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Work From Home: Why & How Nonprofits Should Embrace It

work from home

work from home

In a recent Bloomerang webinar, one nonprofit leader asked an important question:

What if working from home did not work out? 

This person writes, “Working from home is something staff is requesting. Huge trust factor is necessary for this. The agency tried this once before and was burned (staff posted pictures of themselves at the beach with statement: this is what it is like to work for our agency! :()  Any suggestions on guidelines for allowing staff to work from home?”

Okay bosses, here’s the thing:

If they boldfaced lied to you, they said they were working, and they were ACTUALLY at the beach, that is akin to stealing from your organization. They broke your trust. Maybe you can never trust them again and they should be disciplined or even dismissed.

BUT some people can work from the beach. Were they working, or were they playing? Do you allow them a work laptop to work when and where they want? Maybe they could work from the beach, if they build up trust with you.

So now comes the question:

How could they deliberately build trust with you?


That is the question they should be asking you. AND! Once they ask it, you have to ask yourself.

What would make you trust them?

What metrics really matter for their jobs? Is it that they are behind their desk every day at 9am? Or is it that they get their work done with a smile and hit deadlines and goals?

Are you giving them enough deadlines, metrics, and reachable goals so that working from home would have a measurable output you could look at each week?

If you are looking to get approval to work from home, here are three key questions you can ask:

  1. How could I build trust with you?
  2. What could I do to show you I am ready to work from home and be super productive?
  3. What metrics would show you that working from home does work for us?

If you are a boss, and you want to help employees become more productive and less-stressed (and potentially save money!) consider having folks work from home.

Here are four key reasons why.

1. A longer commute is shown to decrease productivity exponentially, according to an Independent article.

Why? Because people have less time to exercise, to eat well, and to sleep enough, if they are commuting a significant length of time every day.

2. For better work/life balance, working from home allows staff to rest and recharge on the day that they do it.

This de-stressing is critical to staff health. You’ll find people use less sick time. According to the New York Times, you might even achieve a similar outcome with a 6 hour workday instead of an 8 hour work day. Who even decided that 8 hours was necessary? What we’ve found when we work fewer hours, either through a day at home, or a 6 hour work day, is we do a better job. We’re more effective as workers. And we have more to give to our families and friends.

3. Not to mention, you have less people in the office, so need for space goes down!

I was meeting with a client this week and they want to hire another staff person but have no place to put them! So, they are considering allowing this staff person to work in a co-working space down the street from their office. This way, they can save money on office space, while at the same time providing a desk for the new employee. I think it’s genius.

4. Working from home is good for the environment!

According to The Guardian, subtracting one day a week where employees don’t have to commute can reduce their carbon footprint by 15%!

It doesn’t just have to be environmental organizations who care about this.

To make working from home truly work, the employer and the employees need to make an effort and have a genuine, open and honest conversation about expectations. But it is possible!

Has your organization implemented a work from home policy? Why or why not? Let me know in the comments below!

Check out our State of the Nonprofit Workplace 2019 Infographic to see how the average nonprofit employee feels right now about the workplace culture, benefits, perks and other qualities they’re currently experiencing.

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  • Mazarine Treyz

    hi Emily that rocks! :) So glad it's working! I hope people read this and think, "how can I make this work for MY org?"
  • Mazarine Treyz

    hi Jean! So glad to hear you are having success with this model!
  • Jean Smith

    Our organization has one paid staff and active Board members who carry out program and administrative roles. All of us work from home. A few issues solved: - Access to information is carried out with a shared Google calendar, Box for all documents, financial reports, committee and Board agendas, a cloud based constituent relationships management system and regular committee conference calls. - Meeting space through local libraries, fire stations (!), other non-profit conferences rooms, mostly at no charge - Staff fills out detailed monthly time-sheet so bookkeeper knows how the attribute his expenses and salary to grants. - Trust is built by looking at results. (If the staff person was supposed to get 5 business leaders to sign on, did it happen or not? Same with Board members.) Still working on these: - Someone to talk through ideas, share in problem-solving, etc. Phone calls do not take the place of dailey or weekly face-to-face meetings. A weekly face-to-face is not feasible since we are scattered across 3 locations about 160 miles distant from each other. Family members are OK, but not the same as work colleagues. - Formal and informal regular oversight as is usual with an ED and staff - Some would prefer an office in order to separate work from family. All in all, this is working and it saves a pile of money in office rent and commuting time. l .
  • Emily Roush

    Our organization has about 75% of the staff working at home. With the exception of a couple people who just need self-discipline and focus, we are all extremely productive. Because we have a trust from our organization leaders and genuine interest in seeing the organization succeed, we all make sure we get our work done effectively whether we’re working from a home office, a coffee shop or beside a pool.
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