Rapid Response: How PHA is Advancing Our Important Work During Coronavirus

By Nancy E. Roman, President and CEO, Partnership for a Healthier America

Date: March 17, 2020

The coronavirus pandemic continues to impact every aspect of life in the U.S. and across the globe. Like many nonprofit organizations, the Partnership for a Healthier America has been forced to make many major decisions very quickly.

Last Wednesday, we chose to transition our 10-year anniversary Summit into a virtual event. That Friday, just days later, we opted to close our headquarters in Washington, D.C. and have our entire staff work remotely in advance of government directives throughout the country, which have since put many organizations in similar positions.

Fortunately, we had just completed an all-staff training on Zoom for other reasons, and were ramped up and ready to go with our virtual tools. Feedback from partners was swift and generous and my staff has been terrific.

We are looking to engage with our partners and networks in new ways, and to serve as an open line of support for those in the field eager to maintain progress on our core mission – shifting the food landscape in pursuit of health equity.

With that in mind, here are some of the things I’m trying and thinking about as President and CEO of PHA. I’m sharing them in the hope that others, who must also steer organizations toward productivity during these uncertain times, might find them beneficial:

  • While PHA’s work progresses onward, we are updating our staff every two weeks regarding our remote work directive. This timeframe lets the team know what to expect, while delivering direction in manageable increments.
  • We are building a leadership culture in which we ask our direct reports about their productivity without judgement. I expect some employees to have reduced productivity, and that is okay. Many of my staff are now adding caregiving responsibilities for children and other family members to already busy and full plates. By knowing where your pockets of lost productivity exist, you and your team will be more empowered to map the best plan of action.
  • At first, I thought we would mandate all meetings be virtual and on screen. But after spending all day Friday staring at a screen, I am now balancing the desire to see other human faces and the desire to move my body by staggering my video and phone calls. I am encouraging my team to do the same: take a walk, make a cup of tea, but don’t sit and stare at a screen all day.
  • Finally, we’ve had to think outside the box and you can too. COVID-19 is turning work, business, and life on its head, challenging us to think differently about productivity. New opportunity abounds, but we must also clearly acknowledge lost opportunity so we can better adjust.

It’s a brave new world and PHA is leaning into it.