COVID-19 has upended the world, but the fashion industry has been hit particularly hard. Over the past month, the novel coronavirus epidemic has caused numerous brands to shut their retail stores indefinitely — including Nike, Net-a-porter, Everlane, Reformation, and many more. In short, the global pandemic has altered the very fabric of our lives.

As the crisis deepens, with 1.5 million confirmed cases in the United States alone, many fashion and beauty companies — the majority of which have ceased production altogether — have stepped up to help combat COVID-19. As the world comes to terms with life under pathogenic threat, a slew of top fashion and beauty brands are pivoting from manufacturing clothes and cosmetics to producing personal protective equipment (PPE) like masks, gowns, sanitizer, and other supplies to aid the fight against the spread of the virus.

Here’s how American powerhouse brands are taking on the battle against this global pandemic.

  1. Nike

    In an incredible response to the global pandemic, Nike has pledged a total of more than $17 million to help fight the novel coronavirus — with major donations going to the Oregon Food Bank, the Oregon Community Recovery Fund, and the Oregon Health and Service University. The Nike Foundation is donating $1 million to the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund, and to local organizations to help them meet immediate needs — like food assistance and medical care — in key cities and communities around the world where their employees live and work.

  2. Ralph Lauren

    Ralph Lauren’s eponymous lifestyle brand has pledged $10 million to COVID-19 relief efforts — the largest donation by a fashion brand thus far. The money will go to the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund, the Emergency Assistance Foundation, its Pink Pony Fund that supports international cancer institutions, and an undisclosed amount to A Common Thread, the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA)/Vogue Fashion Fund for COVID-19 Relief in support of American fashion designers and industry members hit hard by the economic fall-out from the pandemic.

    “It is in the spirit of togetherness that we will rise,” shared Ralph Lauren in a statement. “That is why we are taking significant action to help our teams and communities through this crisis.”

  3. Michael Kors

    Michael Kors has pledged $1 million, with the designer himself adding in another $1 million personally for New York-based organizations that are providing coronavirus relief efforts. $750,000 will go to New York-Presbyterian Hospital; $750,000 to NYU Langone Health; $250,000 to God’s Love We Deliver — an organization that delivers nutritious, medically tailored meals for people too sick to shop or cook for themselves; and $250,000 to A Common Thread — the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA)/Vogue Fashion Fund for COVID-19 Relief.

  4. Crocs

    Crocs is giving back to healthcare workers on the frontlines of the COVID-19 through their “A Free Pair for Healthcare” to thank doctors, nurses, health attendants, and other healthcare heroes by providing them a free pair of Crocs Classic Clogs or Crocs At Work styles (while supplies last), along with free shipping.

  5. Christian Siriano

    The New York City-based fashion designer and Project Runway star was one of the first to answer New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s call for help creating personal protective equipment (PPE) via Twitter:

    “If @NYGovCuomo says we need masks my team will help make some,” wrote Siriano. “I have a full sewing team still on staff working from home that can help.”

    Cuomo soon confirmed his office was in touch with Siriano, tweeting:

    “Appreciate his help so much. Who’s next? Let’s do this together, NY!”

  6. New Balance

    New Balance has pledged $2 million to support local, regional, and global communities impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The funds will go to the following organizations: $200,000 to Global Giving — the largest crowdfunding community that connects nonprofits, companies, and donors across the world; $100,000 to No Kid Hungry who work to feed kids in the hardest-hit communities; and $50,000 each to The Boston Resiliency Fund, Good Shepherd Food Bank in Maine, the St. Louis Area Foodbank, and Groundwork Lawrence. Select organizations from the New Balance Foundation’s network, who support children and families, with a focus on health, nutrition, education, and physical movement, will receive a combined total of $1.5 million.

    Anne Davis, managing trustee of the New Balance Foundation, said: “As we witness the growing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are inspired by the acts of humanity, kindness, and compassion that have emerged in support of one another during this health crisis.”

  7. Estée Lauder

    In addition to reopening a factory in Melville, New York to start producing hydroalcoholic gel (aka sanitizer) for high-need groups and populations, like frontline healthcare workers — Estée Lauder has pledged a $2 million grant to Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières to support their work in affected countries that lack the resources to battle the novel coronavirus successfully.

  8. Kate Spade New York

    Kate Spade announced via Instagram that the brands at Tapestry — the New York-based house of modern luxury lifestyle brands like Coach, Kate Spade, and Stuart Weitzman — would be donating $2 million to New York City’s Small Business Continuity Fund. The post shared that the money was “for all the small businesses in NYC that make our hometown so incredibly special, and right now need some extra love and support. we appreciate each one of you, we’re here for you and we can’t wait to see you again soon.”
    https://www.instagram.com/p/B-P40Hml4aW/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link

  9. Saks Fifth Avenue

    The American luxury retailer has pledged $600,000 to organizations that support COVID-19 relief efforts through its Saks Fifth Avenue Foundation. $250,000 will go to the New York-Presbyterian Hospital COVID-19 Patient Care Fund; $200,000 to Bring Change to Mind — a mental health organization creating virtual programs for high school students aimed at reducing feelings of isolation; and $150,000 to Girls, Inc. — who provide social and emotional support for girls affected by the pandemic.

  10. Brooks Brothers

    This American heritage fashion brand (founded in 1818) announced that its manufacturing facilities in New York, Massachusetts, and North Carolina will halt production of shirts, ties, and suits to begin producing medical masks and gowns — with a goal to manufacture 150,000 masks per day. “We are deeply grateful to the medical personnel at the frontlines who are fighting the pandemic, and we are honored to do our part and join our peers in retail to provide protective masks that our health care system critically needs,” said Claudio Del Vecchio, CEO of the company, in a statement.

  11. Under Armour

    Under Armour, the athleticwear powerhouse, is donating $2 million to support those affected by the pandemic. Feeding America will receive $1 million towards its hunger relief efforts related to school closures, and $1 million will go to Good Sports, a nonprofit that provides equipment, footwear, and apparel to at-risk youth to encourage physical activity.

