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Association business continuity during COVID-19

Kathy Nguyen, Manager - Client Services  Associations Forum

The spread of the novel coronavirus has already impacted all associations around Australia. During these times of rapid change, it is important to be prepared to respond in the best interest for your staff, volunteers and community.

1. Communicating with staff

As we are constantly being updated on the situation regarding COVID-19, communicating with your staff and prioritising health and safety is paramount. Some employees may feel uncertain about their working arrangements, so communicate key policies and any action plans.

TIPS:

  • Workplace hygiene, non-essential work travel and quarantine procedures should be mapped out in a document and shared with staff.
  • Holding open discussions about the impacts of COVID-19 on both work and home life is also a good way to ensure staff feel supported during this time.

2. Communicating with members

Maintaining transparency with members is also necessary during this outbreak. Be timely and direct when informing members of cancellations or changes in your events plan.

Consider what COVID-19 issues are relevant to your members and how this is addressed in your existing communications plan, however, be cautious of spreading misinformation and direct to external resources if possible.  

3. Working from home

Should travel to work need to be minimised, associations should be set up to allow working from home. We are fortunate to live in an age where technology allows many communication methods such as video conferencing plus remote access to systems such as databases. These resources should be utilised and associations should have procedures for allowing staff to work from home – and to test that things work.

Associations should have clear procedures to allow working from home, which clearly outlines the obligations and expectations of working from home. Any measures to ensure that confidentiality and safe work practices are met while employees are off-site should also be addressed and discussed.

TIPS:

  • Establishing a dedicated internal communications plan for working from home will also help maintain productivity.
  • A dedicated team chat platform like Slack can be useful, as well as utilising cloud storage tools like DropBox and Google Drive to collaborate offsite.
  • Staying connected via daily meetings, regular goal sharing and maintaining good workplace etiquette will also help maintain productivity.
  • Some organisations have created an alternating workplace roster, to reduce the risk of exposure without having to enforce working offsite full-time. This involves staggering the days that certain staff are in the office, while still catering to the needs of members.

4. Holding virtual events

Events are at the heart of an association’s activities as they usually provide both a valued service and financial surplus, therefore professional and industry bodies are reluctant to cancel meetings. Unfortunately, nearly all events are being cancelled and the economic and learning loss to associations will be massive.

Regardless of whether your events have been cancelled, look into alternative delivery of knowledge such as webinars and live streaming. Understanding your audience’s needs is essential when considering virtual events. Are your members attending to gain knowledge, to network or both? This will dictate the format of your online event and will be the foundation of your event plan.

TIPS:

  • Offering online events is a great way to continue to engage with members during this time, however, it’s also important to consider other services offered and alternative methods of networking.
  • Starting online forums for members to connect or establishing a virtual mentoring program may be useful during these uncertain times.

Closing comments

Associations Forum will continue to support members during this time of uncertainty.

We have a number of online events for associations and not-for-profit organisations on dealing with COVID-19, and we welcome any questions or enquiries if you need advice.

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