In this roundtable, two AE’s with remote work experience share their insights for those newly adjusting to remote work as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Russ Webb, Executive Director of BAAA, the Bay Area Apartment Association
- Michelle Shea, the Associate Executive Director of MISBO, Mid-South Independent School Business Officers. MISBO went fully remote a few years ago.
- Jenn Norman, Novi AMS
- In times of stress and uncertainty, keeping positivity in the conversation is important.
- It’s not a good time to try to roll out a bunch of new tech.
- Deciding how many processes to change (cutting checks, banking, etc) can be tough if this is going to be the work process for only 6-8 weeks. For now, focus on the processes that have the biggest impact, and adjust if other processes are becoming burdensome.
Find Ways to Stay Connected to Your Team
Yes, there are plenty of tools for communication - email, project management software, videoconferencing… but the real key is how do those tools relate to your staff and how you're managing your remote team?
How do you continue those team building connections that often occur in an office setting remotely?
- MISBO uses Slack for internal communications and named a channel "watercooler" for those seemingly random bits of conversation that build connections.
- BAAA holds a daily standup call via Zoom. Every day, every team member joins by video. Each team member discusses what they’re working on and what roadblocks they may have. They also save time at the end to share a a funny story, for example.
What's a Stand-up You Ask?
If you’re not familiar with standup meetings, they are 15-minute, daily video meetings usually held early in the workday. Each person spends about 30 seconds going through projects they worked on yesterday, what they will be working on today and any roadblocks they may have. This is not a rundown of every task they’re working on or a way to micromanage the team. The goal is to let your team know to keep their update to high-level information that other teammates need to be in the loop about.
Whatever is most familiar to your staff is going to be the easiest to transition and adopt quickly. If you implement a new tool, ensure you set up a team meeting to train everyone on the program.
Communication Tools: Microsoft Teams, Google hangouts, Slack
Shared File Storage: SharePoint, Dropbox, G Suite (Google Drive)
If you don't think this is will turn into a long-term situation for you, it’s still important to have shared documents that your team can access remotely.
- Zoom – has breakout room capability
- Google Meeting Rooms
Project Management tools: Trello, Asana, Pipedrive, Basecamp
If you're looking for a quick project management software, Trello, for the simplicity of it is fairly easy to set up.
Phone line Options:
- UberConference is a tool that offers phone conferencing calls, and screensharing (not videoconferencing) for about $20 month. It allows you to get a toll-free line which is great for international callers.
- Zoom phone: $10 per month per user
- VOIP phone line – you can transfer the line so his staff can plug in at home.
Whiteboard: Miro is good for visual maps & charts
Internal Process Documentation: Tettra, SharePoint
How are you sure the work is getting done? How long should an employee be away from their desk before they give a status update, for example?
- Set expectations for communicating status updates with your team.
- Make sure team members have everything set on their calendar (lunches, meetings, everything) and share the calendars.
- Slack, for example, is both on desktop and an app. It can be connected to various calendars (outlook, google) so team members can see if you are in a meeting. Availability indicators are also within some apps (Slack and Zoom, for example).
- Project management software really does help track the work being completed. Information is stored in the cloud and everyone can see the team, their projects, and see whose plate is full, and who might have some availability.
- Flexibility in an ever-changing situation: Even though MISBO's team is already remote, there were changes that still needed to be made to adapt to this new situation: things such as core hours, flexibility of schedules, issues with dependent care....they want the staff to not feel penalized or feel shy about asking questions concerning this. Communicate with your team and acknowledge that things are different, environments are different, and some of the things in the handbook may not apply during this temporary shutdown. This can ease some stress.
Internet: If you use Xfinity - be aware your router could be used as a public hotspot. You can call them to turn it off to protect your bandwidth. Videoconference meetings can use a lot of bandwidth.
How about hardware for sound? Do you recommend headphones, a standard mic or anything else to be heard better and to hear better?
Both wireless headsets and wired headsets can give clearer sound, there are several good ones out there with a wide range of prices.
How do you handle mail delivery?
- You can have your mail temporarily redirected to a PO box.
- PO Box at a UPS Store: you can get a physical address with a street number if you’re considering long-term remote work.
How do you handle checks that need signatures?
For MISBO, they have their bank generate checks and sends them out to the recipient for us. Approval still happens where it is supposed to.
For BAAA, they pull together a list of checks, get approval from the board chair for anything that needs it, and then the bank issues the checks. We also have asked as many vendors as we can to pay them via ACH or Zelle.
What do you use to have virtual Board Meetings, committee meetings, and/or education classes?
- Zoom conference calls - zoom has breakout room capability;
- Google meeting rooms
Keeping members engaged while events/offices are remote:
How are you communicating with your board and executive leadership?
While you don't want to be overburdensome, since they too are running in a million directions, be transparent with your leadership. It’s important to send something out at least acknowledging there is going to be an impact, but also reassuring them to let them know how your organization is modifying and adapting. The board doesn’t need to be in the weeds, but have reassurance that you're on top of the situation.
- MISBO: Asked those via email if they would share their proxy votes to the committee chairs so they could continue business/quorum.
- BAAA: Email the board if something big is coming up and hold votes electronically if your bylaws allow.
How are you communicating with your members?
- Right now, communication is the most important thing to do with your members.
- Brainstorm: what can do to provide information? Virtual town halls, webinars, emails, online forums, social media, website alerts.
- Consider partnering with other organizations to offer the programs to a wider audience.
- Use this opportunity to survey members, prompt them to think about what they would like to see from the association once we’re on the other side of this. Keep it short & sweet, 3-5 questions.
- Host webinars based on things like telework, customer service in the digital age, social media marketing, etc.
- Virtual Town Halls: 1 hour meeting for members for a brief “state of what’s going on within the association” and leave ample time for members to discuss what’s going on within their industry.
- Host Roundtables, similar to the town hall idea above: allow members to get together to talk to each other, or even a “Happy hour” or “fireside chat” zoom meeting. This could be done both internally for staff and/or with members, to keep them connected.
Event Messaging and Sponsor Recognition
How do we handle promotions for events that may have been postponed, cancelled, or moved to a virtual event?
In this instance you cannot over-communicate and that's where associations can really provide value; make sure everybody knows you're there for them, and operating as usual.
- Internally, consider developing several different resource pages, and utilize different communications methods.
- Consider reducing the promotional messaging for events.
Messaging: try to keep it simple and communicate virtually if possible. With everyone from Target to Constant Contact sending COVID-19 emails, it's really hard to get your messaging out through all the clutter!
What about Sponsor Recognition for postponed/now virtual events?
If switching to a virtual event, Zoom allows you to upload an image to use as a background. One option is to could create an image with sponsor logos (offset to the sides, assuming your head will usually be centered). To add a virtual background, use the "Video" settings (bottom of your screen).
You can also order step and repeat banners to place behind you for $88!
Social Distancing at the office:
We are working remotely this week but will start split team working next week so we aren't all in the office at the same time. Are any of you doing the same?
With concerns about Covid-19 lasting on hard surfaces, some association offices are staying remote, and some are going to be skeleton crew at least a few days a week.
Discounts, Freebies, Resources:
- Many of the platforms discussed and utilized have affordable or free options, and in light of the coronavirus pandemic are offering discounts and /or extended free trials.
- Take a look at sites like TechSoup: GoogleGrants, Causecast, etc.
- If you run a c3, take the opportunity to buy things for cheaper using the nonprofit rates.