  12. MAC Cosmetics

    Via its VIVA GLAM charitable campaign — launched more than 25 years ago as a community response to a pandemic (AIDS), and which has raised over $500 million since its inception in 1994 — MAC Cosmetics will donate $10 million to 250 organizations around the world that are working to combat COVID-19. Yes, MAC is putting its money where its rouged mouth is! And on top of the brand’s generous donation, they will be donating 100% of Viva Glam lipstick sales to raise funds for at-risk communities worldwide impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

    “VIVA GLAM has never been about one cause, but about support to vulnerable communities. It was created many years ago simply as a hardship fund for people who needed safety nets,” shared John Demsey, Chairman of the Mac Viva Glam Fund and executive group president of The Estee Lauder Companies Inc.


About the author.
An award-winning creator and digital health, wellness, and lifestyle content strategist — Karina writes, edits, and produces compelling content across multiple platforms — including articles, video, interactive tools, and documentary film. Her work has been featured on MSN Lifestyle, Apartment Therapy, Goop, Psycom, Pregnancy & Newborn, Eat This Not That, thirdAGE, and Remedy Health Media digital properties.

From emails to Facebook, newsletters to Twitter to texts, the quality of our writing often determines that first impression across the digital landscape. In a content saturated world, it’s a battle just to increase our odds of getting noticed, understood, and actually read. When our content is up against an endless supply of words and images behind glowing screens, we need to make sure we not only capture attention, but keep it. (Oh my god, it’s like we’ve manifested our childhood need for attention into a professional way of life.)

From general writing advice to medium specific necessities, we’ve got you covered, dear reader. We’re going to take you through how to sharpen your language, adapt tone for different mediums, and perhaps most importantly, capture attention with direct brevity (and a little humor).

Write Better Emails

Not only are emails the default form of professional communication, emails are your paper trail. Especially in the workplace, you want to make sure any verbal agreements are translated to paper ⁠— and that you’re writing as if anyone might read your words.

You also want to make sure those emails actually get read. While email attention spans have grown, here are some ways to get better results whenever you click send.

Be direct / Be brief
I used to wonder why no one knew the information that was clearly stated in emails I sent. Spoiler alert: it’s because no one read them. If the first few sentences don’t highlight what’s important⁠ —  and you don’t keep pertinent info in separate lines or at the top of the paragraph ⁠— they’ll barely get glanced at.

Make sure you have short paragraphs and lead with the most important information. If you can cut a paragraph down to 2 sentences, people will love you. Or rather, if you say in 2 paragraphs what could’ve been communicated in 2 sentences, people will hate you.

This all goes double for the subject line. What. Are. You. Emailing. About?

BCC is your friend. Reply all is your enemy.
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Okay, so this isn’t specifically about the actual writing, but if there were commandments for sending emails, these would be the first two. The other 30 people on that office-wide email chain don’t need to be abreast of every “okay” and “thanks.” Spare them, and yourself, some grief by paying attention who is in what line of the To/ CC/ BCC trifecta.

Write Better Newsletters

This is your most direct and intimate lifeline to your audience. When you saddle into their inbox, you’ll be competing against dozens if not hundreds of other emails clamoring for their attention.

Every blast should provide purpose, and if appropriate, a little entertainment. Studies show most people read emails between 9 and 11AM on weekdays, so ideally you’re sending that blast between 7 and 10AM (but make sure to check that against your own analytics).

Grab attention with the subject and preview
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Let your readers know what they’ll get out of your email. What’s the value add? New projects? Discount codes? New products? Why should I care? If it’s time-sensitive, make that clear. Words like “breaking” and “urgent” get clicks. Just make sure you use those bait-y words with purpose.

Important information goes “above the fold.” Why should someone spend their precious inbox moments reading what you have to say? What problem are you solving? Expand on the key words in your subject line with the preview text. For more in-depth tips, check this out.

Sound friendly, but not overly familiar
Ahh, the fine line of tone. To take me for example, this vibe is fairly casual. It’s a long form blog where I have the space to form intimacy. I don’t assume to know too much about you, but I give you enough personality so that you might feel like you’re getting to know me. People and brands that have distinct voices always stand. Find yours and use it.

Master the image to text ratio
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If you look at a heat map of where people’s eyeballs go when they read an email, you’ll see attention goes to headlines, images, the first two words of a paragraph … and then they trail off.

To keep engagement, break up the text and include plenty of images. Whether it’s a pop culture reference, charts and graphs, or a promo flyer, save those eyeballs from a text wasteland.

Write Better Social Media Posts

Social media has become everyone’s public persona. How do you present yourself, your brand, your company? Know thy audience, know thy medium, know thyself.

Write for the medium
Instagram better have great visuals with a clever caption. Good lighting, clear images, or some sort of infographic will go far. The words are just there to support that. A lot of people won’t even read them. On Twitter you better make those characters count. One sentence is ideal unless you’re clever.

Facebook can handle a combination of links, text, and photos. LinkedIn is, of course reserved, for professional accomplishments, events, and articles. Just like with newsletters, your personal analytics matter more than the general rule of thumb so check in with that.

Give it purpose
Whatever you’re using, make sure there’s a value-add and a purpose. Now, that purpose can be a joke, but you better make your audience laugh in a non-cringe kind of way. Add a call to action to make it really count.

Keep it casual 🙆🏻‍♀️

Especially for Twitter and Instagram, you can bend the grammar rules and play with hashtags and emojis. Adding a meta awareness to your posts can score you big points with younger audiences.

Write Better, Period.

Write like a human person
When you get hyper formal, overly “rah-rah,” or a little too fake, it’s obvious and off-putting. Sound like yourself, or at least sound like a human. Gauge the level of formality needed for the situation and don’t go beyond that. Unless you’re working in an industry with antiquated formal standards of practice, tis better to err on the side of casual.

Why?

  1. You will sound more likable.
  2. You will sound smarter.

You know who writes in a casual tone? People who don’t have anything to prove. If you actually know what you’re talking about, it’ll come off as confidence.

