Teamwork (from 1,000 miles away)

When small companies turn into big companies, they face new challenges and NEMT is no exception. We’ve been in business for 22 years but in the last decade, we’ve moved from a regional New England-based company to a large national organization with hundreds of transcriptionists.

Tara Courtland

Communications Director Tara Courtland

While that success is obviously a source of great pride, it also comes with new challenges. One of those challenges is a question we ask ourselves regularly – how do you create a close-knit team and a sense of unity among people who work from home and who have never met?

There’s no single right answer to that so we’ve instituted a variety of initiatives: an employee newsletter, March Madness pools, MT Week games, photo contests … all designed to give our workforce members a sense of community.

We recently initiated a new one: a charity match program. We’re all familiar with corporate matches – you donate $50 to charity and your employer will match it. But in most companies, that only applies to full-time employees. We decided to open ours up to everyone – full-timers, part-timers, independent contractors … everyone on our payroll can take part.

We came up with the idea because, in our employee newsletter, we noticed that many of our team members submit pictures or stories about the charity events they participate in. Once spring hits, everyone takes to the streets to walk for a cause.

We discussed the idea of sponsoring a charity walk ourselves but our people are spread across so many states that no matter where we held it, only a few NEMT members could participate.

We also thought about picking a large national charity walk and encouraging everyone to sign up in their own city. But we didn’t feel good about picking a single charity for everyone; we might pick breast cancer, but just as many of our team members may care more about heart disease or Alzheimer’s or child abuse.

Then we realized – we don’t have to pick for them; we could do just as much good for our team and for our world by supporting the group each person has already chosen. Our only two rules are that the charity has to be a legitimate nonprofit with no political or partisan affiliations, and that the charity has to be hosting an event: a charity walk or a dance or dinner – a specific occasion for which participants are asked to raise money.

The reason for that is simple: we’re a solitary and sedate industry. Almost all of our team members work alone from their homes in sedentary jobs. In our free time, it wouldn’t hurt us to get up, get out and do something active. Our charity match is earmarked for events in order to encourage exercise (although exercise-type events are not required; one of the examples we use is a knit-a-thon) and socialization and also to give our team members something they can talk about and share with each other.

Of course we also want to make the world a better place and that’s one of the other reasons for the individual matches; it’s the small local charities have been hit hardest by the recession. We could pick a well-known national organization to have the widest appeal to our workforce, but it’s the local food banks, homeless shelters and SPCAs that are hurting the most these days and we want to help our team members help their own communities.

So we expect this program to be a win-win for our team members and their communities. So far, it’s proven to be popular. In the first few days of the launch, we made matching donations to Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago; Brashaw Christian School in California; and Autism Speaks in Maryland.

We’re excited about this and we’re looking for feedback and suggestions from other companies that have tried similar programs – or that have similar challenges and innovative solutions for building teamwork remotely.

What have you seen in your company? Or what would you like to see? Leave us a comment or email tcourtland@nemtinc.com.

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About Tara Courtland

Tara Courtland is the communications director at NEMT.
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