The Nonprofit Guide to Working from Home: Tips and Tools to be Successful  

Hadia Tahir

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April 7, 2020

We’re all in this together

COVID-19 has disrupted the way millions work all around the world. Businesses we didn’t even know could be run from home are finding creative ways to overcome this disruption. At times like this, it’s important to remember that we’re all in this together. Everyone has been dislocated by this pandemic in one way or another with charities and nonprofits being on the front lines of helping people get through this. We at RedBit are dedicated to supporting you in making that impact even with the added restrictions of social distancing. We are a software development and technology company who were probably better equipped than most to take the work home. However, even for those who are used to working remotely this situation is unprecedented in modern times. We understand that you are not working from home in the typical sense, rather you are at your home during a crisis trying to work and our goal is to make sure you are prepped with all the tips and tools to be successful.

Communication is Key

Communication is an integral part of any successful team. Now it’s more important than ever to effectively communicate with donors and users. Prior to this pandemic it may have seemed easier with face-to-face interactions, but now you are part of a virtual team with the same people facing the same challenges. This virus is testing the flexibility of your organization to deliver its impact from the comfort and safety of your home. You need to be in control of communication to be able to do that and stay focused at home. Talking to each other not only makes you more accountable for productivity, but also maintains the visibility that we took for granted before. In fact, now is the time to communicate more! Plan communications and make them intentional.

Tools: Team Chat and Video conference

You need to have a tool to chat and run meetings anywhere, anytime and securely across multiple devices. Here at RedBit, we use Slack and Microsoft Teams to maintain that contact with each other. Our chats and impromptu calls are generally on Slack while the planned, scheduled meetings take place on Teams. However, there are many tools out there that will allow your nonprofit to stay connected:

  • Zoom: great way to conduct video conference calls and possibly even take those events you had to cancel virtual!  
  • GoToMeeting: trusted by millions for professional real-time virtual communication.
  • Google Hangouts: May be the most convenient, especially if you use google calendar to manage your schedule.
  • Join.me: great for fast and easy screen share meetings.
  • Skype: You may already have used Skype, but it’ll get the job done. It also enables you to create group chats.
  • WhatsApp: Especially useful for chatting with international team members.
  • Flowdock: Similar to Slack and integrates with Jira, GitHub, Basecamp, Trello and others!  

Tip #1: Have daily check-in’s with you team.

At RedBit, we have maintained our daily stand-ups. We check-in with the team at the beginning of the day to ensure everyone is on the same page and ready with a plan for the day. This is a great way to track the work being done and stay super clear on priorities. We use Slack and Microsoft Teams as a tool to maintain that contact with each other, but there are many tools out there that help you do the same job.

Tip #2: Turn on your camera!

It is very important to have visual contact with your team. Having that visual stimulus builds trusts, allows the rapport to grow and keeps us connected. This is even more important now as we are stuck working from home indefinitely. Just keep in mind that no one’s checking out what your PJ’s look like, if your hair is combed or if your makeup is on. Turn on that camera to help maintain some sort of normalcy in this period of isolation.

Real-Time Collaboration

You may or may not have a way to organize, share and collaborate on work. If you don’t, here’s your chance to look at the silver lining of this pandemic. Now you have no choice but to introduce those changes that you have always known would further your impact. You can save both time and energy so your team can focus on what really matters: your mission. You shouldn’t be wasting time trying to find documents or sending files back and forth between your team in order to collaborate. You should be able to locate documents without sifting through old emails and work on projects together as a team in real-time.

Tools: Collaboration and File-sharing

Even without the situation we are currently in, it is important to have a tool that allows real-time sharing of your organizations work. At RedBit, we use Microsoft Teams, SharePoint and one drive solutions as they are perfect tools to upload documents, share information and allow multiple people to work on a document in real-time. You can accomplish the same by moving your system to the cloud. However, there are also other tools that allow document sharing and real-time collaboration:

  • Google Gsuite: A free service that stores and organizes all your files and allows you to work on the same document with multiple people at the same time.
  • Dropbox: Great alternative to sharing files over email. Keeps them in one place and easy to find.
  • Trello: Allows you to create a dashboard for projects and pin related tasks. Your team can collaborate and move tasks across the board from to do to done.  

Tip #3: Know what you have!

Before you spend the time and effort researching the tools that you may need, look into what you already have. You may already have the perfect resources to be able to collaborate with the team but have never implemented them in your day-to-day usage. This also applies to communication tools.  

Stay Secure  

As a nonprofit, you’re probably dealing with vulnerable information that you need to keep secure. You may or may not have the tools to do so when moving to a virtual environment, but this move is the perfect opportunity to modernize your security and ensure that your data is safe even beyond this pandemic. When you begin to use the tools mentioned above, they may or may not already have the security measures needed. If they don’t, you may need to take some additional steps to ensure the safety of your new work from home system. At RedBit, the tools we use, such as Microsoft Teams already have the security best practices built in to ensure our data is always secure.  