Of course, there’s a fine line. Going too casual with an abundance of emojis, exclamation points, colloquialisms, and misspellings will have the opposite effect.

Cut unnecessary prepositions
As a matter of fact, cut out all unnecessary words. Unless you’re combing for the perfect metaphors to describe the sunset …

KEEP
IT
SIMPLE

For example, instead of
“I’m writing to inform you of a new propositions that may alleviate workflow issues you may be experiencing in your business.”

You can sharpen that to
“I’ve developed a new proposition aimed at solving your business problems.”

Find the “of”s, the passive language, the qualifiers, and get rid of them.

Use action verbs where possible
Chuck Palahniuk has an extremely frustrating, but insanely effective technique for creating dynamic prose. Go through whatever you write. Cross out the “thought” verbs (thinks, knows, understands, realizes, etc). Replace them with unpacked action verbs. He also insists including “is” and “has” verbs as well as “loves” and “hates.”

While this advice was written for novelists and storytellers and certainly qualifies as overkill for most online media, there are a few really useful ideas behind it that will benefit anyone.

First, it forces active language. For daily writing it won’t make sense to replace every “thought” and “to be” verb, but if you can replace a handful for every page of writing, you will arrive at your point faster and hold attention longer.

Second, it asks us to figure out what it is we’re actually trying to say without short cuts. I love this ⁠— especially when working with buzz words. Instead of “authenticity,” “manifest,” “abundance,” “optimize,” “organic,” what are you actually trying to communicate? Are those the best words? Sometimes they are, but often they’re BS.

You can even take this advice to a resume. The first line of every bullet point should have an engaging action verb like “wrote,” “designed,” “produced,” “implemented,” not something like “helped” or “was the point person for.” Specifics are everything.

Write now. Edit later. Always revise.
Get the words down. Now. Don’t get stuck on the perfect phrases. Practice spitting them out. Then go back. Edit. Revise. Hone. Reread. THEN submit. After all…
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About the author.
Alessandra is the mentor, educator, and writer behind Boneseed, a private practice devoted to deep self-inquiry through a range of physical, energetic, and mental modalities. She has over 500 hours of yoga, mentorship, and facilitation training and can be found slinging knowledge on her website, newsletter, and @bone.seed.

Businesses worldwide are feeling the effects of the pandemic — stores have closed, events postponed, flights grounded, projects canceled. As companies plan for an uncertain future in the wake of COVID-19, many have had to furlough or lay off employees as they try and forge their way forward.

Furloughed employees are in suspended animation; they are usually still able to get benefits, like health insurance, though they are unpaid or on reduced pay. When a worker is furloughed, the expectation is that they will return to their position after the furlough ends. If you find yourself in this situation, take heart that it is likely a temporary cost-cutting measure intended to preserve your job and help keep your company afloat in these turbulent times. While this can be reassuring, we know that the struggle to make do without being paid or being paid less is real. Be sure to check with your human resources department for specific information on what coverage you will maintain.

The good news is that furloughed workers can now claim unemployment insurance, along with expanded Federal benefits due to COVID-19. If you are furloughed and still working — but have had your hours reduced by 20% or more — it is a sufficient reduction in hours in most states to claim unemployment benefits.

If you have been laid-off, you are looking at a more final exit from your company. While your company may hire again in the future, a role with them is not assured in any way. Someone who has been laid-off may no longer be eligible for company-sponsored health insurance or other employee benefits — but there are options for continuing health insurance coverage. Check with your human resources department to see what exit packages they are offering; some companies like AirBnB are paying for 12 months of COBRA health insurance for US employees who are laid off.

The numbers tell a grim story: with 3.2 million claims for unemployment benefits for the week ending May 2, 2020 — unemployment reached an all-time epic apex of 33.5 million claims over the last seven weeks — the highest level of unemployment since the Department of Labor began tracking data. If you have been furloughed or laid-off, you are clearly not alone. And while the news may be challenging, we want you to know that you still have options. Here are some things to consider as you navigate this next phase of your professional life.

Wait a Day. Then Negotiate Clear Terms With Your Employer.

An initial lay-off or furlough conversation can come as a shock to the system. Take a day or two to digest the news and gather your thoughts. Before signing anything, ask your company to clarify why you are being let go and to detail the separation benefits you will receive. Ask how much longer you will be paid, if there is severance or separation pay, and get clarity on what benefits you will (or won’t) continue to receive. Additionally, ask about what happens to paid vacation and sick days (in some states these must be paid out), 401k or other retirement funds, stock options with the company, and ask whether or not you can keep the equipment (laptop, cell phone, accessories) that may have been provided to you.

If you are furloughed, your health and life insurance benefits will likely continue. If you are laid off, see if your company has made any special arrangements to provide additional assistance during this time. If you are a member of a union, additional benefits may be available on top of those offered by your employer. Check with your union representative to get details on available programs for impacted workers.

Research Is Your Friend. Please Do It.

Many programs have been expanded, and new ones added to help manage the economic fall-out from the pandemic. The proverbial devil is in the details — be sure to research them, so you don’t miss out on some form of assistance for which you are eligible.

Unemployment benefits are now available to anyone who has lost their job (through no fault of their own) and can help you make ends meet until you find a new opportunity. Furloughed and freelance workers who did not qualify for unemployment benefits before COVID-19 are now eligible because the new stimulus law expanded the definition of eligibility. Be sure to look up the specifics as details vary state by state. Learn more about how to file in your state here.

Most states offer 26 weeks of unemployment benefits, and there is an additional $600 per week that is part of the federal stimulus plan. If you exhaust your benefits, the stimulus plan has provided for an additional 13 weeks of unemployment pay.

Helpful tip: You can file for unemployment benefits online. Many state unemployment websites have been swamped and overwhelmed with applications—we recommend applying either early or late in the day when the systems are less overloaded.

Embrace Your Network.

It’s a virtual world — make the most of it. With the majority of the country still quarantined at home, you have an unprecedented opportunity to reconnect with old contacts and to form new ones. Schedule video chats or phone calls to connect in a more personal manner. Reach out to people you know for opportunities; this may be more important now than ever before. Check in on old colleagues and friends, and ask them to connect you with their contacts. Follow up with these new people — if you cultivate and expand your network, it will nourish you.

