An American Editor

March 13, 2020

On the Basics: Tips for coping with the current health crisis

By Ruth E. Thaler-Carter, Owner

An American Editor

Many AAE subscribers have been working from home for years, so the current movement to that model as a response to the coronavirus crisis (yes, it is at crisis level in many ways) is no big deal. Others work in outside offices and are faced with transforming their own or their colleagues’ work styles into being home-based.

Based on my many years of working from home, here are some suggestions.

At home

  • If you live with family members, let them know that you need peace and quiet, with minimal interruptions or intrusions, when you’re trying to work. Both spouses/partners and younger kids will think it’s great to have you at home with them, but might have to be tactfully educated about why you’re there, what you have to get done for work and when (or if) you can take a break to hang out with them.
    • Ask everyone to let you answer the home phone if you have one, so clients and colleagues don’t get your adorable five-year-old on the line or someone who forgets to take important messages.
    • Set aside a dedicated workspace and make sure everyone knows not to mess with your computer and paper files. If you have a room that becomes your office, consider putting a Do not disturb! sign on the door.
    • Have a laptop for work that no one else in the house is allowed to use, or invest in an inexpensive desktop setup that is also hands-off to everyone but you.
    • Get dressed in something more business-like than jeans and T-shirts so you feel like you’re working — and your family treats you accordingly.
    • Get out of the house every day, for a walk around the block, lunch with family or friends, trips to the store or library as needed or appropriate, etc.
    • Keep a schedule similar to your usual workday so going back to the office won’t be as big of a jolt when you get the all-clear.
    • If your company doesn’t have a template to log your projects and time, create one — even if you aren’t asked to provide it.
  • If you have children of about grades 5 to 9 (U.S. system) who might have to stay home because local schools close down, a Facebook colleague suggested using (there’s even a PDF of lesson plans for “Teaching Literary Elements Through Song Lyrics”) and the site Every-Day Edits to keep them busy.
  • Splurge on some new books, toys and games for kids, partners, parents, pets, etc., and consider subscriptions to online movies, e-books and other sources of information and entertainment that you might not have needed until now. If you have to stay home for any unusual amount of time, the usual entertainments could get old pretty quickly.

For the office

  • Set up regular phone or Internet meetings to track project status and employee health or needs — not necessarily daily, but certainly weekly.
  • Create a template for individual employee project activity.
  • Expand sick day guidelines/benefits.
  • Provide laptops for anyone who needs them.
  • Set up special passwords and login access so people working from home don’t expose company materials to access by family members and visitors.
  • Triple-check health-related warnings and recommendations before sharing them with employees.
  • Stock up on sanitizers, gloves and face masks for employees.
  • Adopt a heightened routine for cleaning surfaces throughout the office, including door knobs, stairwell railings, elevator buttons, desks, keyboard, phones, etc.
  • Remind employees that any and all communications, quotes and comments about how the company is handling this issue must come from authorized spokespeople, and ask (or tell) employees not to post about it to Facebook and other social media.

In general

Whether you work in-house or freelance from home, you might feel the urge to stock up on household supplies and find that your usual grocery or big-box store is running low. Remember that drugstores and department chains (Target, Dollar Stores, etc.) carry things like toilet paper, dry goods, pet food and supplies, beverages, over-the-counter medications and other healthcare products, etc. Many also have refrigerated sections with perishable or frozen foods. There should be a variety of options for keeping your home stocked with whatever you might need in the next few weeks.

Best of luck to all!

How are you coping with and preparing for this situation? What other suggestions do you have for colleagues, whether in-house or freelance?



  1. Great tips, Ruth! What a well-organized mind! There is just one thing I don’t hear people talking about, though. We may well see some serious issues with internet availability, as everyone and their sister shift to working online. As of Monday universities all over, and some k-12 schools, will be starting a shift to online instruction, as will the whole business community. We may see some serious glitches for at least a week, according to a friend who oughta know!

    Best, Janet
    Janet T Cannon Writing Services


    Comment by Janet Cannon — March 14, 2020 @ 10:19 am | Reply

  2. This is also the ideal time to learn how to use new technology, such as webinars and video conferencing. Not to mention catching up on those piles of unread books, unwatched movies, unplayed games, unfiled piles … 🙂


    Comment by An American Editor — March 17, 2020 @ 11:32 am | Reply

  3. Even though I have freelanced for more than 20 years, this shutdown makes the time seem different. With no schedule of social activities, it can be draining (even with a partner and a cat!) to be home all day. I appreciate your mention of taking walks, which have always been and continue to be a source of stimulation and exercise for me. Hope you are coping in this time of crisis, Ruth, and staying well. Sherri Al


    Comment by almsink — March 18, 2020 @ 3:00 pm | Reply

  4. Good morning, all! Thank you, Sherri – I’m doing fine so far, although my area is under a stay-at-home order as of this morning, so we can only go out for walks, emergencies, and to the grocery store or pharmacy. I’m feeling so bad for people whose jobs can’t be done from home or a computer, and concerned – although there isn’t anything I can do about it – about the overall impact of everything going on around us. Many of us here are in the lucky position of being able to do our work almost as usual, and are thankful for that. Something to keep in mind in addition to my initial suggestions is finding ways to help family, friends and neighbors during this crisis — that will be a mitzvah, and good for our souls as well as anyone we can help.


    Comment by An American Editor — March 23, 2020 @ 10:18 am | Reply

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