4 Lessons From Planning an All-Virtual All-Staff Week

August 12, 2020 | Caitlin Hall-West, Avia Mason, Amber Williams

The importance of having designated time for staff to connect, grow, develop and share has always been the driving force behind the decision to host “ASTHO Week,” a three-and-a-half daylong all-staff convening every quarter. Given our current work environment, having this time together seems necessary now, more than ever. So in the midst of the pandemic and our full-time telework, here’s what our team learned about planning a 100% virtual ASTHO Week.

Convening a Strategic, Diverse Group of Volunteers Planning an Engaging Week of Activities

The driving force for the week was to reinforce the idea of “OneASTHO” and to advance our strategic priorities and core values, with a focus on collaboration and building connectedness across the organization. Continuing to engage staff from across the organization in planning was particularly important in trying to create the look and feel of the event in an all-virtual format.

"Out-of-the-Box" Activities

Staff had the opportunity to participate in wellness activities—like morning yoga, meditation, and end-of-the-day bootcamps over Zoom—virtual game rooms, and even a service opportunity to give back to our local communities.

Some content was recorded to allow staff the flexibility to participate outside of the set schedule and remain available for staff to engage based on their needs.

Small Group Activities Across Teams

Also new this time around was an all-staff small group. Each staff member was assigned to a small team of people they don’t usually work with day-to-day. The idea behind these small groups was to help break down work barriers, encourage creative thinking, and reinforce the importance of self-care. These groups had an opportunity to get to know one another better and reflect on the ways we live our organizational values at ASTHO. We also added a healthy dose of competition between the teams to offer a sense of comradery and encourage staff to take part in as many activities throughout the week as they wanted. We look forward to highlighting the products and experiences the small groups came up with in upcoming staff meetings.

Inspiring Talks

We were grateful to have board member Nirav Shah MD, JD, and Maine’s state health official, share his thoughts on leading during COVID-19, and Nate Smith, MD, MPH, outgoing ASTHO President and former Arkansas state health official, who spoke of his leadership as Commissioner of Health in Arkansas and his new role as a Deputy Director at the CDC. It is our mission to support and equip health officials in their work to advance the public’s health and well-being so it was reinvigorating to hear from Drs. Shah and Smith that the work we do is valuable to them.

A pinnacle of the week included a screening and discussion of the powerful film, Just Mercy, facilitated by ASTHO staff member Aika Aluc and Jarret Harper, ambassador for the nonprofit Represent Justice.

ASTHO’s Senior Director for Leadership and Learning, Avia Mason, saw this ASTHO Week as an opportunity to everyone to make time to connect with one another, offer rejuvenating sessions, and a time to collectively plan for the new project year.

“ASTHO has been working so hard since February and while we are accustomed to many of our staff working from various locations it has been difficult to not be able to all come together the way we normally would,” Mason said.

Feedback thus far has been extremely positive, and morale is higher. We will continue to seek ongoing opportunities for staff connection but count this week of development and enrichment as a step in the right direction. We look forward to hearing more of thoughts on how to make future ASTHO Weeks even better in this new world we are living in.