Make a habit of being fast and responsive with your digital communications. It will help facilitate connections that may lead to new opportunities. If you’re in an industry that has been hit particularly hard by COVID-19, think about how you can pivot your skills to positions outside your field. Talk to people that have made similar pivots. Ask advice. Develop new relationships. Even if there are no immediate opportunities, you are planting seeds for when a role does open up. Jobs are still available, but there will be more competition. Taking the initiative to reach out may make all the difference — as the Latin proverb proclaims: fortune favors the bold.


About the author.
An award-winning creator and digital health, wellness, and lifestyle content strategist — Karina writes, edits, and produces engaging content across multiple platforms — including articles, video, interactive tools, and documentary film. Her work has been featured on MSN Lifestyle, Apartment Therapy, Goop, Psycom, Pregnancy & Newborn, Eat This Not That, thirdAGE, and Remedy Health Media digital properties. You can see more of her work at karinamargit.com.

Technology has radically transformed how, and where, Americans work — and will continue to do so long after this challenging time has passed. That’s why it’s time to learn how to master the remote interview.

The job you’re applying for may or may not be remote going forward, but in this time of social distancing due to the novel coronavirus — your interview will be. And as things evolve, this may become more the rule than the exception. According to the United States Census Bureau, remote interviews are becoming increasingly common as millions of workers are being hired to WFH (and this before the time of C19).

Job interviews used to be when we could connect in-person with a possible new employer — but until the new normal reverts to the old — it’s key to make the tech work in your favor. In some ways, remote interviews are not too different from in-person ones: the company wants to see if you’re a good fit for the role — and you want to see if the company is a good fit for you. Like an IRL interview — do your research, review your notes, have a copy of your résumé handy, and a shortlist of questions you want to ask the interviewer. But you may face a few challenges that you might not in a face-to-face interview. Here’s what you want to know!

polished-home-office

Set the Scene

Make sure to prep the area where you plan to do your video interview. Setting the scene matters. A lot. A messy room with laundry and stuffed animals strewn about? Probably not the path to success. When you set up for your interview, look around at what the interviewer will see in the background. Keep it as simple, clean, neutral — and businesslike as possible. Desk showing? Organize the top and banish any clutter.

Zoom backgrounds may be your friend if you can’t curate a corner of your actual space (and, of course, if your remote interview is on Zoom). Here are 8 great options!

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Check the Tech

Yes. Please check your equipment before the interview. Remote interviews require technology — which means that you have to ensure that the software (where the interview is taking place) is working seamlessly. Whatever the platform — Skype, Zoom, Google Hangouts, or another peer-to-peer software — make sure to test it out before the interview. Here’s how: most programs have a testing feature that will allow you to mimic a live call and make sure that everything is working as it should. If not? Test it out with a friend! Links for the five most popular video chat platforms below:
Zoom
Skype
Google Hangouts
WebEx
GoToMeeting

young-woman-at-laptop

Practice Makes Perfect

Practice, practice, and then practice some more. Here’s why: the tech associated with remote interviews can make some people feel ill at ease. You want to get comfortable using the video chat technology so that you appear calm, collected, poised. Practice with a friend; find your best angle; get accustomed to the volume, camera position, and other controls.

Pro tip: If you can, use a laptop or computer screen instead of an iPad.

closeup-of-notebook-and-pencil

Get a Notebook and Pen at the Ready

Have a clean pad of paper or notebook ready, and put the interviewer’s name and title on it. Make things simple for yourself. When anxiety starts to rise, it will be helpful to have the right name in front of you for easy reference — and you’ll have a convenient place to take notes and jot down questions that might come to you during the interview.

woman-in-yellow-suit

Dress for Success

Style yourself to fit the culture of the company with whom you are interviewing — and take care not to under or overdress. If it’s business casual, you won’t go wrong with a button-down and slacks. If more formal, wear a jacket (and tie, if you’re a tie wearer). Here are some recommendations for coming across polished and professional:
• Keep jewelry to a minimum.
• Neutral tones work well.
• Don’t wear white — it’s a bad choice on camera. Blue is a better option!
• Nix logo-laden tops — busy patterns too. You don’t want to distract the interviewer with your sartorial choices.
• Wear a jacket if you’re prone to sweating when nervous.
• Shave or groom your beard if you have one.
• If you’re someone that wears make-up — tinted moisturizer and mascara with a daub of lip gloss go a long way.

You may be tempted to wear jeans (or sweats) with your more-dressed up top, but realize that your entire ensemble can reflect your attitude and subconsciously impact how you come off in your interview. Think about it like an actor or actress getting ready to play a part — they don’t do it halfway.

Pro tip: Dress like the interview is happening in-person.

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Sound Control is Key

Barking dogs. Crying babies. Loud trucks. When you are being interviewed, make sure to keep the noise level down. Turn off the television. Close your windows. Tell Alexa to keep it quiet. Put your cell phone on silent. If your dog is a crooner, see if you can get someone to take Fido out while you interview. If your kids are a possible noise culprit — see if someone in your home can watch them. If your particular quarantine situation makes that impossible — it might be Netflix to the rescue. Get some snacks, turn on a favorite movie or show, and explain that it’s important to stay quiet for a little while. As you might suspect, yapping dog, roaring lawnmower, or droning television in the background will not make you sound more professional — so do your best to maintain sound control.

Remember — microphones are sensitive — even if you’ve managed the BIG noises, little ones can also wreak havoc. Beware of: clicking your pen, tapping your foot, fidgeting (or playing with a fidget spinner), checking e-mail, or making any other distracting noises that your microphone may pick up. You want the focus on you and your skills — not the noise in the background.

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Control the Controllables

Close all unnecessary software on your computer; nix notifications, so you’re not disrupted by any errant beeps; put your cell phone on silent; and make sure your laptop (or iPad — but we recommend laptop or desktop) is plugged in or fully charged. The last thing you want is to be disturbed by external tech issues.

