landlines. This is a nice feature to have if a person on your team is even found in a place with a wifi signal but no cell phone reception. Additionally, by adding money to your Skype account, you can make international calls at lower rates than you would if you used a landline phone.
Skype also allows users to attach a single phone number to their account to make it easy for calls, whether made from Skype or a landline, to be answered from anywhere. With a mobile app, Skype users are able to answer voice and video calls on the go.
Skype also comes with voicemail functionality. This can be a great tool for agencies. By simply creating an account with phone number attached to it, messages left in this voicemail box can be accessed by anyone who has access to the account; making returning calls a team effort.
One more feature of using Skype for voice calls is the ability to record phone calls. If your agency is having an important conference call, it can be easily recorded through Skype. This recording could the be posted for absent team members to listen to when they are available.
There is much more to Skype besides just making voice and video calls that can be helpful for your organization. When in a video call on Skype users have the ability to share their screens with people on the call. This feature could come in handy for Board Meetings being held online if not all of the Board Members could make it. Skype also comes with an instant messaging service that allows you to send quick messages to people in your contact list when a call is not needed. Through this chat system, documents can also be easily shared between team members.
Skype is a feature rich application that has a lot to offer a nonprofit organization. I have seen where using it has increased communication between team members just due to the pure flexibility that comes along with it. Do you think Skype is a good fit for your agency? Do you already use Skype? If so, what do you use it for the most? Let talk about it in the comments below!
Advice for all non-profits: “It is time to talk human again!”
So, I was sitting in my living room watching television and trying to multitask last night when one of the commercials that I was trying to ignore jumped out of my television, grabbed me by my shirt collar and shook me hard. It was an advertisement by Skype and it was very cute. You probably know which one I am talking about . . . it is the commercial with the middle school aged boy and girl passing notes in class. I’ve embedded it below if you want to view it again.
I especially love the following line in this ad:
“Long before email threads, we turned to each other. It is when the spirit of collaboration meant more than an ‘FYI’ or ‘Reply All’. When messages were passed along by simple gestures, validated by an honest expression.”
Long after this commercial was over, my mind kept straying back to it. I must have re-played it over and over and over again in my head all night long. After a few hours, it dawned on me that there is something about this message that obviously resonates with me and my point of view about non-profit organizations.
For the last few years, I became more focused on using technology to engage people (e.g. non-profit clients, donors, board volunteers, etc) in a way that felt efficient and productive. Thinking back on it, I have tried all sorts of technology tools all in the name of saving time:
- Email (Ugh . . . I can send wickedly long emails with lots of detail)
- Google Docs
- Conference call bridges
I suspect this trend is rooted in the idea of being respectful of a donor and volunteer’s time. After all, life is so busy and very fast nowadays. However, are we really being more efficient? Are we really getting more done? Are we really simplifying things or do our efforts really just de-humanize the experience and end up doing more harm than good?
I think United Airlines hit the nail on the head more than 20 years ago when they run this iconic television ad:
Please don’t misunderstand what I am saying. I believe technology is here to stay, and we all better learn how to appropriately use it to keep our donors and volunteers informed and engaged.
I suspect that technology will also continue to creep into our lives and become a stronger fundraising solicitation tool over the next decade. I also suspect that more and more board and committee meetings will happen over Skype and other online video platforms.
Before you totally surrender your non-profit and its relationships to the “Technology Gods,” I encourage you to take the following advice from our friends at United Airlines and Skype:
- Scale back your email and non-personal technology efforts with volunteers and donors.
- Don’t make-up reasons for volunteers to attend a committee meeting or board meeting. Make sure that the agenda contains important stuff.
- Don’t make-up reasons to sit down with a donor. Make sure every touch is engaging, enlightening, fulfilling, and fun for them. It is more about them and less about you. Right? Connecting people with your mission in an emotional way is a recipe for success! And technology is anti-emotional.
- Visit people in-person, but do so in a way that feels important and not a waste of time.
- Try your hand at online video conferencing. Of all the technology available to you, this one somewhat allows some sense of personal interaction. Start small with an individual or committee first.
I think we can embrace technology in a way that makes sense and is not de-humanizing. It will take a conscious effort on your part. Are you up to the challenge? Or are you just going to continue ‘forwarding’ that email thread with an attachment and clicking ‘reply all”? Please scroll down and share your thoughts about either commercial? Did either have an impact on your non-profit point of view? I would love to hear your thoughts and what you plan on doing about it.
Here’s to your health!
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC