Interview: Nonprofit Plans for Return to Work After Coronavirus

There’s a lot of uncertainty around what return to work will look like. We sat down with a Nonprofit to explore how they’re planning for return to work. F12 client Dana Prescott, Manager of Technology and Innovation of Covenant House Vancouver, also shares the technology that’s been rapidly adopted through Covid-19.

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Table of Contents:

00:08 – Introduction

00:33 – Impact of COVID-19

01:53 – Donors rallying to help

02:46 – Work From Home before COVID-19

04:03 – Planning for return to work

05:44 – Key tools for Work From Home

07:44 – Leveraging different media

09:09 – Flexibility from vendors

09:48 – Final thoughts


Q & A

My name is Dana Prescott and I am manager for technology and innovation at Covenant House Vancouver a shelter for youth age 16 to 24. We provide on-site living accommodations and also
drop-in facilities for kids that need to come in and have a shower get clothes do their laundry get a good meal and some hygiene products.

Q: Impact of COVID-19?

A: It’s been challenging but we’re really trying to accommodate and make things work so we still have lots of youth that live on site. Some have went to live with family or friends during this time but we do have a lot of youth that are staying on and we’re still taking new youth in as long as they follow on your guidelines you need to quarantine for 14 days if you’re new. We’ve had to change our setup because the youth are mostly stuck inside and some of them have lost their jobs so they have to stay in the facility now we don’t want them going out and coming back in because of obviously germs that can be passing so we’re finding ways to entertain 24/7 on sites.
For the youth I would say probably our biggest change be our drop-in center we no longer can have youth come into the facility and gathering and use you know they have computers and TV and they can lounge and just be in a protected place now. We are still providing food and hygienic needs and things that we can give them clothing but we have to do it outside so we’ve got a table set up that. Youth can come and ask for things and we will try and provide as best we can but that facility of a place to come into has had to close so that was one of our biggest changes.

Q: Donors rallying to help?

A: We’ve had some of our donors increase their donations, you’ve had some good good large donations which has been wonderful and I feel like people have really rallied around like so we have a lot of longtime donors that are really route rallied around to provide funding or even like PPE equipment that we would need so it’s actually been okay. There’s also been some funding through the city some different organizations specific to covid 19 that we’ve been able to get some extra funding through, so that’s helped because our technological needs have went up. Some of our other needs and different departments have went up to be able to provide more for the youth during this time so it has been it’s been working out pretty well so we’ve been very fortunate.

Q: Work From Home before COVID-19?

A: Yeah so most of our people worked on site and we’re actually kind of bursting at the seams trying to figure out how people can work and he just introduced but November of last year robbing desks so like a hoteling desk system for part of our team that did some work from home that mostly the management they would work from home one for two days a week and then they’d be in the office but most of the rest of the clerical staff admin we were getting quite full even though we had just moved into a brand new building last year a new five-story building we’re in the process of building another ten story building which will offer us more office space but it had become quite tight before this all happened and now all of our admin like our donations processing HR finance is all working from home so it showed us that people could really work from home and do it well and still stayed connected and productive and that’s just been I think eye opening for managers who maybe have been hesitant about that before that it is possible and people can do a great job from home just as much as they can from from on-site.

Q: Planning for return to work?

A: I’m in charge of our return to work plan so we’ve already started brainstorming what happens when we can start bringing people back into the office space and obviously it’s going to be on a very limited capacity for probably you know it could be up for a year, year and a half where we have this really limited capacity to have staff on-site you know you may have had 40 staff on one floor and now we can have 10 or 20 maybe so we’ve really had to set the expectation with people that this is going to be really a different trend in the way that we’re gonna work and it’s gonna be a different system obviously there’s gonna have to be a lot of precautions taken on site for cleanliness it possibly could do temperature checks we’re doing that with our youth right now so they get checked to make sure that they’re not running a fever or anything you know questioning staff before they come in if they’ve been sick or around somebody that’s been sick. So there’s lots of different processes we’re mulling over right now on how we can work differently in our space and I just think that those things are going to be adapted going forward because like I said we were bursting at the seams and trying to figure out how do we grow without a physical space to put somebody in and now I think we can continue to grow and we can be flexible with the space and people are set up from home now so you know maybe you work three days at home in two days in the office and that allows us to have another employee who can be using the same space so I think it really is going to change our mindset of how we use space going forward which is which is great. It kind of solves a problem we had before it’s forcing us into that solution but it’s a good.

Q: Key tools for Work From Home?

A: We over the last five years been even setting up to use a VoIP phone system we were cloud-based so we were using SharePoint and OneNote Onedrive we also had set up everyone in the last couple years with Surfaces so really transitioning to home was quite easy we had you know regular hiccups but it moved quite smoothly. The one thing that we were missing was using a platform like Teams we were planning on rolling that out closer to the summer so I had been starting to work on that but then we just you know put the pedal to the metal and said okay we’re using it now so that is a shift in the way we communicate because part of being in the office is that people really like that human connection and seeing their neighbor and talking face-to-face and we didn’t have a platform to do that from home so now that we’re using Teams that has really shifted our ability to communicate and I kind of think it saves us going forward on how we address not coming into the office for the next year or a limited amount of people coming into the office but we can still keep in touch using teams so that’s been really great and I we’re also using lob and desks and I think we’re going to use that in the future to possibly block off seats so that there’s only maybe 10 seats available on a certain floor and you booked them and it’s first-come first-serve so that I think we will be able to use that a bit differently from how we plan to use it originally before this all happened so adjusting those technologies and taking advantage of things that we were about to implement in new ways has been really great and people have been very adaptive so you know usually it could have been a struggle to get people to adapt to new technology but I think people understand the need to get on board really quickly and they see the benefit in it really quickly as well.

So we have on the communications front to getting information out to our donors like we’ve utilized email communication and also email drives we kind of use those before as well but we’re using our social media platforms more so you know Facebook page and other things that we’ve originally used but I’m using them in a new way our website we’re also using it to communicate what our needs are and what’s happening now with Covenant House as we go through this I’m able to get some good radio spots because the radios and TV networks are doing more highlighting of charities so that’s been really great our CEO has now started to video record herself doing messages to the staff to encourage which has been really great and that’s new to her having to film herself and we’ve been able to utilize Teams to do that and YouTube to upload it and send it out to everybody so we’ve had to adjust in some ways to instead of being able to do an in-person meeting how can we still get that relational communication across so doing that video is helpful and using Teams to have more meetings showing our faces to be able to communicate has been a great advantage.

Q: Flexibility from vendors?

A: It’s been really interesting to see some of these different services that we use changing how they’re being used and we can latch on to some of that change for our benefit so there’s been some opportunities to come out of it also some companies are offering some good discounts right now because they need to drum up business so I think as a charitable organization it’s nice that we can take advantage of some of those things and maybe try something new that maybe would have been a bit more pricey before or they’re a bit more flexible in doing a trial so that’s been something that we can kind of take to our advantage which is been good.

Q: Final Thoughts?

A: I guess just one just I think that it’s been great that I’ve seen so many organizations technical companies and like different places reaching out and wanting to collaborate together so I you doing this and talking to different people you guys are getting more ideas and I’m like Robin reaching out and doing all these webinars I think it’s been just really fascinating to see this community that can be very siloed working together and sharing ideas and figure out how we can use technology moving forward because everything’s been flipped on its head and I think everyone’s just trying to get their heads wrapped around it so it’s really nice to see businesses talking and working together more that’s been really great.