Additional steps you can take to increase security:

  • Zoom: Take the necessary precautions to keep uninvited guests out of your Zoom event
  • Bitdefender: For antivirus screening and business security
  • Norton: Antivirus that protects computers, tablets and smartphones against the latest online threats
  • Okta: helps manage identity across all platforms, to single sign-on to more identity and access management solutions

Take advantage of the offers out there that are specifically for you! Click on the links above for the TechSoup Canada catalogue that offers a number of services to help you be more secure.

Tip #4: Know what you’re missing!

Before you can make any changes, you need to know where you’re lacking in your security. Now may be the time for that security audit you’ve been putting off! You need to figure out what security measures you’re missing before you can find the best ways to fix it. You may be asking what this all means anyway? It might sound like a lot of complex work but trust us, it doesn’t have to be that way. You will be glad you took care of this, now and in the future.

Be Mindful

In these difficult times, keep in mind that although everyone is going through the same thing, they may deal with it differently. Stress and anxiety are on the rise making it more important than ever to check-in on your team. Do what you can by sending that quick hello, how are you? Or even offer to help where you can. Even if you can’t do anything, be mindful of the fact that each person has unique circumstances that may cause varying amounts of concern.

One of the many great things about RedBit is our leadership. Our leaders do a great job practicing compassionate leadership. They take the time to check-in with everyone both individually and as a team and pave how we interact with each other. We are in constant contact, sharing updates about the COVID-19 situation, Netflix suggestions to get our mind off things and just random things that’ll make you laugh. We keep each other’s spirits high and are always there to support each other.

Tip #5: Be understanding!

Recognize that people may not have the same conditions at home for remote working. Be aware of and open to distractions during meetings and unexpected occurrences. Take them with a stride and be able to be flexible and adapt.

Tip #6: Look, listen and feel

Look for what is left unsaid. How are everyone’s energy levels? Practice mindful listening. Take the time to listen and acknowledge how someone is feeling and respond in a kind, compassionate way.

Find that work-life Balance

This may be one of the most important aspects of achieving success whilst working from home. You need to strike that balance to keep from burning out and be optimally productive. This could look differently for different people and different teams. For us at RedBit, one of the things we missed the most about being together in one office was our regular walks in the sun. With social distancing, we can’t go for walks together but we can take a break together and get that exercise in. Every day, promptly at 12 pm we share a 15-min home workout video on our #quarantine15 slack channel. It’s a great feeling to know we’re all connected and doing something together at the same time.  

Beyond this, here are a few tips to help maintain that balance:

Tip #7: Build a Routine

Having a routine might be the only way to keep yourself from getting burnt out. Try to mimic your life before this pandemic as closely as possible whilst following all safety precautions. Did you take a jog before work? Did you get up early to shower and get dressed appropriately? Try to maintain those things even from home to help the mental change and to easily integrate back to that routine once this is all over.

Tip #8: Take a Break!

Maybe it's that 15-min home workout or lunch with the family but take the time to step away from your work space and move around. Keep in mind that even when you were physically with the team, you used to take breaks, talk would deviate from work and maintain that fun throughout your remote working days.

Tip #9: Set those boundaries!

Put your work away when you’re not working. Don’t use extra time to work, this is an easy way to burn yourself out. Many people find themselves working even more when working from home. Especially for nonprofits where the work never really stops, this can be very detrimental. Maybe it's because of guilt or you feel like you’re slacking. Just keep in mind that when you’re not commuting the lines start to get blurred between work and home. Set those boundaries, whether it’s a different space in the house, and meet those deliverables and spend the rest of your time on other things you love.

Don’t Lose What Makes You You!

We know the world is going through a lot but don’t lose the things that make you YOU! If your nonprofit has a unique tradition or anything you do to have some fun beyond the work, make sure you maintain that during this time. Whether it be singing happy birthday to that special person or having team coffee breaks, get your video tools ready to do it all virtually! Things like this are what makes your organization special and a great place to work.

Here at RedBit, we spent the last hour on Friday to have a wine-time chit chat. We used this time to see how everyone’s weeks went and find out about their plans for the weekends. We shared highs, lows and learnings to continue to stay connected and build that rapport. With this pandemic, that hasn’t stopped! We do the same thing virtually with everyone on a video call with their glasses of wine. Its during moments like these that make you feel connected even amidst the isolation.

Tip #10: Ask for help!

Every nonprofit has a mission worth fighting for. Now more than ever that work is so important, and we are here to help. We want to help you manage through and build resilience during this outbreak and beyond! The RedBit team is dedicated to support your adaptation to this change and ensure you are available to do the great work you do during this difficult time.

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