The temperature in space is -454 degrees Fahrenheit. Needless to say, astronauts don't get out much. So, we turn to the experts for advice to keep our virtual volunteers motivated during their social isolation here on earth. Here are five tips directly from NASA's finest...
Living Inside the [cramped] International Space Station (ISS)
According to NASA, the space station is a little smaller than a football field end to end. The astronauts have the same living and working space as a six bedroom house - but share that space as a crew of six at any given time. And the record for living and working in space is 665 days set in 2017. That's almost two years inside!
How Astronauts Handle Social Distancing
In a recent interview with NASA, Astronaut Anne McClain shared five key insights from NASA psychologists and fellow astronauts. And she should know! Lieutenant Colonel McClain is a Senior Army Aviator with over 2,000 flight hours in 20 different aircraft! Her most recent assignment was as Flight Engineer on the International Space Station for Expedition 58 and 59.
Communication: Share Information and Feelings Freely
NASA describes the skill of communication as the ability to communicate intentions rather than simply act. This includes your own actions but also communicating when others actions did not meet expectations. Great advice but it can be a challenge communicating with socially distant volunteers back here on earth. Clearly communicating volunteer expectations in the formal COVID-19 response was one of the three keys to virtual volunteering success.
Leadership may be familiar but followership is a unique perspective. NASA says, "A leader enhances the group's ability to execute its purpose through positive influence. A follower (aka a subordinate leader) actively contributes to the leader’s direction." Administrators must set a clear tone volunteers can rally behind. It may be as direct as a goal for the day (cleaning the creek, reviving the baseball field, etc.). It may also be more aspirational over a longer timeframe. Regardless, it is important that everyone understands their role and their contributions to the greater project/community impact.
Take Care of Yourself
Volunteers often focus on the good they can do for others. But it times of isolation, NASA encourages you to focus on, "hygiene, managing your time and your stuff, getting sleep, and maintaining your mood." This can be challenging for volunteers whose focus is often on others. That means it can be especially important for administrators to promote self care while volunteers are off site in virtual environments.
Take Care of Your Team
Volunteering is often a team sport. As a matter of fact, MobileServe corporate clients have seen as much as 80% of volunteering done in groups. This sense of community, camaraderie and team is a hallmark of volunteering that cannot be lost during social distancing. Encourage students to inspire others by sharing their volunteering experience on social media. This is also a key time for administrators to use reporting to communicate shared goals discussed previously. Alerting volunteers we are nearing key milestones is imperative to effective leadership/followership.
Everyone Does Their Part
NASA names the fifth aspect as group living. This final skill is described as cooperate rather than compete. Actively cultivate group culture (use each individual's culture to build the whole). Respect roles, responsibilities and workload. Take accountability; give praise freely. Then work to ensure a positive team attitude."
Taken as a whole, this fifth point truly brings the strategy together. Be an active leader with active followers. Through clear communication, everyone knows their role and carries their responsibility - to the team and themselves.