Remote Control: Changing the Channel on How Work is Structured in a Post-Pandemic World

by Kristen Merrifield

The impact of COVID on our communities has been far reaching and continues to evolve as we move into year two of this global pandemic. It has changed forever the way we view things like human connection, safety, education and even our work. Organizations have had to quickly adapt their service delivery models to a virtual environment, and millions of employees have made their home their workspace, some for the very first time in their careers. 

Many remote workers have found benefits to working remotely, like reduced travel time, a better work-life balance and even reduced stress. While this is not the case for everyone (especially those who have had small children at home), it has caused organizations to rethink what the structure of work looks like and how they can maximize flexibility in order to take care of their employees’ needs.

This was indeed the case for the Alliance of Arizona Nonprofits. Fortunately, we had already begun making investments in our capacity and technology prior to March 2020, which allowed us to convert to a 100% remote workforce quickly and effectively, including moving all our programming online. Our team began to find new ways to stay connected, collaborate and be productive in a virtual environment. This takes a bit more work and thought in a remote structure, but it is well worth it in order to have a cohesive team and to help avoid feelings of isolation or disconnectedness.

Early into the pandemic and our remote work, we had a team member who wanted to relocate to Colorado. Normally, being an Arizona-based and Arizona-focused organization, that would have meant it was time to part ways and wish this team member the best. However, since COVID had now required remote work, it gave us a chance to rethink how we might continue to engage team members regardless of their physical location. This allowed us to keep this valued team member onboard for several months as they transitioned to their new position.

Being a statewide association based in the Phoenix metropolitan area, it has often been a challenge to consider the best way to be present and connected to other areas of the state. Often, this meant a few team members would “keep the road hot” traveling to and from Southern, Northern and rural Arizona to provide programming, participate in meetings and connect to nonprofits and stakeholders in those areas. But now, we had this new opportunity to consider different ways of structuring our physical work. We threw out the old idea that everyone had to be physically present in the Phoenix office to be productive and connected. We now have this opening to consider a truly statewide team.

Since broadening our horizons, we have been able to attract and consider a wider diversity of candidates from across Arizona when we are recruiting for new positions. Subsequently, we have now hired team members in Camp Verde and Tucson. It is exciting to consider how this new way of working can help us continue to expand and serve nonprofits across Arizona. We still believe in and see value in in-person connection, but how and when that happens is an open book and can take on different forms based on member, team and community needs. We are already considering what a hybrid approach to our work and the programs and services we provide looks like in the near future. 

How has COVID changed your hiring and recruitment practices? This is just one example of geographic opportunity. What have you learned/tried? How has your perspective changed?

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