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Our Framework for How to Reopen Your Organization in the Wake of a Crisis

May 18, 2020

In many ways, coming up with a plan to reopen your organization and return to ‘business as usual’ after a crisis can be more complex than responding to that crisis in the first place.

Nonprofits across the sector have learned in recent weeks how important it is to have a plan in place to keep the organization running smoothly and protect the well-being of staff, in case of unexpected disruptions. We recently shared our framework for forming and running a Continuity of Operations Planning (COOP) Team in light of the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But now that we’re starting to see early signs of a light at the end of this COVID-19 tunnel, our attention has shifted to when and how we will eventually reopen — and how to do so safely.

Drawing on the experience of Elevate’s executive team, we’ve created a framework for how to plan for a safe and thoughtful reopening.

At Elevate, even as we’re waiting to see what an exact timeline will look like, our COOP team is beginning the process of planning for our eventual reopening. We’re starting to think about questions like how best to welcome staff and stakeholders back into our physical office, what a responsible timeline will look like, and how to roll out these changes in a way that prioritizes our staff’s health and safety. We also plan to survey our staff throughout the process and take their feedback into account as we map out the various phases of our reopening process.

We’ve mapped the basics of our framework below, as well as our recommendations for implementing it — we hope you find it useful as you begin this process within your organization!


As we explained in our last blog post, we highly recommend you start by having a COOP team in place with at least one representative from each of your organization’s core functions or departments. Having this team in place will help ensure your reopening plan is a thorough one that accounts for every aspect of the work your organization does, and prevents core business functions from being interrupted during the transition. (If you haven’t done this step yet, we recommend you start here!)

With your team assembled, you’ll want to think through how to move from your current office phase into a reopening phase — specifically in terms of any prompts, considerations, and preparations that will be involved.

If you haven’t already, you’ll need to establish a list of your organization’s core departments or business functions — then use that list to flesh out all the relevant prompts, considerations, and preparations to plan for as you prepare to reopen. For Elevate, our core functions include our clients, internal client teams, office status, operations, finances, human resources, and communication.  

PROMPTS 

We use the term prompt to mean any information that would possibly prompt us to move into this phase. Make sure your team agrees on the reliable sources of information that you will all use to make informed, fact-based decisions. 

When coming up with your list of prompts for shifting into a Reopening phase, there are two main categories to consider:

  • External prompts: we certainly recommend taking into account any rules and recommendations from the government and/or your locality. You’ll also likely find that it’s important for your organization to consider less obvious prompts as well — including changes in public health data, updates from your local public transportation authorities, the availability of testing and screenings, and school or childcare closures — and how they impact your staff.  
  • Internal prompts: for this section, you’ll need to consider whether your organization has the necessary equipment, supplies, and resources to reopen safely. This may require auditing available cleaning supplies and/or services, your ability to rearrange your furniture so staff can maintain a safe physical distance, and any other prompts that relate to your organization’s core functions.

 

CONSIDERATIONS

We use the term consideration to mean any valuable information that needs to be considered when moving to this phase — which often includes things that are not immediately obvious. 

Considerations for shifting into a Reopening phase will look different for every organization, and will depend on both the nature of your work and your size and structure. At Elevate, our list of considerations includes things like ongoing health and safety concerns, company culture and morale, in-person events or meetings that will need to change, and compliance with both federal and state guidelines.

PREPARATIONS

We use the term preparation to mean any steps that should be taken before or during the communication and implementation of this new phase. 

Preparations for shifting into a Reopening phase might include developing any new protocols or policies in writing, developing a thorough reentry plan for your team, reinstating any vendors or services that you’ll need once you reopen again, and communicating the changes to staff and/or stakeholders.

Keep in mind, it’s very possible that you may need to reopen in stages. If that’s the case, your reopening plan should spell out what each of those stages entails, and include specific prompts, considerations, and preparations for each stage.

other things to keep in mind, as you work through this process with your team:
  • Communicating with your full team clearly, thoughtfully, and often is extremely important, particularly as you roll out significant changes that may pose new challenges and/or induce worry. Depending on the nature of your work, you may also need to put together a separate external communication plan for your stakeholders. Consider including relevant details like any changes in your hours, new or ongoing safety procedures they need to be aware of, and/or updates to your services. 
  • Make sure you’re also engaging with staff on a personal level as you put your plans together, asking them about their specific needs, concerns, and level of comfort. Depending on the size and structure of your organization, you may choose to do this more informally in meetings or one-off emails; alternatively, you might also send out a survey as a means of collecting information. You can then factor in their collective feedback as you move forward with planning to reopen, while balancing it with any recommendations from government and other official sources.

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