Remote Work: “Home is Where the WiFi Connects Automatically”
Our definition of “home” has changed drastically: telecommuting, blurred lines between public and private space, off-site consulting, websites as the new real-estate…how does this affect non-profit employers and workers?
Let’s face it: the 9 to 5 office job is not the norm anymore.
For the most part, it’s a personal style issue. Some folks just work better when it’s absolutely silent around them: that doesn’t happen often in an office – especially if you have an open floor-plan or cubicles instead of rooms with doors. Others get too distracted at home, with the clutter, the kids, the laundry that needs doing. It’s not everyone who is an effective remote worker.
As a non-profit or charitable foundation, it’s likely that your mission and budget make these decisions for you. If you are a service-provider for, say, homeless outreach, you can’t do that work remotely. That’s inarguable. But your administrative staff? Your communications staff?
With more people telecommuting to work, what does this mean for the people who do come to the office? How does this affect remote workers? Is this good for everyone or just some?
For workers: Don’t doubt your feelings! What makes you comfortable is a big part of what makes you effective. If you prefer looking a colleague in the eye instead of being on the phone with them (or instead of looking them in the forehead, as many with webcams must), then that’s your preference. Own it. As more and more of your peers and colleagues think about remote work, if you’re the person who needs real-world face time and not FaceTime on an iPad, say so. Set meetings regularly. Be a fixture on your colleagues’ calendars. If on-site work is essential for your efficiency, that’s great.
For Employers: There’s no substitute for the camaraderie and rapport between people who work in close physical proximity to each other. Being available for quick questions, for a laugh, for advice, for hands-on help: you can’t really replicate that via Skype or Hangouts or FaceTime. Consider the needs of your staff as a whole – do more of the team prefer working on-site or off? Are those who prefer working offsite actually effective at it? You don’t have to be dramatic about putting a limit on remote work if you find that dispersal has a negative effect on productivity and cohesion.
Making an honest assessment of yourself and your team is difficult, but if you find it’s really important for staff to be physically onsite to get your work done, make that the policy. There are always exceptions or time-specific cases where you can allow for remote access. But don’t let that slide into a lack of clarity. Be definite with your policy and set the boundaries needed to ensure onsite workers are glad to be there.
For workers: You can’t put a price on peace and quiet. If you’re the kind of person who has made working at home (or in your own private office) the perfect balance of quietude and concentration, more power to you!
It’s important to remember, though, that while you’re in an oasis of your own making, there are still people you’re working with (and for) who have different needs. Don’t forget to touch base with them often and regularly. To be part of a team remotely, you have to assert your presence more deliberately, since you’re not there to be heard or seen.
Be truthful but fair about your time. Try logging what you do with a tracker or timer – there’s an amazing browser app called Paydirt that does just that – or keeping your day structured into hours or periods where you work on specific tasks. Don’t nickel and dime yourself, but don’t put yourself in the position where it seems like you’re inflating your hours.
Doing laundry while working? It is possible but not everyone is good at it. Be honest with yourself: is remote work about your ability to concentrate and be effective, or to balance your work and home life? Or is it just about wanting to multi-task? If you’re caring for your kids or an elderly person while trying to have a full-time job, that’s really tough. Respect. But remember, doing two things at once doesn’t mean you’re doing both of them well.
For Employers: Being available is a hard thing to manage when someone is away. There are things we can do to be present without being present, like having Skype or Google Hangouts on all day. Some offices have iPads atop mini Segways, running FaceTime constantly, that roll around on little wheels to simulate a remote employee. Short of turning your office into a comically wheeled circus, think about what your remote needs are. With cloud platforms like Google Drive and Microsoft 365, productivity online has never been easier, or more effective. Access to the tools and files you need is no longer a factor of being in a room with those tools and files.
Offsite work gives many people – especially parents or caregivers – the flexibility they need to get work done without sacrificing time on the home-front. It means people can live in more affordable areas even if they work in dense cities.
What does this mean?
So if more people are electing to work remotely more often, does that affect your organization’s overall sense of unity? Well, that depends on your organization’s priorities. What do you – as a company – need more: personal happiness and fulfillment in life, or collaboration and unity of purpose?
Know yourself, and know your organization’s priorities. Ask your staff and co-workers what their needs are.
If you’re working with people in-person or remotely, you’re still working together. That means communicating with each other honestly about what works – and what doesn’t work – in an honest, open way. Give yourself, your peers, your employees, even your families, a chance to weigh in on what is really best for getting the job done.
Quiz: Does your office need an office?
Is your organization staffed by just a few people? Do you need to interact with your peers or clients on a regular basis? Take the quiz!
Each of the answers gives you points. Answer with 1. and that’s 1 point. Answer with 5. and that’s 5 points.
Think about why you need headquarters. Is it:
- To provide the services your organization offers?
- To give your staff somewhere to work centrally?
- To receive visitors and donors?
- To take calls?
- Just Because?
How many people use your HQ, and how often are they there?
- Everyone – including service recipients – every workday.
- Between 10 and 20 people on workdays.
- Fewer than 10 people on workdays.
- Fewer than 5 people, weekly.
- Fewer than 5 people, less than weekly.
Where do your employees live?
- Within public transportation range of your offices.
- Within 2 hours’ driving distance.
- Most of your staff telecommute from within the same time-zone.
- Most of your staff telecommute from outside your time-zone.
- Everyone is in a different country or time-zone.
What do your staff members do?
- Provide your services.
- Manage service provision.
- Administration or communications.
- Fundraising or development only.
- Sign the checks and give approval.
4 to 10 points: You’re good where you are. You need all the space you can get, and having a physical location is part of what you do. You can allow for remote workers within your staff, but on the whole, you need people to be there.
11 to 15 points: Your location is central to your services and administration, but you’ve got some flexibility when it comes to your staff working remotely. Many of your staff members work remotely and could do more. If you’re looking for a way to decrease your budget, have you thought of moving to a more compact office?
16 to 18 points: Looks like you’ve got either a small team or a group of folks who all work remotely quite often. Is your office space sitting empty or underused most of the time? Have you thought about renting the space out to other organizations? Do you mostly use your office for storing files? If so, there are cheaper storage solutions out there! Maybe it’s time to invest less in physical space and in more tech solutions like cloud-based services to make remote working more effective and accessible.
19 or 20 points: You really don’t need an office. Have you thought about using a co-working space, or about having your organization housed elsewhere? Keeping an office space you don’t need is an unnecessary drain on your budget, especially with so many other flexible solutions out there.
Something To Think About
Among the many other services we provide at Perry Davis Associates, we offer housing and administration for small non-profits (those who are only raising funds, or not providing services directly) and international organizations without New York or USA headquarters.
If you’d like to discuss how an offsite housing solution like ours might benefit your organization, call +1 (212) 840-1166 or email us.