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January 20, 2022
 
Nonprofits Have Unique Opportunity to Shape Post-Covid Workplace
By Claudia Lach

Claudia Lach
Claudia Lach

After 15 months of living and working in a Covid-dominated world, small and mid-size nonprofits have an opportunity during the current transitional period to full reopening to transform their workplace, taking into account employees’ concerns and organizational needs.

A lot of employees who skillfully managed working remotely have concerns about going back to the way they worked before the pandemic struck. Long commutes and the expense associated with them, constant office interruptions, and lack of flexibility are among the issues they don’t want to confront again.

Nobody has a successful blueprint to plan the reopening, and one approach won’t work for every organization. However, managers can use this unique moment to create a new work reality that increases worker satisfaction with the potential to improve service delivery.

Take time to reflect on lessons learned.

Remember March and April of 2020 when we all needed to rapidly learn to work in new and different ways? Remember the challenges of that time and how at the end things got organized for the most part and the work was done?

Then ask yourself:

  • What have you learned about yourself, your colleagues, and your workplace during this time?
  • Can you have a collective discussion about lessons learned as an organization?
  • What contributed to a good work environment and outcomes while employees were dealing with family responsibilities, a non-optimal place for work in their household, the illness themselves or of their loved ones, and the stress of living in a pandemic?
  • What organizational challenges emerged, and how were they overcome?
  • What were the consequences of new problems that were not successfully solved?
  • What positive aspects of the new work model should be adopted by the organization in the long run?

Answers will vary for each organization, and they should form the basis for next steps.

For example, a social worker in an early intervention program noticed that working with the parents through telehealth made the parents take a much more active role with their children, compared to working in the house with them. Could this unexpected consequence pave the way to improving the program? Of course, the organization needs to include a careful examination of the expected outcomes exhibited by the children through telehealth during this time as well as other factors like funding sources supporting telehealth.

Evaluate positions and tasks that require employees to be on-site or in the field full time.

Many managers reluctant in the past to allow employees to work remotely have realized that productivity could remain the same or be even higher if some staff continue to work remotely. Of course, not every function can be done remotely. Organizations should assess what positions may be optimal for a hybrid model or fully remote work if employees are interested in it.

These potential changes will require new policies to make the workplace fair and equitable. For example, employees who do not commute may have reduced transportation expenses but may need to be provided with the IT infrastructure to do their work. At the same time, employees who commute every day could be compensated for that expense.

Understand the unique drivers of your employees.

Not everyone is eager to continue working from home. Some find it really lonely or they lack the space to do it. For others, working from home gives them more flexibility to balance work and family responsibilities. Surveys show that most people want more flexibility, and that greater choice improves job satisfaction.

Plan a formal event to co-create the new workplace.

Some organizations are planning their annual summer retreat. Some will do it virtually, but the warm weather presents the possibility of doing this outdoors. This event is a perfect opportunity to have conversations around work arrangements.

If a retreat is not part of the organization’s rituals, set up a formal time to engage staff to celebrate the work done this past. Recognizing the emotional toll experience as a collective and envisioning the new workplace can provide a healthy transition to a new phase.

Claudia Lach, principal of Lach Training & Consulting, an organizational development consultant and leadership coach, works with leaders, teams, and organizations to reach their next stage with clarity and commitment. Email her at claudia@lachtc.com or call 781-860-9782.

June 2021

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