Thank you, AMUN! You taught me how to work from home.
As you might know, AMUN is run by an all-volunteer staff (yup, even the Secretary-General and the Executive Director are volunteers). Staffers come across the United State and the globe to put on the conference in November. If you ask staffers why they give their time, funds, and energy, you might hear responses like these: I really enjoy MUN, I want to give back, my best friends are on staff, it provides the opportunity to learn about other perspectives. Now all of these reasons are true for me, but the last couple of weeks have really shown me what else AMUN has given to me.
I have been a member of the AMUN staff since 2013, serving as a Rapporteur, Development Working Group Leader, Director of Rapporteurs, Under-Secretary-General for Development and Under-Secretary-General for Administration on the Executive Committee, a member of the Executive Staff, and Documents Coordinator. These roles and leadership positions have given me the best possible background for adapting to the impact of COVID-19 and remote work.
1. Remote Communication
AMUN staff is scattered across the globe, which highlights the importance of having the technology work for you. One trick that AMUN engraved in me was the importance of including a timezone for any meeting or internal deadlines. I have coordinated calls with staffers in Asia as well as organizing calls with staffers in three different U.S. time zones.
Another skill is using a variety of communication and collaboration tools — we use the Google Suite products, Doodle, and Trello, but there are many others. You just have to find the ones that will work for you and your team. Frequently, I learn one product and know its ins and outs. However, with the different needs of AMUN, I became familiar with Google Hangouts, sharing and editing features of Google Docs and Sheets, creating and moving cards on Trello. The ability to learn and adapt to new systems is critical in remote-work environments!
The third tip that AMUN taught me about remote communication is to read all emails and such in the voice of the author. It’s hard to communicate tone in an email! So reading it in the voice of the author helps eliminate (or at least soften) potential issues that could come up. This has already been helpful in the first days of remote work, but I suspect it will become more important over the coming weeks. We are all learning to be flexible and patient
2. Running and Participating in Virtual Meetings
For Executive Committee and department meetings, we rely heavily on Google Hangouts (video-calling software). My now familiarity with Google Hangouts translates to all video-calling software. Make sure you consider the basics. For example, muting your microphone if you are not speaking, this will delete any echo effect in the call as well as eating those crunchy chips.
Another basic is your workspace. Do you have enough space for your device, any additional supplies or notes, and what will your fellow attendees be seeing (dirty dishes? sensitive work information?)? The last basic is your additional technology such as a headset to ensure people can hear you clearly and you can hear them.
Another tip that I have picked up from AMUN calls is to arrive early just like you would to an in-person meeting. This provides time to socialize and ensure that your equipment is working properly for the call. Even though I learned and practiced the majority of these tips on Google Hangouts, it transfers to any video-calling software whether it is Zoom, Teams, or Skype or something else
3. Maintaining Long-Distance Connections
Seeing the entire AMUN staff only happens twice a year, so we find ways to stay connected throughout the year.
The first tip is make sure to include time for an icebreaker or non-work-related socialization while on a video-call. Bring lightheartedness and human elements into the remote workplace, whether it is just sharing what you are drinking (hot chocolate, tea, or water for me!), dragging your pets or kids on screen to show them off, or talking about your favorite horror movie. We care and we want to know!
The second tip is go ahead and send that gif or meme that reminds you of the team or the last meeting in your Slack, Discord channel, or Gchat. Humor is important and can help build memories. The laughs matter. (Although you might want to set up norms for doing this – maybe it’s on a separate channel, or people can opt out of these.)
The third tip is to send out individual messages. There is time for group messages and calls, but to build and sustain friendships, one-on-one time is needed. So, nothing beats a phone call or snail mail from a friend. Remember, the little things matter and the journey is just as important as the destination.
Thank you, AMUN! You have given me thousands of memories, many great friends, and broadened my understanding of the world. You also have prepared me for the unexpected situation of remote work for my real life job. With years of remote and virtual work in-between our in-person meetings for AMUN, you have given me a leg-up on adapting to remote work. If you are considering volunteering for AMUN or any non-profit, do it because you care about their mission, but along the way you just might find some transferable skills.
(For more reason why AMUN staffers AMUN, check out Why Do YOU Model UN?).
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