Virtual happy hours, Zoom calls and friendly competition: Here's how 3 DC orgs transitioned to remote work - Technical.ly DC

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Mar. 19, 2020 3:23 pm

Virtual happy hours, Zoom calls and friendly competition: Here’s how 3 DC orgs transitioned to remote work

Execs at GiveCampus, Byte Back and SEED SPOT share how their teams effectively went remote this week due to the spread of COVID-19, and shared tips for those looking to keep working from home fun.
A group of GiveCampus employees.

A group of GiveCampus employees.

(Courtesy photo)

As COVID-19 continues to spread in the region, many companies and organizations are asking their teams to work remotely indefinitely.

It seems like the best course of action, as Mayor Muriel Bowser and the D.C. government announced operational restrictions for restaurants, clubs, local venues and public gatherings to reduce the spread of the virus. This came after the Centers for Disease Control released a recommendation to limit the size of public gatherings.

GiveCampus, SEED SPOT and Byte Back have each implemented work-from-home policies during the pandemic. Their leaders each shared tips for making the transition:

GiveCampus

GiveCampus, a Navy Yard-based social fundraising and engagement platform company, instituted a work-from-home policy, along with a variety of other safety measures, the week of March 9. The company has decided to cancel all business travel until at least April 30, and postponed its all-staff retreat scheduled for April 9.

GiveCampus CEO Kestrel Linder told Technical.ly that taking these measures were not difficult decisions, even though the company moved into its new Navy Yard office two days before announcing these policies.

“It was clear that we needed to act decisively and that we had a responsibility to our employees and our communities,” Linder said. “We are strongly encouraging our employees to stay at home as much as possible and to behave under the assumption that they are infected and contagious even if they do not have any symptoms.”

GiveCampus has 34 full-timers between its D.C. and San Francisco offices, which are now both closed indefinitely. The company’s employees have been primarily using Zoom and Slack to communicate and been encouraged to host virtual lunches if they normally ate in groups at the office. Linder shared that one team hosted a Zoom happy hour last Friday, and plans to do so again this week.

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“While we work from home, we have encouraged our employees to over-communicate and to demonstrate a ‘Zoom before Slack’ bias for any interaction or communication that they would normally do synchronously,” Linder said. “We are big believers in the power of face-to-face interactions and we don’t want people to become disconnected during this time.”

To make sure employees are keeping their social batteries charged, GiveCampus is hosting a friendly, best “in-person-to-virtual-switch” competition this week. Those interested in participating will do something virtually outside of work that they would normally do in-person. This could be something like attending an exercise class, having a coffee date or even playing a board game with friends.

“Everyone is sharing their in-person-to-virtual-switch story with the company and we are voting at the end of the week,” Linder said. “The winner will receive a cash prize. We’re framing it as money to spend doing something fun in-person when this is all over.”

During this time, GiveCampus has given free access to its Giving Forms to all nonprofits — not just educational institutions or current members — to support COVID-19 fundraising efforts through online donation campaigns.

SEED SPOT

Last week, social impact incubator SEED SPOT transitioned all of its programs to virtual, and implemented a work-from home policy for all of its employees across all of its markets including Phoenix, Philly and other major cities. In addition to working remotely, the organization has stopped all external in-person meetings and moved them to a virtual format and stopped all business-related travel. To keep the flow of communication open, SEED SPOT CEO C’pher Gresham told Technical.ly that the organization has a video link always available to jump on and collaborate with others on the team.

“It is important that every citizen and organization plays their part in ensuring a healthy population and maintaining normalcy in trying times,” Gresham said. “As a leader of SEED SPOT, I believe in taking quick action to support the health of the SEED SPOT team, mentors, entrepreneurs, board, funders, community, and the general public.”

The SEED SPOT team is actively checking in with daily Zoom calls and Gresham said he’s encouraging the team to have serendipitous conversations, brainstorm together and just openly communicate when needed.

“We must ask for help and collaborate with others. I know that SEED SPOT cannot build community, serve entrepreneurs, and be there for everyone,” Gresham added. “As a leader, we all need support to lead teams and build a community — find a group to lean on and brainstorm with. Don’t do it alone.”

As far as local programming, SEED SPOT’s third accelerator program will conclude with a community-wide, virtual Demo Day on April 14. The org has also launched a Virtual Programming Fund to allow it to support more entrepreneurs.

Outside of work, here’s a personal tip from Gresham: “Assist your neighbors, especially those that are less fortunate or work jobs that are in the service industry or those affected by not being able to work.”

Byte Back

Tech inclusion nonprofit Byte Back announced that employees in all of its markets are working remotely and it has moved its educational instruction online as of March 16 until at least March 31. Classes that are already in session continued instruction virtually on Zoom yesterday, while it has postponed courses that haven’t started yet.

Communications Director Yvette Scorse told Technical.ly that the Byte Back team held a virtual staff meeting to handle logistics for moving its team and educational instruction virtually. During this time, all of its instructors — with in-session classes or not — continue to get paid, she said.

“We realize that we may face more difficulties and unexpected turns with this, but we are working as a team to make this transition as seamless as possible,” Scorse said. “Internet instruction can be done well, and it’s a new situation for us, but it will be possible to deliver quality, engaging instruction.”

Since students would normally have access to computers and Wi-Fi on Byte Back’s campuses, the nonprofit supplied those in need with laptops and internet hotspots to continue learning from home. Scorse said Byte Back is happy to see initiatives like Comcast offering two months of free internet through its Internet Essentials program.

“As we see around D.C. and the country, social distancing is really impacting people who do not have computer-based jobs because they cannot or won’t be able to go to work,” Scorse said. “It really shows the importance of our work and opening career possibilities for folks — not just during a pandemic — but at all times.”

Scorse said Byte Back is taking measures like scheduling virtual lunches and happy hours with coworkers to maintain morale and keep its staff as connected as they are usually in person.

Byte Back CEO Elizabeth Lindsey will be talking about how COVID-19 will impact populations like Byte Back students in a virtual Facebook chat next week:

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