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Early Bird Gets the Gig

You want to be ready, and to ensure that you’re on time — be early. Get situated ten minutes before your interview so you can make sure that everything is in place. Enter your meeting first — it shows that you’re prompt and prepared. Don’t worry; the meeting won’t begin till your host joins. And once you’re set up, you’ll have a few minutes to do some deep breathing or other relaxation techniques if helpful for you.

excited-kid-cheering

Be Enthusiastic!

Just like in an in-person interview — a candidate that shows a lack of enthusiasm for the company or position is not likely to make a great impression. Technology can also flatten emotional affect, which makes it that much more vital that you come across in a lively manner. Now is the time to ban your resting bored face and put your restlessness to rest. Practice active listening — responses like “I see,” “that’s interesting,” and “great question,” let the interviewer know that you are paying attention and engaged. Employers want employees that are happy and excited to be working for them — enthusiasm for the role gets you that much closer to being hired!

smiley-face-on-sticky-note

Smile. Make Eye Contact. Sticky Notes are Your Friends.

Be sure to look at the camera — that’s the video chat equivalent of making eye contact. If you’re looking at the keyboard or something on your desk (or looking in the corner at that tiny video of yourself), you’re not looking at the interviewer. If you want a reminder, draw a pair of eyes on a sticky note and place just underneath your webcam.

You may not be aware of it, but facial expressions add variety and inflection to your voice, making you sound more engaged and personable. Smiling uses muscles that change the tone of your voice — for the better. Here’s a tip that will help you succeed: write the words “smile,” and “relax” on sticky notes and place where you can see during your interview so that you can remember to do both.

The moral of this story? Sticky notes are your friends.

Before you sign off —

Make sure to ask about next steps. Let the interviewer know that you are excited about the opportunity and look forward to being in touch — then thank the interviewer as you would after any interview.

And after the remote interview—

Double (triple) check that you are signed out of the video chat and that all equipment is turned off. Remember — microphones are sensitive.
Consider doing a post-interview review — this can be an invaluable tool for helping you assess what went well, what you could improve on, and keep track of any details that came up that you’d like to capture. You can use a video feature on your computer to make the process fast and simple.
Send a thank-you note!


About the author.
An award-winning creator and digital health, wellness, and lifestyle content strategist — Karina writes, edits, and produces compelling content across multiple platforms — including articles, video, interactive tools, and documentary film. Her work has been featured on MSN Lifestyle, Apartment Therapy, Goop, Psycom, Pregnancy & Newborn, Eat This Not That, thirdAGE, and Remedy Health Media digital properties.

If you’re still adjusting to mandatory work from home because of COVID-19, here are some tools to stay organized, connected, and sane. Or perhaps you’re accustomed to teleworking and are looking for more tools to work remotely during this unprecedented time.

Tools for Staying Organized

For collaborating on documents, spreadsheets, or presentations, nothing beats Google’s suite of cloud computing. There’s a free or business version and it’s available anywhere. But even a simple and elegant solution may require training for teams that aren’t used to working remotely. Just because you understand it, don’t assume that people know how to adjust settings to track their edits, for example, rather than editing a document directly.

Dropbox is helpful to organize final versions of documents. Cyrus Zulkarnaïan Kazi, CEO and co-founder of Quantibly.com, a global SaaS solution for the social sector, prefers to keep it simple. He creates a master Google spreadsheet as a “running depository of all the things being worked on.” The spreadsheet has links to all of the project documents. “You can’t walk into someone’s office and ask for something,” he points out, so having everything organized in one place is helpful.

There are many task and project management tools available out there. Website developers seem to prefer Basecamp, but personally, I like the visual design and ease of use of Trello.

image-of-trello-board
Image courtesy of Trello

Here again, Kazi prefers to stick with a simple project management tool that doesn’t require another application. When you use “heavy” project management tools like a Gantt chart, he explains, you also have to train people. And that adds work. He uses a shared Google spreadsheet for project and task management.

Tools for Staying Connected

Like productivity tools, for each solution that one person prefers and finds reliable, there are other messaging solutions that someone else will choose. Many teams use Slack, Google Hangouts, or WhatsApp for messaging throughout the day. The security conscious use Signal Private Messenger for encrypted communication.

When you have to communicate by voice or video with a team or have a conference call, there are also many options. If your workplace doesn’t have a preferred platform in place or an IT department with a recommendation, consider your budget and any equipment or training needs for people who are new to remote work.

If you’re disseminating a lot of information or leading a training and want to limit interruptions or participation from a large group of attendees, GoToMeeting or WebEx are commonly used.

For more collaborative and scalable meetings with video options, Zoom and BlueJeans are popular solutions. They enable screen share, chatting, and other features.

Free Conference Call is popular for those on a tight budget who only need audio. (But, you get what you (don’t) pay for. There are a fair amount of dropped calls or problems with access codes with this service.)

When using a new teleconferencing program, it’s important to give your team the tools to succeed. If security is a concern or people are reliant on their own technology at home, be sure to involve your IT department in this process early on for guidance. Give people ample time to download and familiarize themselves with the application prior to the call. Not everyone will do that, so it may be worthwhile to check in directly with technologically-challenged folks on your team in advance.

Many people temporarily cover up the camera on their laptop for security concerns and some may prefer an option without video. Allow participants to be on a video conference call or not, if they prefer a voice only option.

Kazi uses G Suite for business, which includes Google Meet. “Tech costs are spiking with everyone working remotely,” he points out. “Why take on more operational costs and licenses?”

Tools for Staying Sane

Social media can have negative impacts on mental health, but it may be difficult to avoid if it’s part of your freelance assignment. If you find it distracting for your productivity, you can limit usage through apps on your phone and browser extensions like WasteNoTime or StayFocusd.

Clearly we’re not in a typical work environment, even for remote work. It’s critical to take care of your behavioral health while social distancing during an infectious disease outbreak. YouTube is a great source for at home workouts. Insight Timer is a free meditation app with 30,000 free guided meditations, including meditations that help with getting a good night’s sleep.

