Ready Or Not, Nonprofit Arts Orgs Need To Start Thinking About Working From Home Options

NPR.com published an intriguing segment by Yuki Noguchi on 3/9/2020 that examined decisions by many companies to keep employees home over concerns about the coronavirus outbreak.

For a host of reasons, remote working is still a bit of a hot button issue for nonprofit performing arts orgs. I know plenty of employees that rue the lack of flexible remote work options and just as many executives firmly entrenched in the “hell no” camp.

But the coronavirus may force everyone to reconsider. At least, temporarily.

The twist here is unlike a planned trial, groups are going to have to make do with resources on hand in order to maximize productivity. To that end, here are some considerations you should figure out before making any decisions.

Where’s Your Data?

Fortunately, most organizations I encounter already have a good bit of day to day and critical data in cloud storage solutions. If that’s the case for your organization, you’re good to go. Just make sure employees can access those storage providers remotely.

If you keep files and data on local hard drives, invest in some inexpensive USB Flash drives or portable hard drives ASAP so employees can access that data via their remote devices.

Turns Out I Don’t Have An App For That

Having a remote computer workstation or laptop is one thing, having the software you need to complete tasks is something else entirely.

Office productivity software and apps like Microsoft Office, Adobe Creative Suite, etc., come with multi-user licenses but those licenses are often connected to a specific device. For laptop users, this is likely a moot issue, but desktop users may be out of luck if they don’t disable the work machine’s license before trying to active on a remote computer.

Secure And Speedy Connections

For most workers, the data they need to access doesn’t include private or financial information. But for those who do, you’ll need to confirm if their remote internet access meets any security standards in place via your office connection.

If you don’t have any standards, then you’re good to go (but you should probably investigate that).

If you have a staff IT person/department or you pay a third-party provider, contact them to ask about your options and working with employees that need secure connections to confirm their remote computer connections are good to go.

Don’t forget coronavirus remote work means you won’t likely have the luxury of connecting to fast Wi-Fi via a café or other public location. As such, make sure your home connection is fast enough to accomplish your tasks.

DON’T FORGET YOUR [****ING] PASSWORDS!

You’ve got access to your data, all the software and apps you need to get things done, and a nice secure connection. But that may amount to squat if you don’t have your passwords.

Hopefully, you’re already using a password manager, like LastPass.com. If not, then this is the best possible reason to get started.

Remote Work Tips

As someone who has spent more than 25 years in a home-based office and employs a 100% remote workforce, here are a few tips to smooth the transition.

  • Find your workplace Zen. Everyone has a unique formula to becoming the most efficient office worker possible. Taking a little extra time to set up a workspace is a worthwhile investment.
  • Minimize distractions. Most full-time remote workers tend to be highly self-disciplined and know how to create environments that maximize productivity. If your remote work is short term, just be honest with yourself and filter out distractions.
  • Kids and pets. If you have kids, there’s a pretty good chance that if you’re not in the office, they’re home from school. If you have pets, they’ll be thrilled you’re home and try to soak up all that extra time. Those are all considerations that have the potential for impacting time management and productivity.
  • Loneliness. If you think your colleagues are more time burglars than anything else, this is going to be amazing. If you’re the kind of worker who performs best with interaction, you may want to make sure you have a communications tool to connect with coworkers. Don’t rely on email, keep that set aside for formal work communication. But something like Slack, Telegram, WhatsApp, etc. can be a good way to remain connected.
  • Focus on old-school tasks. Do you have a stack of donor thank-you letters that need a physical signature? Make sure you bring them home with you.

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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