Becoming a virtual organization

Since 2014, Vibrant Faith, the organization I work for, has been a virtual non-profit. We gave up our main office, our warehouse, and individual office space, and more our "offices" to our homes. It was one of the best decisions we made as an organization. It drastically reduced overhead. It eliminated the home office and deployed staff conversations. It moved conversations that were originally meeting agenda items to activities we dealt with immediately.
As we navigated this transition, here are a 5 essential things we learned:

1 | DECIDE WHICH PLATFORMS WILL BE USED TO MANAGE WORKFLOW
We decided to use Google Drive to store and share documents. We uploaded video to a Youtube channel. We used Slack to manage most staff-related conversations. We used Zoom for staff and leadership gatherings where we have the opportunity see people and their facial expressions. We learned the importance of naming protocols, clarifying Slack channels and what needed to be archived and for how long. We use email primarily for external clients and Slack for internal communications.

2 | DEAL WITH BIG/CONSEQUENTIAL ISSUES IN PERSON OR VIA ZOOM
We avoided using email or Slack to address issues that were quite consequential or delicate in nature. Until Covid-19 occurred, we scheduled 3-4 in person meetings a year work on major projects and iron out  personnel issues.
 
3 | CREATE CONSISTENT, CONCISE CHECK-IN TIMES WITH KEY STAFF
Our staff meetings every Monday for check-in and devotional time. I have weekly meetings scheduled with other staff throughout the week. If we don't need to meet, we cancel the scheduled time but at least it's on our calendar to ensure that there's space in our schedules to do so. These check-ins may last as little as 15 minutes or as long as an hour. We often send talk points to each other before these meetings occur.

4 | COMPENSATE STAFF FOR INCREASED USE OF THEIR PHONE, INTERNET, ETC.
Recognize that staff member's homes become their offices. They may need  laptops, printers and office supplies. Yes, they're avoiding a daily commute but they're also sacrificing space in their homes that could be used for other purposes. Budget accordingly to cover their home-based office expenses.

5 | RECOGNIZE THAT NOT EVERYONE IS WIRED TO WORK AT HOME OR INDEPENDENTLY
Not everyone is a self-starter and not everyone enjoys working without face-to-face communicatation with their colleagues. Many people with struggle with the need to resolve technology issues without other people's assistance. You'll find that some people will not be able to separate their private life with their professional life. Simply remember that some people will thrive in a virtual environment and others will not.

The bottom line is to have your "eyes wide open" when making a decision to go virtual. Ask the right questions before you dive in in order to avoid regrets later.  For Vibrant Faith, it was one of the best decisions we made as an organization, and with the right people and platforms, it might be a great option for you  as well.

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