The Ins and Outs of Remote Work for Nonprofits

April 25, 2019 Roger Maftean

You never thought remote work would be the new norm for today’s workforce. But in the last ten years, telecommuting has grown by 140 percent.

Nonprofits have joined the trend. The number of nonprofit employees working remotely has increased by 20 percent in the last six years. And it’ll only continue to grow.

Remote work has its benefits—employees are more productive, companies cut costs, and employers can find the best talent when not restricted by location.

But—it’s only half the equation. Employees feel isolated, communication suffers, and collaborative efforts plummet. Worse, it’s a significant security threat when your nonprofit deals with confidential and vital material.

Can your nonprofit benefit from all the pluses of remote work while not falling victim to its vices?

Absolutely.

This post will teach you how.

You’ll discover what the ins and outs are for remote work—the benefits and the disadvantages. You’ll learn how your nonprofit can secure its important documentation. And best of all, you’ll find ways to adapt to the trend with simple steps you can implement now.

How Your Nonprofit Can Benefit from Remote Work

Is the hype surrounding remote work warranted?

The short answer—yes.

Think about the costs associated with running your nonprofit.

Employed workers make up a considerable chunk of your monthly expenses. It’ll be a constant.  You’ll always need employees to keep the organization operating smoothly. Each worker gets a salary plus benefits packages.

Salaries are here to stay. But—your fixed expenses change when you offer remote work. You’ll save tons of money when you provide the chance for your employees to work from home. You’ll decrease spending on building size, rent, furniture, workplace insurance, and energy.

Saving on these common costs isn’t the only benefit. Let’s say you have an opening for a program manager. Your task is to find the best talent to fit the position. Why limit the search to your nonprofit’s physical location?

Offering the remote option allows you a wider talent pool to fish from. And the best part—the top talent stays. Companies who offer a remote option saw a 50 percent employee attrition decrease. You’ll save even more time and resources not having to fill the position so often.

By far the largest benefit you’ll get from remote work is a massive productivity boost from your employees. Research shows telecommuters give a boost equivalent to a full day’s work. And workers benefit from it as well.

Your employees spend half of the work week commuting. You won’t hear employees say how they have to leave early or if they are late to the office. Working remotely makes them more focused on their daily tasks and less distracted from the hectic commute.

Let’s not forget the ecological benefits of having your employees work remotely. Your organization can boast that it reduces its carbon footprint.

The Pitfalls of Remote Work

Benefits are bountiful for remote work. But—are there any downsides to it?

Yes—and it can do a ton of damage to your organization, employees and your mission. Let’s start by seeing how it affects your team.

Remote workers suffer from isolation and loneliness. It’s the major downside to not coming into an office every day. And you’d think with all of the technological advancements in communication, there wouldn’t be an issue when it comes to communicating with others. But, it isn’t always true.

21 percent of people who work remotely believe collaboration suffers when they’re removed from the office. This is a major risk for the nonprofit sector where collaboration on projects is critical. Someone might need an answer right away regarding a specific project, and if they have to wait for hours for an answer, then it affects productivity and worsens team morale.

Collaboration is key to creativity as well, and face-to-face meetings really matter in this case. This is difficult in remote working spaces. Teams are disjointed and people are apprehensive. Solving problems is more difficult when people don’t want to voice their concerns.

If nonprofits do take on remote work, then each step of the project should be traceable; this helps to overcome the lack of transparency. Checking in on project managers is critical to keep the employees engaged. You don’t want an employee to rush out a project task one day out of the week when they should spend several days working on it.

Secure Your Remote Workers

The largest downside to remote work for nonprofits is security. You deal with a lot of confidential information and should secure yourself from being hacked in today’s digital age. Here are a few tips on what you should do to implement better security for remote workers.

  • Don’t trust the WiFi. Make sure the connections your employees use are safe. You may consider adopting a policy prohibiting employees from using public WiFi on their work devices.
  • Consider high-level security. Get your employees set up with an encrypted laptop and make sure they sign into a secure VPN to help protect extremely sensitive IPs.
  • Use secure cloud-based services. Make sure to have solid security measures in place to protect your data. Leverage email and collaboration tools that allow users to securely access office applications and share files using computers and mobile devices.
  • Never use USB devices. Or at a minimum, require remote workers to only use USB devices that have been cleared by your IT department. However, if you are using secure, cloud-based platforms, your workers should not have the need for USB devices.
  • Create complicated password requirements. The age of using simple birthdays and children’s names are over. Make sure your guidelines advise employees to not use words or sentences, and to instead use a long string of characters, numbers, letters, and symbols together. Advise employees of approved, secure password managers to help them recreate and remember all of the passwords they’ve created for your systems.

Final Thoughts

You know you’ll have to adapt to the remote work trend in some way. Maybe you’ve already done so, to varying degrees of success.

So—start by implementing these simple steps. You’ll know how to secure yourself from the downside of remote work while reaping all of its benefits for your nonprofit and employees.

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