Transitioning the FSI team from an office to working from home

As the new of Covid-19 hit the UK, I must admit I was thankful that we took the decision more than three years ago to move to a more cloud-based operational model. This included moving our shared digital files to SharePoint (thanks to Microsoft and its free access to charities) and to utilise cloud-based programmes such as our project management tool (we use Asana) and CRM (we use HubSpot).

In the perfect world I’d say pilot it, approach in phases; but in today’s reality, it is more like….just do it.  I hope our experience offers learning for others in the same boat! 

Photo by tribesh kayastha on Unsplash

Just have a go

You can spend a lot of time thinking and planning what you can do, how it will work, how it won’t work, what will go right or wrong, etc  but sometimes you’ve just got to have a go.

So for our current Coronavirus situation it was a question of: how do we move from working in a digital office to working from home digitally, in the quickest way possible.  It would be great if we had a storeroom of spare laptops and mobiles on standby we could hand out to everyone, but in a small charity like ours this wasn’t our reality!  So, my first two questions were:

  • What equipment does the team need? 

  • What do we have as charity already? 

For example, we had a handful of basic mobile phones that we use for our Big Advice Day remote advice calls that we could re-purpose so staff didn’t have to use personal phones for work if they did not want to.

Get some cheerleaders

Even when we implemented the move to cloud-based solutions I ensured I had at least one early adopter, willing to embark on the journey with me.  Not everyone will be excited by the prospect of working digitally from home, some may be anxious – so I’d recommend you find your cheerleader.  Not only will they keep you driven and excited about the new approach, they can also feedback on challenges which will feel more like an objective opinion than a negative naysayer.

So, with Coronavirus striking, I had to open up the opportunity for cheerleaders to everyone! This was an emergency. I asked our staff and volunteers:

  • What do you have access to at home – and what would you be prepared to use to support the charity at this time?  For example, personal mobiles and laptops, their broadband, unlimited data or phone calls on their mobile?

Admittedly, whilst I asked these question to the team I was also making plans B, C and D for the eventuality of them not being able to have access to hardware and connectivity.

Things will go wrong

So, our next challenge was how to ensure our members can contact us once we are out of the office and homeworking. Simple, right? Let’s forward the phone!

Nope unfortunately, things go wrong.  In our case it was our our mobile phone provider cutting off our back up mobile phones in error on the day the team were leaving the office, through to the new telephone provider for our office struggling to transfer the main phone group to another phone.

All I can say is have yet another plan B! Remember it does not matter if what you implement is not perfect, if you are doing your best to make it work….people will be a lot more patient and appreciative of the situation (especially in the current environment).

Support the team

Having successfully transitioned the team to remote working, the ongoing communication and support for the team was vital.  Our senior management team was mindful of the need for flexibility – some of our staff live in shared housing situations, some have had to deal with school and nursery closures, and they all had different access to tech and suitable home-working set ups.  We were clear that now was not the time to be overly prescriptive and that two-way trust is paramount.

We put in place some steps to help team members feel connected and supported and to ensure we didn’t lose some of the value that comes from working in a shared office space:

  • A morning team ‘huddle’ – everyone joining a video call for 15 mins at the start of the day to share a) how they are feeling; b) what their top priorities are for the day and c) what help they need from others across the team.  When we had significant projects on we added an afternoon huddle.

  • Implementing Microsoft Teams to allow for smaller team and 1:1 instant messaging, calls and check ins.  As an aside, we implemented it in a matter of hours and we love it!

  • Using our team WhatsApp group for more informal conversations – sharing pictures of cats/kids/lunches and generally having a bit of a laugh with one another. 

Celebrate the successes