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The COVID-19 pandemic initiated a mass shift to remote work, and telecommuting is expected to last well beyond the point where social distancing measures can be eased. In fact, 99% of workers say they would prefer to work remotely, at least part-time, for the remainder of their careers.
While nonprofit leaders might wonder whether continued remote work will negatively affect productivity, 77% of remote employees report feeling more productive when at home versus a busy office environment. With the right remote work tools and support, your nonprofit can reinforce a positive work-from-home culture that keeps your employees productive.
There are several online platforms available to help nonprofit professionals, including remote work tools for collaborative project management, team communications, meeting scheduling, increased focus, and stress reduction.
Below, we share 10 remote work tools that can increase your team’s productivity during this period of remote work and beyond. For each, we explain what the tool does, how your nonprofit can use it, and the ways it fits into fostering effective digital communications. The majority of these resources are either free or offer discounts to nonprofits.
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When brainstorming ideas for a major event, such as your upcoming campaign, in-person meetings allow your team to draft plans on a whiteboard and use other visual cues to guide your discussion. MURAL is a digital workspace that allows your team to do this type of visual collaboration remotely.
Your team can use a MURAL board to capture ideas on digital sticky notes, prioritize tasks by urgency and importance, create diagrams to map out your marketing strategy, and much more. It’s a collaborative, creative tool that can be especially helpful for team members who think and learn better visually.
Nonprofits designated as a 501(c)3 that have an annual operating budget of less than $20 million may be eligible for a free MURAL workspace. Other nonprofits can still receive 50% off any MURAL plan.
2. Google for Nonprofits
Google for Nonprofits offers a variety of resources for nonprofit use, including YouTube Giving, Google Ad Grants, and Google Earth and Maps. One of its features that is particularly helpful for remote work is access to G Suite, which includes business apps like Gmail and Google Drive, Docs, Calendar, and Meet. It’s an easy-to-use, all-in-one solution for your team’s basic scheduling, communication, and product development needs.
Google offers three discounted plans for nonprofits, which range from $0 to $8 per user per month. The different plans vary in cloud storage, video conference size, security features, and general functionalities.
Asana is a project management tool that can help your remote team keep track of all the details for getting your task done. For example, you can use the tool to map out your Giving Tuesday marketing plan, including when you’ll send which emails, and assign each of the related subtasks to an appropriate team member to complete by an agreed upon date.
Eligible nonprofits can apply for a 50% discount on Asana Premium or Asana Business.
Finding meeting times that work for everyone can already be challenging when working together in an office, but can become more so when working across time zones and through digital communications. Doodle simplifies the scheduling process by allowing you to poll team members for different potential meeting times. It can be particularly useful for scheduling meetings with local partners or volunteers who may be outside of your nonprofit’s shared calendar.
The version of Doodle that allows you to create basic scheduling polls is free. The company also offers a 14-day free trial to experience its premium options.
Slack helps your team communicate in a more organized way outside of email by creating different chat channels for various topics. For example, you might have a channel dedicated to Giving Tuesday planning where all team members can ask questions and provide updates for that topic.
You can also have less formal channels to help create that office feeling of conversations “around the water cooler” even while you’re remote. In these channels, your team can share personal updates, adorable pet photos, favorite quarantine baking recipes, and more.
Nonprofits with 250 or fewer members can get a free upgrade on the Slack Standard Plan, and those with more than 250 members can get an 85% discount. Nonprofits can also be eligible for an 85% discount on the Plus Plan. In addition, organizations fighting COVID-19 can request three free months of a Standard or Plus Slack plan.
Todoist is the ultimate to-do list, allowing you to break down large tasks into manageable subtasks. The tool will suggest deadlines based on your existing workload and you can color-code tasks by project and level of urgency.
It’s especially useful for creating and assigning tasks in real-time during your remote team meetings. As you are discussing your upcoming campaign, staff can add tasks and subtasks that result from the discussion to ensure the meeting is productive and you’re leaving with clear next steps.
Nonprofits can apply for a 50% discount on Todoist Business subscriptions. The company also provides tips for using Todoist to avoid nonprofit burnout and offers ready-to-use Todoist templates for nonprofit meeting agendas, social media calendars, and blog posts.
Keeping up with multiple social media accounts can be a time-consuming process. Nonprofits can streamline this by using a tool like Hootsuite. Hootsuite lets you plan, create, and schedule your social media marketing all in one place.
This allows for easier posting across different platforms and lets your team plan for social media posts to publish at the most optimal times, while still providing staff with flexibility in their personal and work schedules. Hootsuite also makes it easy for your team to create a review and approval process for posts before they go live.
The company offers a 50% discount to nonprofits and also provides education for nonprofits looking to improve their social media skills.
Free Download: The BIG Guide to Social Media for Nonprofits
While working remotely, it can be easy to get distracted by social media, news, or other things going on in your house. Pomofocus is a tool rooted in the Pomodoro Technique.
This technique is a time management method that includes 25-minute chunks of focused work on a specific task. After each of the first three 25-minute sessions, you take a five-minute break. After the fourth, you take a longer 15- to 30-minute break before starting back at one. You repeat this until the task is complete.
The Pomodoro Technique aims to promote concentration, create a sense of urgency, and avoid mental fatigue. It can be a useful way to get through your remote workday, and especially helpful for working on large projects that require deep focus, such as grant applications or your annual report.
Pomofocus is a free, simple online timer for implementing the Pomodoro Technique by keeping track of your work sessions and breaks. You can also list the tasks you’ll focus on directly on the page.
Nonprofit teams work hard to make their missions a reality. Staff can face stress, burnout, and compassion fatigue. Especially during remote work where there are fewer opportunities for interpersonal connections to curb some of this stress, it’s critical to incorporate self-care into your work culture. Headspace is a meditation and mindfulness tool that can help your team manage stress.
The company found that 30 days of using the tool lowers stress by 32%, and that just four sessions reduce burnout by 14%. In doing so, this mindfulness practice increases productivity in the process. Four weeks with Headspace can increase focus by 14% and a single session can cut distractions by 22%.
Headspace is offering free resources and three guided meditations to help employees cope with COVID-19 and stress related to remote work. The company also offers ongoing services to promote and track mindfulness in your nonprofit.
10. Mindful Browsing
With increased time at home and in front of screens, it can be easy to become distracted by social media or news sites. Mindful Browsing is a simple Chrome extension that gives a gentle interruption before you navigate to particular sites you’ve selected that you want to be more mindful about spending time on, such as Facebook or Twitter.
The tool will show a photo and ask, for example, “Are you sure you want to spend time on facebook.com?” You can select “yes,” which will send you to the site and ask you again in 10 minutes, or take that moment to mindfully choose to return to another activity. The tool can be customized to remind you of activities you said you’d rather do than visit that site.
This tool is free for all users, doesn’t track your activity, and has open-source code. It can be a useful way to be more mindful of “doomscrolling,” set time limits for breaks from work, and not get overly distracted by social media.
Leverage Remote Work Tools to Keep Your Team Focused
The large shift to remote work this year comes with opportunities to improve your nonprofit’s work culture while also increasing your team’s productivity. While these changes can present challenges, leveraging available productivity and remote work tools, and nonprofit discounts, can help organize, motivate, and focus your team while adapting to the new environment.