Would working out of the office vs. working help nonprofit organizations in the long term?
The pandemic jet-fueled significant shifts in the world’s work-life pattern. Yet had COVID-19 hit twenty years earlier, the effect would have been far more devastating.
It just so happened that relatively new technologies were in place and waiting, prepared to cushion the blow. From the smartphone, Zoom calls, and the home delivery of goods and services, changes in the virtual world stepped up to change the real one.
From movie stars to office management, remote working has quickly become the norm. It turned a morning commute into the morning stroll to the home office, via the shower and the coffee pot.
As vaccine programs roll out around the world, nonprofits are tentatively awaiting the return of “normal.” Now is the right time to ask if one of the pandemic’s major impacts on daily life could be here to stay.
Saving from staying home
Going by the average, a standard office lease for a nonprofit in the USA will be around $5,000 per person per year. This figure will vary widely depending on locality and personal circumstances, but either way, the square footage of the office accounts for a mammoth chunk of a nonprofit’s overhead. After the cancellation of so many in-person fundraising events, the prospect of clawing back some of this outlay couldn’t have come at a better time.
If the option to work from home is viable, should we take it?
- Stress levels are thought to be reduced.
- Studies indicate home workers have a greater sense of job satisfaction.
- Your labor pool is bigger; you can hire from further afield.
- You’ll have significant savings on utilities, rent, and expense accounts.
- Research suggests those working from home also take fewer sick days.
- It’ll be easier for smaller nonprofits to survive on a budget.
- The hours spent on commuting are saved.
- Without observers, the pull of the smartphone or Netflix means employees are open to distraction.
- There’s no routine.
- The nonprofit’s sense of center may be lost.
- Managing your team from a distance requires a whole new set of skills.
- There’s no ability to bond with colleagues and enjoy the comradeship via a shared office space. If you rely on team spirit and esprit de corps, then it’s hard to see how that can be held together over Zoom calls.
- There’s a higher investment in home technology, with IT support becoming crucial.
In September 2020, Enterprise Technology Research (ETR) contacted over a thousand CIOs (Chief Information Officers) from a broad range of countries and industries.
Generally there was a positive expectation for the economy in 2021, something which has been largely proven right despite new restrictions in place in Europe and Asia.
They reported that working from home had led their businesses to focus on the technology to make this transition possible.
Those in the technology sector are predicting other sectors like the nonprofit one will see 34% of the workforce working remotely permanently. This is compared with just 10% pre-pandemic.
Their findings concluded that this was in large part due to CEOs and boards reporting higher productivity as their staff worked through the pandemic from their laptops.
Just under 50% stated that productivity had grown whilst remote working, with certain sectors doing better than others.
The benefits of this shift may be greater for some organizations, so what you do could be a primary influence concerning long-term nonprofit remote work.
Here are five important factors to consider when adding up the pros and cons of nonprofit remote work.
- Is your online presence ready to pick up the slack?
- How does your board feel about decentralization?
- How do your staff and volunteers feel about it?
- How much would you save?
- How could nonprofit remote work impact your mission?
Lastly, is there is a third way? Consider the hybrid option.
It’s possible to make the office remote as well as the staff. Consider creating a day or afternoon in the week when the workforce of your nonprofit can get together somewhere else to conduct meetings and touch base. You may not need a permanent office space for this, and you could also focus on it being more of a team-building exercise. You may be able to share an office space for these purposes, pooling your resources with other nonprofits or local businesses to save money and use time more effectively.
The changes to how the world works are real, but either way all of us in large or small nonprofits will continue to work together, even if it’s across a laptop screen rather than the desk cubicle. Terry from Accounting will still be able to tell his bad Dad jokes, only now through a Zoom call rather than across the desk!