Supporting a global workplace in times like these

Julia Keseru
Zara Rahman

Over the past few days and weeks, we’ve seen things around the world change fast due to the spread of the COVID-19 virus. As an organisation fighting for social justice, we know that responding responsibly to these changes mean adjustments to the way we do our work, and the way we support our staff and partners, too. 

How can we support our team?

We’ve always been a remote team, so some of the challenges facing other organisations who are working from home for the first time don’t quite apply to us. What is challenging from a leadership perspective is figuring out how to support our staff, who are based in 11 different countries around the world, while country governments are reacting in such different ways and have such varying levels of social and health infrastructure. 

Pretty much the only thing that’s clear right now is that all of us will be affected somehow by this pandemic, but with such uncertainty and change happening right now, it’s difficult to know quite how. Some of us are already banned from leaving our houses except to take care of essential needs, others choose to stay at home voluntarily. Some of us now have increased care-taking responsibilities, and many are concerned about loved ones in other countries. 

For now, what we can do is support those closest to us. We put travel on hold across the team last week, and won’t be asking anybody to take any trips for the foreseeable future (many of the planned events we had on our calendar have been cancelled, too). This week, we’ve put together an emergency support package that includes logistical and psychological support to everyone in the organisation, regardless of their proximity to the current epicentre. We’re in an extremely privileged position to be able to offer this and are grateful to funders who have supported us with core funds that allow us to make these decisions. 

Making space, time and ongoing flexibility to adjust

Our goal with this package is to support our staff to conserve their energy as much as possible, reduce stress where possible–acknowledging that now is and will continue to be, a stressful time–and support our whole team in making necessary short and long-term preparations. In case this package is helpful to other organisations facing similar situations, we’re sharing it today. Please feel free to copy, paste, remix and re-use (all the text on this page is CC-licensed), and don’t hesitate to reach out if you have questions about how we’re operationally instituting any of this. 

  • A preparation day: We’re offering an extra day off to everyone to be taken in the next two weeks for preparation for changing circumstances. Use this time however you want, and it won’t count from your paid time off. If you need additional time off in relation to COVID-19, just let us know.
  • Flexible work hours: If any of you need to make longer-term adjustments to your working hours, call schedules, or take extra time off as a result of school closures, logistical challenges in your home areas, by all means, do so. We’re committed to being flexible, and rest assured that your salaries and jobs won’t be affected by any changes you need to make to your workdays. 
  • Flexible workload: If you feel like you can’t keep up with your current workload, please speak to your line manager. This is an unusual situation and we’ll do everything we can to help you feel like your workload is manageable in light of external factors. 
  • 500 USD preparation: We’re offering a 500 USD bonus for anything you might need to get or do (e.g. stock up in a responsible way, get things to keep you busy, show solidarity to others who may be less fortunate than you). 
  • Unlimited paid sick leave: You all get unlimited paid sick leave until the coronavirus pandemic is over. 
  • Healthcare costs: For those in countries without universal healthcare, we’ll cover any healthcare costs related to COVID that are not covered by your insurance, to the extent that our own available funds allow.
  • Regular, optional chats: We’ll be hosting regular, optional ‘watercooler’ chats every day at 2pm GMT. This is an optional chat where you can drop in just to see people’s faces and hear how everyone’s doing. For many, having the time and space to connect with colleagues during this period is important for staying positive and fighting off feelings of isolation. 

As mentioned in our colleague Sara’s post yesterday, we’re also happy to talk you through remote working, tech tools, or anything else that comes up as organisations move to a remote-first workspace. Similar to our colleagues at the Wikimedia Foundation, we believe now really is a time for bold paths of action to reduce the harm that this pandemic causes. We hope you agree, too.

Photo credit: @noahmatteo on Unsplash