One question that FRIDA hears often is: where’s your office? We fund and support young feminist organizers all over the world in the Global South, but few know that the FRIDA team is spread across the world too!
The FRIDA community consists of staff, consultants, interns, volunteers, advisors, grantee partners and board members who connect virtually all around the globe: some from home, some from shared office spaces, some from cafes and some from the airport. Separated by countries, region, languages, cultures and time zones, FRIDA is united by its strong working ethic and passion to drive the young feminist movement forward. Read more about the amazing FRIDA community here.
The FRIDA staff work in a “virtual office.” Though working in a virtual office seems like the way of the future, working remotely can be challenging for those who are more accustomed to a traditional working space. Emoji and video chats do not replace the importance of eating lunch together, high-fives, and comforting hugs. As a feminist organization, we are committed to feminist principles of work, including individual self-care and collective well-being. So we follow certain principles that help us lead a balanced and satisfying work life.
Here are 9 of our key principles that may be useful for other feminists working remotely, and those in need of guidance and inspiration:
1) We do not let each other work crazy hours. The FRIDA team keeps meetings, chats and emails within the FRIDA bandwidth, which is Monday – Friday 7:00am – 10:00pm in any given timezone. FRIDA uses a flexible working hours policy (which means, you can work any 8 hours in that bandwidth that you like), but encourages staff to turn-off outside of the bandwidth hours.
2) We always check in on each other’s time zones. We use apps like Synchronize and WorldTimeBuddy so we know when our teammates are working. With staff in 7 countries, we always have someone online. But we want to respect when people are sleeping, having a life and not working. One way we do this is by using Boomerang to schedule emails to arrive when someone is working, so that they don’t accidentally see 15 messages come through while out to drinks with their friends!
3) We use a lot of emojis to express ourselves. It’s exciting to work in a global remote office, but communicating virtually can leave a lot to misinterpretation. Emojis and “xoxo” help us let our teammates know where we’re at. During our weekly team meetings, for example, we use Google Hangout or Zoom and keep an open chat box where team members respond (often with emoji) to what someone is saying. It’s a fun way of being encouraging without disrupting the flow of the conversation. 8-]
4) We use tracking tools to collectively monitor our work. Working from home requires discipline. We use different technical tools that allow us to track and plan our work. We’ve tried out Wrike, Trello, Smartsheets and google spreadsheets and we’ve found that the simpler the tool, the better the results. It’s also proved important to assign one person to determine who is leading on what projects and to check in on progress, monitor the workplan, and adjust as we go. With lots of competing priorities and many (many!) things happening at once, it’s been critical to be able to map the ‘big picture’ and put someone in charge of managing the flow of work.
5) We chat, a lot. In lieu of a break room, we have needed to find ways to come together and share the minutia of our workday (and to take breaks together!). We have found Slack and google hangouts to be an excellent tool for this. We use different channels to share information related to work and fun (our channels, among many, include: photos, things we read, and collective learning & self care). Because we use a lot of different mechanisms to communicate, we’ve created a tiered system: we use google hangouts to resolve quick issues, Slack for everyday communication, email for conversations with those outside our team, and Whatsapp only when it’s an emergency. We use Facebook groups to maintain communication and dialogue with our FRIDA advisors and grantees.
6) We hold regular team meetings. Sometimes even with all the messages and emails, working remotely can feel isolating. We hold a weekly team meeting which everyone joins and we start with an update (both personal and work-related) from everyone in the team. It builds our dynamic and allows us to connect with different people who we might not work with on a daily basis. While we don’t always have video chats due to connectivity and bandwidth limitations, we try to turn on our cameras and wave hello (even if some of us are still in pajamas).
7) We respect the diversity of languages, expertise and opinions. We operate in English, but not everyone from the FRIDA community is fluent, so we try to be patient with each other. We honor everyone’s background and skills, and also let ourselves be open to feedback and edits from those who have more experience in a given area.
8) Security is critical. As feminist activists ourselves, we know that our work environments can quickly become hostile. We prioritize safety above everything else, and have changed meeting locations (sometimes at the last minute!) to make sure everyone in the FRIDA community will be safe. Because we work online, we are particularly vulnerable to online harassment, trolling, and other forms of discriminatory behavior. We are working on developing a set of tools for our staff and broader community to help mitigate this. Check back on our website soon for more!
9) We take care of each other. Our feminist values and our politics are a big part of this work, and we think it’s important to take care of each other. If something is happening in our personal lives that impacts our work, we share it. We ask our teammates how they are doing and what’s going on in their lives. We share our stories. We listen, seek to understand and support our teammates. We prioritise our personal lives and healthy being over everything else.
Of course, we are all human, and we don’t always succeed in keeping to working hours or avoiding late night calls, but as a team, we hold each other accountable to do our best. Check out a few of the great resources which support remote working and self care:
- The Smart Girl’s Guide to Online Privacy
- HOW TO SELF CARE?! (Laci Green) (VIDEO)
- A BitchMedia playlist for alone times, low times, and slow times (AUDIO)
- 101 ways to take care of yourself when the world feels overwhelming (ARTICLE)
- Best Virtual Team Software Tools (ARTICLE)
- Funny conference call skype meeting video: Ellen works from home, A Conference Call in Real Life
- Urgent Action Fund for Women’s Human Rights (2008). What’s the Point of the revolution if you can’t dance?
- Jane Barry, Vahida Nainar, Urgent Action Fund for Women’s Rights, Front Line Defenders, and The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation (2008). Insiste, Resiste, Persiste, Existe: Women Human Rights Defender’s Security Strategies.
- Capacitar International Inc (2005). Living in Wellness – Trauma Healing. A capacitar Manual of Body Mind Spirit Practices for Stress.
- Capacitar International Inc. (2000). Trauma Healing and Transformation: Awakening a New Heart with Body Mind Spirit Practices.
- Artemisa (2008). Self Care and Self Defense Manual for Feminist Activists.