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The rapid shift to virtual operations required organizations to quickly source and provide training around new technology as well as provide funding for employees to establish home offices. During this shift, virtual collaboration and meeting platforms such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom became commonplace. While some organizations used these platforms pre-pandemic, others had to get staff up to speed by providing training to employees to ensure they understood how the technology worked. The switch to virtual also required organizations to adapt their methods, channels and frequency of communications to clarify new expectations and establish rules of engagement around working in a virtual environment. Finally, some organizations provided extra stipends or funds for employees to purchase any work-related materials or supplies that they needed during the transition to support their new work environment.

As a result of the pandemic, our employees are working

However, setting up functional workspaces and providing adequate tools were just the tip of the iceberg. The heavy lift for most organizations was ensuring continued engagement. From virtual happy hours and end-of-year celebrations to virtual games and more frequent all-staff meetings, organizational leaders sought multiple opportunities to foster face-to-face virtual connections. Some organizations increased the cadence of all staff meetings because leaders wanted to maintain or increase interaction with their teams. For others, weekly work-focused staff meetings were supplemented by weekly optional free forum meetings or “Friday Fun Time” to ensure each staff member had face time with one another. Others still developed weekly newsletters to keep staff not only engaged with organizational happenings but also connected to others by sharing personal announcements. Regardless of the solutions, organizations sought new methods to engage and connect with staff.

Tailoring solutions to fit: Organizations transitioned based primarily on their service models. Staff was virtual when possible while others would need to go into the office or out into the community, depending on the nature of the position.

Issues related to equity across positions arose quickly during this time. These perceived inequities, however, were followed by an understanding of necessity by role and essential staff. Amidst tensions that surfaced from staff concerned for their safety and the safety of the people they live with, organizations were left with concerns about service delivery and mission execution. While providing the essentials such as PPE was a given, some were able to meet in the middle and provide stipends and other incentives. Others chose to roll over vacation leave instead of letting it expire so that staff could have a longer time off to regroup.

As burnout and Zoom fatigue became increasingly frequent, some CEOs decided to reduce the workweek hours. One in particular reduced the workweek to about 30 hours to help accommodate staff that was balancing work, homeschooling and/or caregiving. In addition, employees in that organization could flex hours within the workday. This CEO also closed the organization for a week during Juneteenth of last year due to the high levels of stress during the climate of increased focus on social justice and racial inequity. Another CEO also started a series called Tee Up, which was a 90-minute informal chat that allowed anyone on staff access to the CEO. Once leaders realized that remote work was going to be long-term, they had to find a way to facilitate balance because overworking was not sustainable, and many staff were experiencing burnout.

Whether organizations experienced unanticipated positive benefits resulting from staff working remotely or in a hybrid model

To require vaccination or not? Walking the thin line between safety and infringing on personal choice.

COVID-19 vaccinations have become a major consideration, particularly since the CDC lifted the mask mandate. Some employers just set up return-to-workplace plans and, per the CDC, vaccinated individuals do not have to wear masks indoors. So, leaders are now asking if they should ask for proof of vaccination or if they should have vaccinated employees come in on certain days and non-vaccinated employees come in on other days. Neither solution is advised. In fact, Nonprofit HR’s return to workplace pulse survey found that only 11% of organizations are requiring employees to get Covid-19 vaccinations to work in the physical workplace. Instead, leaders are taking the time to think through how to address the issue and survey their teams. Since many employers are considering returning to the workplace after Labor Day, there is an opportunity to slow down and strategically think through how to address these issues. Whatever the outcome, the goal is to ultimately choose solutions that are equitable and do not segment a certain population based on vaccination status. 

Organizations requiring employees to get the COVID-19 vaccination to work in the physical workplace

Out of sight, not out of mind: How to effectively integrate remote workers into the culture once the office opens again.

By now, company leaders have realized a one-size-fits-all approach to improving culture does not work. Instead, they aim to engage with staff in ways that each individual prefers. A common challenge in hybrid models with some remote staff who are in other locations is the feeling of isolation from staff who are in the office. Creating engagement opportunities that allow everyone on staff to feel a part of the group will vary from organization to organization. For introverted staff, email communication may be preferable. For those who want to physically connect, happy hours may be the preferred option. Either way, continuing to survey staff will provide insights on what really works best for them, help them feel supported and facilitate engagement. 

For more insights on progress, concerns and lessons learned from implemented return-to-workplace and work-from-home plans, download the 2021 Nonprofit Return to Workplace Pulse Survey report. The report includes critical findings on which future remote work options organizations are considering and how nonprofits have been able to shift and sustain their talent management priorities during the pandemic.

Related Case Studies

Mini-Case Study #1 ScenarioAn organization’s leadership wanted to shift to a fully virtual model/workforce, but they had many years left on their lease.
Mini-Case Study #2 ScenarioAn organization was in the middle of transitioning to a mostly virtual workforce and suddenly faced new challenges when this transition required expeditions.


Mini-Case Study #3 ScenarioAn organization that was already shifting toward a hybrid workforce model now faced new considerations given the sudden onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.


About Tamika S. Hood, MPS, CPDC, PHR, SHRM-CP
Consultant, Strategy & Advisory

Tamika S. Hood joined Nonprofit HR’s Strategy & Advisory team with several years of HR experience and ten years of customer service and retail management experience. Before joining Nonprofit HR, Tamika served in internal HR roles with social justice and equity mission-driven nonprofits, such as the Center for Community Change and the Education Trust. See Tamika’s full bio.

About Aimee Wood, SHRM-CP
Associate Consultant, Outsourcing

Aimee Wood is an Associate Consultant for the firm’s Outsourcing division. She supports clients within the Law and Education industries in areas including recruiting and staffing, employee relations, human resources information systems management, employee benefits, human resource compliance, performance management, training and development and strategic planning. She appreciates the opportunity to practice human resources while supporting the missions of her nonprofit clients. See Aimee’s full bio.

About Nonprofit HR’s Outsourcing Practice

Nonprofit HR’s Outsourcing practice gives your organization all the benefits of an in-house HR team, but with less internal full-time staff and more expertise. Our dedicated HR consultants can manage all aspects of your human resources function, from talent acquisition and onboarding to workforce planning and employee relations. Packages are available for as few as twenty hours per month and can be tailored to any budget. Want to learn more about HR Outsourcing or simply have a question? Contact us now.

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