In these uncertain times, we are quickly discovering that not all heroes wear capes. Millions of people are suddenly finding themselves temporarily or permanently without employment and under quarantine or shelter-in-place directives. With society at a standstill and sick individuals fighting for their lives, many healthy and skilled remote workers are stepping up and volunteering as much as they can.
Not only are frontline healthcare professionals quickly running out of personal protective equipment (PPE), but seniors and more vulnerable residents are finding fulfilling basic needs such as buying food and medicines quite challenging. Because of these challenges, our newly minted heroes are coming to the rescue.
This pandemic is teaching us what works in our society and what doesn’t. It is also opening our eyes to what truly matters and what some people really are—heroes in disguise. We are discovering that even during these challenging times, the entrepreneurial spirit of the American workforce is alive and well, putting their diverse skill sets to good use.
How Remote Heroes, Virtual Workers, Small Businesses, and Regional Volunteers Are Stepping Up Across the Country
One of the most important ways that people have been helping is by keeping people safe and taking care of others. The global shortage of PPE, medical devices, and cleaning supplies has propelled small businesses, community organizations, and groups of volunteers around the country to take action and fill those needs. Although most of the attention has been given to onsite volunteers, remote professionals can also use their unique skills to aid those affected by this pandemic.
For telecommuting professionals looking to donate their time to help with the COVID-19 response, organizations like VolunteerMatch can connect potential volunteers with businesses or groups needing remote assistance.
There are many things and needs that remote volunteers can achieve and fill from home. Roles for community organizers, writers, telehealth medical professionals, chat-line operators, website designers, and government relations professionals are available. Remote volunteers can also find organizations and companies that can use their virtual-friendly skills.
But it’s not just large companies and established nonprofit organizations that are stepping up. Small businesses and individuals are also making a difference, some from their homes with local teams of volunteers.
In Washington State, creative workers and performance organizations are banding together to organize virtual online sewing circles to help create masks, protective gowns, 3D-printed nasal swabs, and face shields. Volunteers are researching material density and sewing patterns to help make medical-grade masks to alleviate the demand for N95 masks meant for front-line healthcare professionals.
Existing businesses are converting their factories to help relieve the mask shortage. Kaas Tailored, a furniture manufacturer in Seattle, converted its factory to make masks from surgical wrap and other medical-grade materials. The company is also hiring temporary workers specifically for this surge.
The desire to solve the ventilator shortage drove Sea-Long Medical Systems, Inc., a Texas-based manufacturer of hyperbaric oxygen hood tents, to add workers to his mom-and-pop business. With only five employees working out of his backyard workshop, owner Chris Austin was able to ramp up production from 1,000 units to 5,000 units per week. The tent, consisting of a soft-plastic helmet, is a less invasive breathing aid that reduces the number of patients that might need a ventilator. After this FDA approved helmet showed promising results on a coronavirus patient, medical facilities worldwide rushed to place orders, forcing the company to add more workers, including volunteers from a local church.
An LSU physics professor and a group of his students and volunteers have dedicated themselves to making PPE and other supplies for hospitals in New Orleans and Baton Rouge. Working out of his garage, Dr. Wayne Newhauser and his team are working with local surgeons and respiratory specialists along with donated supplies and materials from businesses to help put together the equipment.
In Maui, several teams of volunteers have contributed. A group called Maui COVID PPE has been making cloth masks, medical masks, disposable masks, face shields, and testing booths to help protect healthcare workers. Another group, the Maui Mask Makers, raised $21,000 via GoFundMe for materials and are searching for volunteers to help make 10,000 masks for delivery to the neighboring islands of Molokai and Lanai. And finally, a group of tennis players from Royal Lahaina Tennis Ranch, are working from their own homes to fashion masks intended to go over medical-grade masks to provide an extra, washable layer of protection.
