Working remotely and the nonprofit communicator
Recently Melissa Mayer yanked the plug on working remotely at Yahoo. The decision kicked off an interesting debate about productivity, culture, and focus when workers aren’t necessarily embedded in the Mother Ship.
I started Big Duck in 1994, in the Dark Ages before ubiquitous email, internet, or iPhones. I rode my dinosaur to the office every day, where my employees and I worked diligently together. Because Big Duck began with a bricks-and-mortar office, working in the same space got baked into our culture, and a shared sense of values emerged. Funnily enough, I appreciate the benefits of working in an office today more than ever. Every day, Ducks are collaborating, connecting, and having fun in the office. That facetime makes it easier to have casual conversations, share odds and ends that make us a better team. That was underscored for me recently when a client mentioned how much she appreciated that the six or so people on our team she interacts with always all seemed to know what was going on with her project.
So how does virtual working impact nonprofit organizations? More specifically, is it a good idea to have a communications staff person at your organization that works virtually? Unless you’re a largely virtual or remote-working nonprofit, I’d generally advise against it. Here’s why.
If your programs, meetings, and team are centralized in a primary location, your culture is probably centralized there, too. A communications person writing, tweeting, or Facebooking on your behalf might feel a little off or miss the best content to share. They’ll miss those water cooler chats and post-meeting hallway strolls where the best ideas and content often emerge, or where people share unexpected nuggets that become communications gems. They’ll have to work harder to connect with a person, which makes getting content harder.
On the other hand, if your nonprofit has offices around the world or your entire team is virtual, remote-working communicators makes sense; they are just as reflective of and embedded in your culture and internal conversations as any other staff person might be.
What’s working at your nonprofit?