How Nonprofits Can Embrace Remote Workers

Philip Manzano • Apr 14, 2017

Do you want the best talent, but find that the applicant pool is lacking? Getting quality applications within your organization’s geographic area can be a true test of patience. Add to that the salary and benefit limitations of many nonprofit organizations, and many of the best professionals are simply out of reach. So what options do you have for attracting the most qualified professionals to your organization? One option is to hire remote employees.

While it’s clear that not every position is suited for remote work, there are quite a few that lend themselves to geographic flexibility. And, while integrating remote team members into your staff may require a culture shift, the benefits often outweigh the effort required to make it work. In fact, a study published in the Harvard Business Review in 2014 suggested that remote employees may be more productive than their in-office counterparts. If this is true, as the study suggests, not only could nonprofits enjoy a larger applicant pool when hiring, but they may also gain a more productive team.

Rule #1: Make the work traceable.

The best remote positions are ones that produce deliverables. This allows both employer and employee to rest easy in the obvious results of time well spent. Any job that requires a product is one that will remove the questions of whether or not that remote employee is actually doing the work. My own experience as a remote writer has given me the ability to prove my work ethic without being in the office because I consistently produced the work. Easy as that.

Rule #2: Keep the employee engaged.

While this takes effort, it is essential. Make sure the remote employees are part of an organized team and have a manager or mentor for regular check-ins. Building relationships, even from a distance, is key to keeping the employee invested in the organization and team. There are different ways to do this. Inviting them to meetings virtually and budgeting for regular office visits are two options. Regular instant message chats, phone calls, and emails are ways to keep both managers and team members in the loop. In my own experience, the most engaging aspects of remote work have included regular Skype instant messaging chats and video conference calls. Be sure not to underestimate the power of simple, regular interaction.

Rule #3: Create an atmosphere of trust.

Trust, like anything else, must be built over time. But like any good relationship, communication is key. Remote work arrangements require all parties to explicitly state expectations, such as office hours, response times, and work environments that are conducive to scheduled and impromptu meetings. Through time and effort, these expectations can be refined and when they are consistently met they produce an environment of mutual trust.

If you’re struggling to fill a position because of the lack of qualified applicants in your geographic area, consider the possibility of hiring a remote employee. It may take a bit of effort, but with time and patience, it could be the thing that sets your organization above the rest.

The Keela team works closely with remote employees. Watch Nejeed Kassam’s webinar, Managing a Scattered Nonprofit Team, for even more helpful tips:

For Reference:

Nicholas Bloom. To Raise Productivity, Let More Employees Work from Home. Harvard Business Review. January—February 2014 Issue.

Cindy Wagman Head Shot

About the author:

Katie Davidson graduated from Indiana University with a Master of Public Affairs in Nonprofit Management and International Development. She has enjoyed over a decade of work in the nonprofit sector in many capacities. When she is not writing, she loves spending time with her husband and three kids at their home in the Caribbean.