Teenagers and young adults are volunteering as well. Two separate groups of high school students started two volunteer organizations, Zoomers to Boomers and Shopping Helpers LA. Both services provide free grocery deliveries to seniors and people at high-risk for COVID-19 complications. Aiming to mobilize their peers, these two organizations are motivated by a desire to help. In fact, Zoomers to Boomers has expanded service to other areas in Southern California, while Shopping Helpers L.A. already has more than 300 volunteers handling more than 100 requests per day.
Covercraft, a company that makes protective gear for vehicles, is now making personal protective equipment. After furloughing some employees due to mandatory closures for non-essential businesses, the company switched its production to medical equipment. The company plans to make more than 4,000 gowns and masks per day, using volunteers from the furloughed group of employees.
In Colorado, volunteer pilots are providing air delivery of 3D-printed PPE to rural state hospitals thanks to “Make4Covid.” This initiative, organized by a community of volunteers of home-bound families, students, and professors with 3D printers, create homemade face masks and face shields for healthcare professional. The group that started with 20 people has now grown to a sprawling network of almost 2,000 volunteers.
Volunteering Can Help Unemployed Remote Jobseekers
With so many people furloughed, laid off, fired from their jobs, or confined to their homes, it is vital for jobseekers not to lose sight of their goal. That goal is finding the perfect remote job for their needs. Although it may seem difficult at first, it is essential to think about taking actionable steps to ensure that any employment gaps do not hinder the remote jobseeker’s efforts. This is where remote volunteering can help.
Hiring managers prefer candidates who are hard-working and motivated, even in roles where they are not getting paid. According to The Corporation for National and Community Service, jobseekers who spent time volunteering had a 27% better chance of finding a job than those who did not. So not only does volunteering look good on resumes, but it does the job of making a meaningful contribution to society.
But volunteering to avoid a gap in a resume is not the only benefit. Sixty percent of hiring managers said volunteering increased the job candidate’s marketability, and for those that did volunteer, 7% were more likely to have found a job one year later compared to those who did not volunteer. Spending time volunteering can also help jobseekers learn new skills, hone existing skills, and develop the soft skills that many employers look for.
The volunteers dedicating their time to help during this pandemic are not only putting their existing skills to good use but also developing beneficial skills for the future. For instance, coordinating volunteering activities or fundraisers can improve communication, multi-tasking, project planning, time management, and interpersonal skills. Those volunteers creating personal protective equipment can increase their resource development, problem-solving, and leadership skills.
How Volunteering Expands Personal and Professional Networks
The fact remains, the longer jobseekers remain unemployed, the weaker their social networks tend to be. With 80% of jobs being filled through personal and professional connections, it is vital for the jobseeker to maintain or expand their professional network. Volunteering is a solution. It can help expand personal networks and open the door to other opportunities that the jobseeker may not have considered before. A more extensive network can also increase opportunities to meet other professionals who can connect jobseekers with employers looking to fill an existing job opening.
Keeping a positive mindset during this pandemic (and during the job search) is essential. Volunteering helps people feel needed and productive and provides a significant positive impact on the community. It can lower stress, boost self-esteem, and help remedy isolation, a side-effect of remote work (and state-mandated quarantines) that can be challenging for telecommuters. Taking actionable steps towards personal and career goals during these difficult times can also help jobseekers maintain hope and avoiding depression.
How Virtual Vocations Can Help Remote Jobseekers
Jobseekers are under constant pressure to showcase their abilities to hiring managers and potential employers. With volunteering experience and newly refined skills during the COVID-19 pandemic, workers seeking a remote career have everything they need to make a lasting impression.
Virtual Vocations not only provides more than 20,000 hand-screened telecommuting jobs leads via its job lead database, but it also provides a variety of career services. To ensure that telecommuting jobseekers can get their remote careers back on track, the company offers professional resume assessments, resume writing services, LinkedIn profile makeovers, and certified career coaches who can provide remote jobseekers career guidance and advice, as well as provide strategic career planning and help improve interview skills for remote jobs.
Have you been inspired by stories of remote heroes stepping up to help with the COVID-19 crisis? Connect with Virtual Vocations on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to tell us what you think. We’d love to hear from you!
iStock image: freemixer
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