You can use Libby to download ebooks and audiobooks from your public library. Audible made hundreds of titles free, particularly for kids, as a gesture while schools are temporarily closed.

Some people are turning to social video games for interaction. Jon Distad, a software engineer who works remotely, recently completed a crossword puzzle with friends on Zoom, something they used to do in the office together.

Whether you’re a seasoned teleworker or feel stuck at home because of the need for social distancing to limit the spread of COVID-19, hopefully you’ve found some useful tools to help you work from home. Stay safe and well.


About the author.
Jess Powers writes about marketing, food, and wellness. She has experience in nonprofit communications and emergency management. Follow her @foodandfury.

These are unprecedented times folks. Just the other day, I called my sister and told her my mother is filing for unemployment, and she said, “What?? She told me she’d wait for me so we could do it together over a glass of wine.” In a time when people are making parties out of filing for unemployment, it is incredibly important to not only be thankful for the ability to work remotely, but if you are a manager, to take a soft approach to remote management.

As a creative freelancer, I have spent most of my career in a remote working situation and I have experienced the good, the bad, the ugly, and the downright ridiculous, so today we will discuss the “do’s and don’ts” of remote management from the perspective of your employees, so that you know what they need from YOU.

Tip #1: DO NOT MICROMANAGE.

Just because you aren’t in the same room as the people under you doesn’t mean they need constant check-ins from you via Slack or Google Hangouts. Let them get their work done. When you message them, they have to stop what they are doing and lose their thought process, just to reply. Trust that your team is doing what they need to, and frankly, if they aren’t, you’ll notice fairly quickly.

Tip #2: INVEST IN TELECONFERENCING.

Yes, you’ve used Google Hangouts, or Skype and those totally working, but that’s just because you’ve never experienced Zoom or UberConference. The former options seem good until you try the latter. A top sirloin steak tastes amazing until you’ve had a bacon wrapped Filet Mignon … and your life changes forever and you can never go back to discount meat again. Zoom and UberConference offer features that are specific to managing teams and working together …

Tip #3: LOOK INTO WIFI HOTSPOTS.

The most important thing right now for your team is a reliable internet connection. Despite what you may think, not everyone actually has access to reliable internet where they live. Some people live in apartment buildings where the apartment management is in charge of internet, and getting it fixed or restarted sometimes becomes a bureaucratic process that takes months and a few bribes to the right government officials to execute. WiFi hotspots are an altogether inexpensive way of getting people a secure connection at a time when internet is the second most valuable resource behind toilet paper.

Tip #4: KEEP THINGS LIGHT.

Whenever I’m on an airplane and there is some turbulence that makes me uncomfortable, I look to the nearest person that looks like they fly a lot. If they look panicked, I start saying my final thoughts and prayers; if they look calm, I assume I have nothing to worry about. You are the North Star, so keep things light, keep things fun, make meetings a conversation rather than a doldrum of what needs to get done. Send an email of a funny meme you saw, spark a conversation via group chat about something silly your dog did. It’ll add humanity to our isolation.

But the single most important thing you must do is give everyone time to adjust. You must factor in the idea that not only are people getting used to a new work schedule, but they are also managing their own stress, their parent’s stress, and maybe their three children who have by this point rearranged all of the chairs in the house to create a death fort in the living room.

Let this be a time of transition and join the team in being fallible and human as everyone adjusts. Your leadership comes from your empathy in times like this, so let everyone have their time to find themselves in this new normal.


About the author.
Greg Berman is a stand up comedian, writer, and actor in Los Angeles, CA. Although he spends most of his day as an artist creating content in any and every medium, he also moonlights as a copywriter and data analyst at night, in order to make enough money to feed his dog. A dog, he’d like you to know, that eats better than he does.

As we adjust to the new normal of social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic, lots of emotions are running high. People feel worried, disoriented, lonely, sad, and uncertain about the future. If, as a freelancer, you’re also adding financial disruption to the mix, it’s a lot of change to handle. Here are some tips to manage stress and support your mental health right now.

The limbic system, the part of the brain which regulates our stress response and controls our emotions, is certainly being stimulated during this historic moment. The amygdala responds to potential threats to our safety (think: the primal “fight or flight” response). It elevates our emotions — particularly, fear, anger, and anxiety. That warning system has its place, but over-stimulation in the form of chronic stress also has long-term health consequences. The trick is to switch gears to more rational thought, to slow things down. That’s not to say that denial is a good approach. But there are ways to nurture ourselves and approach the situation with a greater sense of calm and resilience, in order to support our overall wellbeing.

Limit Media Exposure

Studies show that exposure to bad or negative news takes a toll on your mental health. Find the balance between staying informed and triggering yourself. New information continually arises as the medical community works to better understand the spread of novel coronavirus (COVID-19). Some good sources include the WHO and CDC, and your local or state government (for updates on closures, rules, and recommendations). You probably don’t need up to the minute stats or a never-ending dose of theories or opinions.

If you have trouble avoiding the temptation to go down a news or social media rabbit hole, try to set a specific time of day when you will tune in. Perhaps that’s after you do your first chunk of work in the morning or in the early evening. You can use apps on your phone or browser extensions like WasteNoTime or StayFocusd to limit screen time.

Also consider the type of entertainment that you are viewing. While it’s tempting (and very popular) to binge all the movies about pandemics, this might be a better time to focus on humor and lighter fare, particularly before bed.

Learn to Adapt

One challenge of dealing with stress right now is that you might not have access to the same resources that you rely on to manage it under normal circumstances. Your gym is closed, there are limitations to how you can spend time with friends, maybe you can’t visit parks or get out of town.

But, at the same time, new opportunities are opening up. There’s a wealth of free classes available online, free movies, and even free audiobooks to check out. People have more time available and suddenly everyone — including millennials who normally avoid chatting on the phone — wants to catch up, often over Zoom or FaceTime. Reach out to your support network and schedule time for social interaction during your day.

