Facing the new normal of remote work in COVID-19

Author: Steven J. Rubinsky

That is what one nonprofit agency said to us in preparation for our recent virtual roundtables with human services organizations. Faced with the dilemma of how to provide much needed services without the benefit of direct contact, nonprofit agencies have had to exhibit innovation and resilience in carrying out their mission. Working from home and tele-services were concepts rarely seen in the nonprofit world. Now, they have become hallmarks of the new reality that nonprofits face.

I joined Gallagher several months before COVID-19 struck, having spent a career as a Chief Operating and Chief Administrative Officer for nonprofit organizations in New York. Issues surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic crystallized the need for organizations to come together and partner with each other; I found myself at Gallagher with the specialized resources to help them navigate through the many challenges impacting the people they support, their families and the sustainability of their operations. Financial pressures mounted, as their funding was impacted by the inability to deliver full services, and the many unanticipated expenses.

Our Whippany, New Jersey nonprofit team of Christina Caughlin (Benefits), Ian Ackerman (P&C) and myself laid out a series of roundtables to provide information to agencies and a platform for sharing ideas. We invited key practice area experts from Gallagher and from agencies to help us in this endeavor. Some of the topics we discussed were:

  • how to stay engaged and connected when working from home and delivering services
  • how to safely reopen program space and schools
  • how to mitigate cyber risks associated with remote environments
  • how to be effective despite the obstacles imposed by the situation.

Some of these roundtables have been conducted in conjunction with professional associations.

What we learned from this series of roundtables is that the creativity of these agencies has no upper bound. In one case, a group of agencies combined their purchasing dollars and contracted for a shipment of Personal Protective Equipment from abroad; they could not wait for the supply from government. In another situation, the housing program needed to reconfigure to providing services in hotels. There are endless stories of the reinvention and re-imagining; the roundtables have served as a format for these discussions.

The new reality requires agencies to address the financial challenges of the rising cost of the insurance marketplace despite limits to their reimbursement levels. Many organizations are focusing in on the concepts of physical and emotional wellbeing – namely, helping their employees through this trying time. Forward thinking organizations are not allowing today’s challenges to adversely impact their vision for the future: they will always strive to find another way.

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