I recently spoke with an association member that was trapped on a cruise ship during the current COVID-19 pandemic. She shared with me some ideas that helped her keep in touch with her staff and clients while stuck on board. You can see her interview on The Big Story podcast here. I have adapted her ideas to apply to association members, boards, and staff in the article below.

Mel’s Story

Mel Sibbitt, of Two Crazy Ladies Inc., has proved that running a business and keeping your employees informed during this time is possible. Mel started her March off on a well-deserved cruise to relax and reset. That plan was short-lived when the ship she was on got stuck out at sea with a few confirmed cases of COVID-19. Once allowed to dock, she was sent from the Port of Oakland, California to CFB Trenton, Ontario.

While stranded on the ship, Mel went into instant action mode to maintain communication channels with her staff, but the only means she had to run her business was her cell phone. Mel made sure to make daily contact with her team. She always planned ahead and  made sure her staff were all well and able to work. Communication was key to keeping Mel busy while in quarantine and was key to her employees and clients feeling like they could continue to move in a forward pace. She ended every post, call, and interview saying “together we are stronger.” We cannot survive this on our own.

What can your Association do during a Pandemic?

What’s happening right now in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic is a complex global issue with far-reaching effects. The effects are already far greater than most would have ever expected. They are taking a heavy toll on society and the economy. We need to work together to minimize economic and social disruption. It is impossible to predict what extent this pandemic will impact your business, but if you act quickly to prepare for disruption, an association will maximize its resiliency and hopefully staff will be able to navigate days a little easier.

Depending on the size of the organization, it may have some mandatory exclusions from work and a new travel policy is likely already in place. As a result, meetings, tradeshows and conferences and events have been either cancelled or postponed. Some proactive strategies that may need to be implemented can include constant circulation of information on how people can protect themselves and those around them. Continued work and networking with association members is key. Here is how best to adapt to the ever-changing workplace affected by COVID-19.

Create a Physical Workday Virtually

Many platforms can help create a virtual workspace for association staff. We can utilize them continue engaging with both teammates and association members. The most important part of a virtual workday is to remain organized and connected. Associations can use platforms such as Zoom, Teams, Google Hangout, and Go-To Meetings.

Virtual schedules should be like the schedule at the office. Association staff should continue to prioritize the most important tasks of the day or week, and work on identifying how each member of your team can contribute to the completion of these task while working remotely.

Offer Support to Build Community

Many of your members will be looking to their association leaders for guidance and support as the world events unfold. Uncertainty around COVID-19 is in the forefront for everyone, associations, its members and the general workforce.  Click this link to get up to date on the programs being put in place by our government to help everyone stay safe. Keeping members informed with a weekly newsletter, updating your website, making call maintains a presence in the forefront for members. Provide something entertaining, like industry information related to current situation. Or, offer to teach something to your members, as it helps to keep members engaged.

Creating Interactive Learning Experiences

Members are drawn to in-person events; interacting with peers of which many don’t get to see on a regular basis. This interaction is a chance for them to catch up on life and work. But when this is no longer an option, creating a virtual experience for your members to engage is key to keeping your association community together.

Ideas to engage your members could range from a ‘How To’ session, or a Trivia Night, or simply an online gathering of peers to catch up and to find out how everyone is doing. The most important interactive learning experiences are the education seminars. More members attend when there are credits, awards, or certificates involved.

COVID-19 has created unprecedented challenges for all industries. While most of us have done all we can to limit changes for our clients and workplaces, changes are inevitable. We continue working through this difficult time and hope to leave it in the past sooner rather than later.