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Managing an Organization During a Pandemic

We are resilient, and we can adapt — these words are representative of us all and the many organizations that have adjusted during this tumultuous year.

Work has changed and this has come with an assortment of pros and cons for organizations worldwide. In this article, we delve into the ways, tools, and approaches organizations are utilizing to cope with these changes. We also discuss tips and lessons on managing a firm remotely as we have been doing this for a little over a year and can relate.

A bouquet of tools and applications has come to the forefront during the past year. Most of them revolve around communication, management/project management, collaboration, training, and resource virtualization (desktop, server, and application). We focus on management and communication tools as these are the tools we utilize the most.

The workforce has embraced working from home

Communication Tools

Communication is essential to any institution and is especially important in a remote work setting. In picking a communications tool, firms need to identify the features that would be most beneficial to their day-to-day activities.

Here are some features to look out for:

Direct messaging: Allowing users to message each other in real-time chat conversations

Status-Based Profiles: Showing user activity and allowing users to set their current statuses, e.g., Online, Away, In a meeting, etc.

Audio & Video Conferencing: In-built feature to directly call other users via application or to set up meetings supporting both audio and video communication

Screensharing & Presenting: Allows app users to display presentations and share their live screens with other users

Chalkboard Education uses Slack mainly for communication. It allows for direct messaging, chat rooms, and channels that you can streamline by topics or focus areas. By grouping discussions on focus areas, it is easier to track conversations on deliverables, solve issues and attain updates on these thematic areas. Slack also supports the integrations of other apps, which include error reporting, receiving updates on GitHub commits, amongst other cool features.

There are a ton of free communication/collaboration resources that are being offered by service providers and can be found here:

Management Tools

Managing a remote team requires keeping tabs on deliverables and tasks. Project management tools provide some of the best ways to track, delegate, and break down projects. With each employee or group of employees taking ownership of a task, it is easy to determine who is responsible for a deliverable. Additionally, some of these tools allow users to set timelines and log sub-task completions to get a high-level overview of the progress of a project. All these are essential considerations when picking a management tool to use when working from home.

Our senior software engineer working on the codebase

At Chalkboard Education, our developer team uses Jira to manage and keep track of all developer-related work. It helps in organizing and assigning tasks, tracking milestones and progress as well as managing deployments. Jira allows the developer team to link to our codebase repository so when fixes are released, resolved issues are automatically ticked off as complete.

Various service providers are offering either free or subsidized project management solutions to help firms manage and keep tabs on organizational milestones. You can view some of them here.

Firms using Chalkboard Education

Our management dashboard and application have been tested and utilized extensively over the past year. With virtual learning and e-learning coming to the forefront, our Chalkboard app was used by firms in the below use cases:

Distributing & Creating Learning Material: Our clients used the Chalkboard Education app to distribute their content to trainees. Our management dashboard also gives our clients the option of creating, editing, and modifying their content on the application in real-time.

Assessing Beneficiaries: With the Chalkboard app, firms evaluate trainees in a variety of ways. The management dashboard provides different quiz types and response types to allow training leads to assess trainees fully. Another feature is Surveys which is an additional way to compile information or feedback from beneficiaries.

The Chalkboard Education Management Dashboard

Managing & Tracking Users: The Chalkboard management dashboard provides live data on student usage, activity, quiz scores, and other important information such as duration spent on a course, courses completed, etc.

Report Generation: Data and analytics provided by our management dashboard allow for easy report generation for our clients. This information makes it easy to assess whether learning/training goals have been achieved.

Creative Solutions to Working from Home

Working from home has led to some creative workarounds, and we mention a few interesting ones below:

All in all, the global workforce has shown their resiliency and opened discussions for hybrid work arrangements.

Encourage employees to create a dedicated workstation:
It is idealistic to think that everyone can have a home office or dedicated working room. We believe it is essential to have a workstation, i.e., a desk and chair where you carry out work. Make the working space your own and surround it with things that motivate and energize you.

Hold periodic mixers with the team (virtual & in-person):
For management, to plug in all the missed in-person social chatter and networking, schedule actual team mixers. Schedule and host virtual game sessions with your teams to blow off some work-from-home steam and, in some cases, meet up for team events (if they fall within-country COVID guidelines)

Empathize & Exercise
Mental and physical health is essential, and this has been further highlighted throughout the last year. Encourage team members to take mental breaks and to work out their bodies. The amount of time we spend sitting behind screens has significantly increased, so we need to actively do more to take both our mental and physical health.

Before the pandemic, it was unheard of for many firms to work remotely full-time; however, many organizations have maintained their productivity, with some even improving efficiency working from home. All in all, the global workforce has shown its resiliency and opened discussions for hybrid work arrangements. From a management perspective, we have learned to empathize with employees and innovate how we manage tasks and milestones.

Thanks for tuning in.

Educational technology in Africa and emerging markets