How to use teleworking as a strategy for adapting to a health crisis

Written by Babacar Dieye, Reseau Africain pour l’Education et la Sante (RAES), Senegal

This guide was written in 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some of the information will not be so relevant to the current situation, but we think this guide offers useful advice to SRHR advocates.

Please describe a situation when your organisation or project has faced a significant health crisis

When Covid-19 emerged, the Government of Senegal took measures on 14 March 2020 to limit the spread of the virus by stopping gatherings. Immediately following this, the RAES management met with its staff  to inform them that all field activities with benficiaries needed to stop until further notice. Faced with this situation, our organisation adopted teleworking so that we could continue as much of our work as possible.

How did you work on this problem and what changes did you make?

To properly use telework, we have been using a variety of different communication tools and set up a special group within the administrative team to co-ordinate this new approach. Among the tools we are using are:

  • Google drive, which people can use to view and comment on documents with each other
  • Zoom, an online video and audio-conferencing tool for collaboration which works on desktops, mobile phones and telephones
  • Slack, which is an alternative to email and connects all the team to a shared view of what is happening, and the progress being made;
  • emails for regular messages
  • Skype

ZoomSlack and Skype all have free versions as well as paid for versions with more features.

All of these tools can be used to communicate with partners and donors. In addition to these, we have allow some of the administrative and financial staff to go to the office twice a week to deal with urgent matters and emergencies, in particular those to do with supplier regulations, purchases and invoices.

What did you achieve?

Since we started using teleworking, these communication tools have helped our exchanges and enabled us to continue as many of our activities as possible. With Zoom , for example, we hold a weekly meeting with the whole team and each team member reports about the progress being made on the projects they are working on. Other tasks are done by emails with the project managers, the Director as well as our partners and donors. Administratively, we have kept our financial reports up to date with our donors.

What did you learn from this experience?

Covid-19 has changed our working habits dramatically. The virus emergence it was necessary think of a way of working that would allow us to ensure the continuity of our work as far as possible. As a result we put in place strategies to adapt to this new situation by using teleworking.

In terms of challenges, most of our team members had not used Zoom before so we did some training with them so they could use it effectively and fully participate in team meetings.

To date, this strategy is working, and various activities have been able to continue.

What are your tips for someone facing the same or similar issues?

Use communication tools (Google drive, Zoom for team meetings, Slack for instant communication with the whole team, emails for regular messages, Google Meet and Skype) to facilitate exchanges with your team and your partners

  • Hold a weekly meeting with all of your staff (project managers and administrative and financial management) to discuss the on-going projects
  • Favour the sharing of documents via Google Drive. This allows you to store your documents in one, central location and gives the whole team access to them. That way you can all work on the documents, for example, terms of reference, technical reports etc. together.
  • Set up a special group to allow the administrative and financial team to go to the office to manage urgent questions for example, about supplier payments, reports, invoices etc.
  • Provide training to staff on those teleworking tools which they haven’t used before so they can use them effectively with confidence
  • Take stock as often as possible with partners in the field and donors in order to keep abreast of the evolution of covid-19 in each country.

Babacar Dieye, Reseau Africain pour l’Education et la Sante (RAES), Senegal

Babacar Dieye is project manager at the NGO Reseau Africain pour l’Education et la Sante (RAES) in Senegal. He has a Master of Arts in the design of development cooperation projects from the University of Poitiers in France. Babacar manages several RAES projects funded by AmplifyChange. He is an active member of the NGO and participates in its organisational development.