The Headington Institute, which works with emergency responders on resilience and trauma recovery, explains that “adaptive engagement” is critical right now. That is, “remaining flexible to changing conditions around us and leaning into what we can do and what we can control.”

Sure, you might not be able to buy plane tickets for your next adventure, but you can start researching a trip. Maybe you can’t take an in-person CrossFit class with your favorite trainer, but you can workout at home. Spend some time working on the things that you never seem to be able to get to.

Getting back to the basics means getting sufficient sleep, eating nutritious food, and moving your body, says Jill Dovale, a masters of social work candidate at NYU. She suggests doing at least one thing a day that brings you joy. She also recommends making lists and posting them on the fridge or near your desk. Some ideas: write out the things that soothe you, list the people who you find safety and connection with, or post the things that you’re grateful for. These reminders can serve as a “visual trigger to take care of ourselves,” she says.

Acknowledge What’s Coming Up for You

“You’re a human being having a human experience,” says Dovale, so it’s important to acknowledge that we have feelings and thoughts about what’s happening in the world around us. The key, she continues, is to work to establish “consistency and stability for the body and mind.”

Resist the temptation or pressure to think that it’s possible to be productive all of the time. Create boundaries for yourself and have self-compassion if you just need to space out and watch TV. You might not be able to attack every single home project that you suddenly have more time for.

Dovale suggests setting a timer for two minutes at least once a day to simply check in with your emotions. You can ask yourself, “what emotion is coming up for me?” and “where in my body?” to get valuable information about how you’re really feeling and to center yourself.

Have an Accountability Partner

With social distancing, it can be tempting to slip into bad habits or to lose our balance and spin out of control. Try to find a friend or loved one who you can check in with about any goals, whether work-oriented or personal habits, or even to check in about your mood. Consistency is key.

Some Tools if You Start to Panic

If your mind is racing or if you feel like you’re struggling, try to get centered in your body. Dovale, a serious meditator, points out that centering in the body is skillful because the body moves more slowly than the mind.

You can pause, breathe, then look around the room and find an object for each color of the rainbow (ROY G BIV). Alternatively, you can check in with each of your five senses. Ask yourself what you see, hear, feel, touch, and taste. Dovale encourages using these grounding activities or other useful exercises for self-regulation and self-compassion.

If you need additional support, the PinkyMind app is an option to connect with a licensed therapist, and many cities and states are providing mental health hotlines. Ask for help if you need it.

COVID-19 is changing many things about the way we work and live. We will get through this. Try different things along the way to encourage and support yourself in this uncertain time.


About the author.
Jess Powers writes about marketing, food, and wellness. She has experience in nonprofit communications and emergency management. Follow her @foodandfury.

Breakfast. “School.” Zoom meeting with my class. Walk. Lunch. More “school.” Walk. Bike ride. Zoom meeting with my friends. Dinner. (If my brother and I have been good, some Wii time.) That’s pretty much my schedule lately.

At this point, I’ve been out of school for three weeks. Coronavirus is taking over the world! The school district is telling everyone to stay home and practice “social distancing.” “Stay six feet away!” “Don’t spread germs!” Our district says that it’s more dangerous to the teachers than the students. My teachers even let us bring hand sanitizer to school before school was canceled altogether!

It’s kind of insane, but I am starting to get used to having “school” at home. I have a few tips and some pros and cons for adjusting to homeschool (from a kid’s (my) perspective).

Take lots of walks.

I know it may sound silly, but it’s definitely helpful, and I don’t even like to walk that much! Walks have been helping me clear my mind. My parents even let me walk two blocks with my dog by myself now, which is new and pretty fun. (My dog Maggie is the only one who loves this change of routine – we’re home all the time now!)

Be good to your parents.

This one probably doesn’t seem as “silly.” I bet if you go show this article to your parents and ask them which tip they like best, they will probably (and definitely) say this one. Try not to scream when they are on work calls and it’s better if you just get dressed and brush your teeth before they have to ask you a thousand times.

Have a workspace.

It is actually harder than I expected to keep an organized, neat workspace. It can be anything, from a nice, neat desk, to the kitchen counter (that is where my workspace was until I got a new folding table for my room). (It was horrible because I had to share it with my brother, and his stuff is always everywhere!) Now I have a spot in my bedroom with my books, pencils and erasers, highlighters, and a ruler.

Try your best.

I am speaking mostly to parents (and adults) right now: It is surprisingly hard for parents (and adults) to not have a meltdown. (It happened to my mom the other day.) My parents have to work their regular jobs at home and they say it’s hard to do that AND help us with our work. SO, kids: just do your work! That way, it’s easier for your parents who are always on their computers or on video meetings. My parents think it’s hard to keep my brother on track (I stay on track on my own, but that’s because I’m in 3rd grade and he’s in 1st.) (I’ve tried to help him, but it doesn’t go well.)

Enjoy your family fun time!

Even if everything is closed, you can still have fun with your family! Solve a jigsaw puzzle (we’re doing a 500 piece puzzle but worried our dog ate several pieces)! Exchange jokes (I like riddles)! Play a board game (we like the game Ticket to Ride)! Build a house (or anything else) out of Legos! Try baking! (But not by yourself, unless it’s Jello!) You could even just draw a picture (that’s one of my favorite hobbies, second to reading)!

Pros:

It’s not so bad staying at home. You don’t have to rush anywhere or wait too long to be able to cozy up on the couch and read a good book. Currently, I am reading all the Harry Potter books in reverse order.

Cons:

No matter how much I think about it, I will never like homeschool better than real school. It’s just too different. At school, you have so much interaction! At home, the only interaction is through Zoom and family. And I miss doing all my out-of-school activities, like theater and swim team. My theater group was about to perform Frozen, and it was postponed. 🙁

I hope I can go back to school this year, but I might have to wait until next year to see some of my friends. In the meantime, my parents tell me that because we are staying home, we are helping our community stay safe, and I think that’s important too.

To everyone reading this: stay safe and healthy! If we all stay home for a little bit, hopefully things will be normal by the time I start 4th grade in August.


