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Navigating Remote Work


Like so many of you, I’ve recently made the change from working in my somewhat cluttered but beloved office to working remotely all the time. I have been a regular remote worker for one day a week (or one day every other week) for a number of years. This once-a-week opportunity to slip into my home office so that I could savor the peace and quiet, getting important “thinking and writing projects”  checked off the ever-present “to do” list, feels a lot different from my current full-time work from home arrangement with three kids, a barking dog, and husband all trying to get different tasks accomplished throughout the day. While I join so many others looking for the elusive quiet corner amidst the activity swirling around me, I can’t help but be grateful for my organization’s forethought  regarding remote work policies.


When my organization determined that we would move our staff to full-time remote work last week in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, we were fortunate because we have the type of work that can be conducted online, and because we have the policies and the technology in place to accommodate such a shift. Besides double checking the laptop capability of our staff and ensuring that everyone on our team had the ability to log into virtual meetings, the logistics have, so far, been relatively seamless. Of course, having seamless logistics does not minimize the stress and uncertainty of the broader environment in which we’re living, working, and trying to stay safe and healthy.


The Standards for Excellence: An Ethics and Accountability Code for the Nonprofit Sector states: “A nonprofit should have written, board-approved personnel policies and procedures that govern the work, actions, and safety of all employees and volunteers of the organization. The policies should cover the basic elements of the relationship (e.g., working conditions, telecommuting (if applicable), employee benefits, vacation, and sick leave). The policies should address orientation to the organization, employee evaluation, supervision, hiring and firing, grievance procedures, employee growth and development, and confidentiality of employee, client, and organization records and information.”

We share our sincere wishes for your continued good health and patience as we all navigate these challenging and uncertain times.



The Standards for Excellence educational packet on Personnel Policies, Employee Orientation, Compensation, and  Evaluation includes a helpful Nonprofit Guide to Remote Work. The Guide provides a list of benefits, drawbacks, and concerns, roles and responsibilities of the employers and employees, travel reimbursement, a sample remote work policy, a checklist for remote work, and a sample remote work agreement. 



The Standards for Excellence Institute has made their Administrative Policies Educational Packet, Guide to Remote Work, and Crisis and Disaster Planning Resources free during this time. This educational resource packet and the full series of all packets  - including sample policies, tools and model procedures to help nonprofits achieve best practices in their governance and management - can be accessed by contacting a licensed Standards for Excellence replication partner, one of the over 150 Standards for Excellence Licensed Consultants, or by becoming a member of the Standards for Excellence Institute.



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About the Author: Amy Coates Madsen

Amy Coates Madsen is the Director of the Standards for Excellence Institute, a national initiative to promote the highest standards of ethics and accountability in nonprofit governance, management, and operations, and to facilitate adherence to standards by all organizations. The Standards for Excellence Institute is a program of the Maryland Association of Nonprofit Organizations where Amy has served for more than twenty-two years. Amy is responsible for coordinating all aspects of the association’s comprehensive ethics and accountability program and efforts to replicate the program nationally. She serves as a frequent trainer and writer in the areas of board conduct, program evaluation, program replication, fundraising ethics, and nonprofit management. She has taught courses on nonprofit ethics and accountability at the Johns Hopkins Institute for Policy Studies Certificate Program on Nonprofit Management. She has held positions at the Trenton lobbying firm of the Princeton Public Affairs Group, and the Public Policy Liaison Unit at the world headquarters of Catholic Relief Services. Amy received her Master of Arts in Policy Studies degree from the Johns Hopkins University – Institute for Policy Studies in Baltimore, Maryland; and her Bachelors degree from the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, Virginia. Amy is a member of Phi Beta Kappa. Amy serves on the Internal Revenue Service Advisory Committee on Tax Exempt and Government Entities (ACT). Amy is a former member of the Disaster Action Team of the Central Maryland Chapter of the American Red Cross and is qualified to provide disaster preparedness training to children and adults. She has also served as the former President of Central Maryland CAN TOO and was a member of the Board of Trustees of the largest United Methodist Church in Baltimore City. She serves on the board of her children’s preschool PTA and is a volunteer with the Girl Scouts of Central Maryland. Amy is currently leading an effort to establish an endowment for the Virginia Tech University Honors Program.