Three Ways to be Proactive

By Sandy Wiegand, Copyeditor and Writer at Joining Vision and Action

As much as we all might hope the new coronavirus will somehow just go away—or entirely spare us and our friends, our families, and the organizations we have poured countless hours and love into creating and maintaining—we cannot assume that will be the case.

As of Tuesday morning, 12 people in Colorado had (known) active cases of COVID-19, according to an interactive map created by the Johns Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering. Across the United States, there had been approximately 791 confirmed cases and 27 deaths. COVID-19 cases had been identified in about 36 states.

Read JVA’s Guide to Tech Tools and Tips for Working Remotely

The virus is spreading, and there are things we know—and a lot of things we don’t know. We can’t predict the future, but we can face potential difficulties with our eyes open, consider potential challenges, and prepare for them to the best of our abilities.

This applies to us both in our personal lives, as individuals, and in our professional roles.

What we can do

As organizations and businesses, we can be proactive, by:

  1. Becoming and staying educated about the virus, as scientists and health professionals learn more about it
  2. Following the guidance of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on preventing the spread of the virus
  3. Applying “change management” principles as we would for any potential business challenges we see on the horizon

Actively educating ourselves

The best place to begin educating ourselves on COVID-19 is the CDC website.

Most of us have heard or read a fair amount about the virus, but we may not have systematically tried to educate ourselves. That is to say, if we are just reading or watching what catches our eye, or getting information through the grapevine, we could easily have knowledge gaps.

So if nothing else, start by reading the sections of the CDC’s Preventing COVID-19 Spread in Communities pages that apply to you. This section includes advice for home and work, as well as schools and childcare centers, in health care settings, at community gatherings and elsewhere.

In addition to these pages, the CDC site has an overall “situation summary” and pages on current U.S. cases, risk assessment and more. It’s the simplest way to get accurate, up-to-date information.

Of course, there are also many reputable news organizations doing extensive, vital work on this topic right now. For anyone who has questioned the continuing relevance of objective, fact-based news reporting, the new coronavirus should be a wakeup call.

Following CDC guidance

As noted above, to fully understand how to minimize the spread of the illness, it is best to read the CDC’s guidance in its entirety. Remember that although some steps may not seem to benefit your organization directly, the goal is the overall minimization of the virus’ impact everywhere.

Some of the CDC’s advice for businesses, distilled from the Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers page, is as follows:

  • Actively encourage sick employees to stay home. Learn the symptoms of COVID-19 and educate your staff on them. Don’t require a note from a health care provider if someone is sick; doctors may be very busy with more pressing tasks. Be flexible in allowing employees to care for sick family members.
  • Emphasize respiratory etiquette and hand hygiene for employees and clients. Provide soap and water and alcohol-based hand sanitizer (at least 60–95% alcohol) throughout the worksite. Hand-washing with soap and water should last at least 20 seconds.
  • Clean the worksite. Routinely clean all frequently touched surfaces in the workplace, such as workstations, countertops and doorknobs. For products that kill COVID-19, refer to this list by The American Chemistry Council.
  • If employees plan to travel, check the CDC’s Travelers’ Health Notices for the latest guidance and recommendations for each country.

Make contingency plans

Your organization probably has some formalized plans: e.g., a business plan, a strategic plan and hopefully a succession plan. It would be wise to review these plans and make contingency operational plans informed by them in preparation for a potential widespread coronavirus outbreak.

What might such a plan include? Well, that will vary by organization. We recognize, for example, that many nonprofits on the front lines will not be able to conduct all of their client business remotely. But here are some possibilities for consideration:

  • Staffing considerations
    • Remote work: Does your organization have the capability to do some or all of its work remotely? What would it take to bolster this capability? Is there research you can do now on how best to connect your team and your clients through telecommunications? Are there investments you can make now to enable more of your team to work remotely should it become necessary? (Also see JVA’s blog on Tech Tools and Tips for Working Remotely)
    • Absences: Do you have appropriate staff to cover for anyone who might become ill? Would it be wise to connect now with potential contract workers that might be able to fill in any gaps that may arise?
    • Flexible work hours: As staff may be juggling care for sick loved ones and/or, in the case of contractors, other work commitments, allowing workers to stagger their hours could facilitate more work being accomplished overall.
    • Cross-training/detailed job duty descriptions: Do you have staff trained to cover each other’s essential duties? Are there written instructions on how to perform important tasks?
  • Alternatives to in-person client contact: Can you deploy technology to accomplish some of your goals instead? Perhaps a webinar, a video conference, a conference call, use of a document-sharing application, or a combination of the above could work almost as well as an in-person meeting, while minimizing health risks.
  • Budgeting/funding, potentially:
    • For additional staff
    • For cleaning supplies and/or services
    • To offset any revenue that could be lost if events must be canceled
  • Guidance on group events and parameters for cancellation
    • Review the CDC advice on mass gatherings/large community events
    • How will you decide whether in-person events can go on as scheduled? Considerations may include the demographics of the people you serve; does the virus place them at particular risk?

Be sure to engage your staff in creating your plan. You’ll get better ideas, and you’ll get buy-in. Consider what specific events might trigger various aspects of your plan, and how you will know when to deactivate the plan.

What JVA is doing

Here at JVA, we are considering many of the questions that your organization is likely thinking about. We are facing these questions head on, and we are confident in the way forward. The JVA team is well positioned to meet this challenge because we:

  • Are extremely comfortable with the use of technology for communication and frequently communicate within our team and with clients and their stakeholders via video conferencing, conference calls, webinars, document-sharing applications, online surveys, etc.
  • Do a significant amount of work remotely already, with most employees working from home some or most of the time
  • Have a deep bench, including multiple highly accomplished contractors and partners from other organizations who support us when we have staffing needs
  • Are versatile and adaptable. Though each of our team members has a specialty (or two or three), JVA truly works as a team, consistently reviewing each other’s work and providing support to each other’s efforts; we are accustomed to jumping in to help, and we thrive on variety
  • Work flexible hours to get the job done. Because we have always valued our staff’s work-life balance, we are already accustomed to being responsive to our coworkers’ and our clients’ scheduling needs

We know this may be a challenging time, but we at JVA firmly believe that preparation can make all the difference, and we vow to walk alongside you and support you in any way we can. Want to talk through some of your decision-making with a JVA consultant? We can do that, too.

And as the environment changes and we learn more about this virus, JVA will continue to share with you what we learn.

Information for this blog was informed by the following sources: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Washington Nonprofits (Action Alert: How Novel Coronavirus [COVID-19] May Impact Nonprofits), Maine Association of Nonprofits (What Maine Nonprofits Can Do to Prepare for Coronavirus [COVID-19]) and The World Health Organization (Public Health for Mass Gatherings: Key Considerations).