About the author.

image-of-author-harper-8-years-oldHarper Forbes is 8 years old and is in 3rd grade at Pacific Elementary School in Manhattan Beach, California. She likes reading, dogs, acting, and swimming, and she is definitely going to follow her tip #2 from this article!

The CARES Act, while imperfect, has given unprecedented attention to freelancers in its relief efforts. Here’s everything you need to know about what you may be eligible for and how to get it.

Direct Payment

All tax paying Americans will receive one-time payment of $1200 (for single filers making up to $75,000) OR $2400 (for married couples making up to $150,000), plus an additional $500 per dependent child. If you make between $75,000 and $99,000 as a single filer OR $150,000 and $198,000 as a married couple, will receive a reduced rate. If you make over $99,000 or $198,000 you won’t receive anything, even with children.

If you make under $12,200 or fall into any category that doesn’t require you to file taxes, you are still eligible, but it may take longer to see the funds. You can file now to potentially expedite this process. You must have a Social Security number.

As of right now this payment will be based on 2019* or 2018 tax filings depending on if you have filed already. If you end up making less in 2020 and become eligible this year (for example if you made $120,000 in 2019 and end up making $70,000 in 2020 as a single earner), you will receive your check when you file your 2020 taxes next year.

These payments will be mailed to the address you have on file with the IRS or will land in your account if you’ve used direct deposit. The department of treasury is apparently working on a way for anyone to enter direct deposit details to expedite receiving funds. The goal is to start sending out stimulus funds 3 weeks for now (so late April), but it could be longer if you’re waiting for a check to come in the mail.

Find more details and calculate how much you’ll get here.

*There is a nationwide tax deadline extension for both payments and filing from April 15 to July 15, so if you haven’t filed your taxes yet, you have time.

Unemployment Benefits

With a $250 billion infusion, unemployment eligibility has been extended to the self-employed, independent contractors, and gig economy workers through December 31.

First, you have to start with your individual state. Most states offer 26 weeks of unemployment benefits for people who lose employment through no fault of their own. Some states extend that to part-time workers, but not all. Get details for every state here.

In addition, the CARES Act has added Pandemic Unemployment Assistance which extends benefits to the self-employed, independent contractors, gig workers, and anyone else who cannot work because of the coronavirus pandemic (losing work due to illness, caring for a relative, mandated isolation, etc.) who may not have previously qualified. You will be eligible for half of your state’s unemployment benefits plus $600 per week.

After your state’s allotted benefits period ends, the CARES Act adds another 13 weeks to your benefits if you are still unemployed or unable to work, you may be able to file for an extension after that. Unemployment benefits count as taxable income.

Read more details on the changes to unemployment benefits here.

More from the Department of Labor here.

Health Insurance

There is now nation-wide coverage for all COVID-19 testing costs, but NOT treatment. If you are uninsured and become ill with COVID-19, you will not be covered if you need hospital care.

That said, health insurance enrollment has reopened in some states. Check out which ones and how to buy it here. If your state isn’t listed, you may qualify due to a recent job loss or other qualifying event. Click here check with your state. You can also check if you qualify for Medicaid, which is available year round.

If you’re not eligible for Medicaid and you can’t enroll in your state, you can check with your State Department of Health which may refer you to local resources that might be able to help you. Find a full list of state websites here.

*If you’re a Creative Circle freelancer, Benefits in a Card has offered special open enrollment until April 5, which you should have been notified about by email about on March 21.

Emergency Paid Sick Leave

The new legislation adds emergency paid sick leave for illness, inability to get to work because of isolation or quarantine, or taking care of a sick family member.

Full-time employees can take up to 80 hours of paid leave. Part-time employees are eligible for the average number of hours they work in 2 weeks. There are some exceptions and stipulations as far as monetary amount, so check out the details here. This will be provided in addition to any existing leave.

Independent contractors, freelancers, and the self-employed are also eligible for emergency paid sick leave in the form of a tax break. Details on how that works can be found here.

Disaster Loan Assistance + Paycheck Protection

Small businesses or cooperatives (under 500 employees), sole proprietors, independent contractors, private non-profits — among others — are eligible for federal assistance. This includes low interest loans (that can be forgiven depending on use and need) and up to $10,000 in grants if you are eligible.

To learn how to apply for the Paycheck Protection Loan click here.

The Small Business Administration is also backing up bank loans. All loans will qualify for forgiveness if used for payroll, mortgages, utilities, salaries under $100,000, etc. Details on eligibility and expenses can be found here.

For a breakdown by state click here.

To review all SBA assistance click here.

Payroll Tax Deferral

Employers and the self-employed can defer their payroll taxes through the end of the year. Those payments would be due in two portions at the end of 2021 and 2022.

Additionally, if a business’s operations are fully or partially suspended due to government restrictions, it may be eligible for a credit. More information here.

Student Loan Relief

The CARES Act automatically suspends payments on federal student loans through September 30 with no accrued interest. It also halts collection on defaulted loans. (This comes on the heels of an announcement saying you have the opportunity to halt payments for two months.)

This does not include private loans, but you can still request hardship forbearance by contacting the distributer of your loans.

Get more details on student loans here.

Charitable Deductions

Anyone who doesn’t itemize their charitable contributions can claim $300 as an “above-the-line deduction” on their 2020 tax returns. There are also breaks for large charitable donations.

Use of Retirement Funds

The 10% penalty has been lifted from withdrawing from retirement funds such as a 401K for amounts up to $100,000. Weigh the pros and cons here.

You can also read the CARES Act in its entirety here.

Beyond government aid, there are companies and collectives providing relief to artists, freelancers, and small businesses. Check out some options for loans, grants and other resources below.

Additional Resources

Gig Workers Collective

Freelance Artist Resource

Freelancer’s Relief Fund

Gusto Resource Hub

PHLearn Resources


About the author.
Alessandra is the mentor, educator, and writer behind Boneseed, a private practice devoted to deep self-inquiry through a range of physical, energetic, and mental modalities. She has over 500 hours of yoga, mentorship, and facilitation training and can be found slinging knowledge on her website, newsletter, and @bone.seed.