NGLCC Resources & Economic Support During COVID-19
In our recent email blasts we shared that NGLCC will always continue to work for you and our communities. We ask all stakeholders to check NGLCC’s social media pages for updates on business development webinars and trainings; online matchmakers, both B2B and corporate; support with drafting capability statements and RFPs; and much, much more to help our businesses and community stay strong and ready for the year ahead.
We encourage all stakeholders to share this landing page for Coronavirus relief and other essential updates: NGLCC Guidance for Businesses and Employers to Plan and Respond to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). Here you will find resources from the Small Business Administration, as well as NGLCC Corporate Partners, to assist small businesses with their recovery.
Additionally, many NGLCC local affiliate chambers have regional information an economic recovery opportunities available. To find your closest local affiliate, click here.
Any questions: [email protected]
Webinar Replay: Economic Relief Resources for LGBT-Owned Businesses During COVID-19
US Department of Treasury
Paycheck Protection Program
Facebook Small Business Grants Program
- Keep your workforce going strong
- Help with your rent costs
- Connect with more customers
- Cover operational costs
We’ll begin taking applications in the coming weeks. In the meantime, you can sign up to receive more information when it becomes available: CLICK HERE.
For additional resources about how you can help your business prepare for and manage through disruptions like COVID-19, visit our recently-launched Business Resource Hub: CLICK HERE.
UPS Immediate Fulfillment Help for eCommerce Businesses
Dell Small Business Technology
Discounts for NGLCC
US Telecom's Coronavirus Action Center
USTelecom members are working to ensure network preparedness, security and reliability. Click here to learn more.
PwC’s COVID-19 Navigator
What Nonprofit Board Members Should Be Doing Right Now to Address the COVID-19 Situation
Help LGBTQ+ Service Industry Professionals Who Are Affected By Covid-19
Bartender Emergency Assistance Program
CARE ACT: Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act Question and Answers
SMALL BUSINESSES What support is there for small businesses?
Refundable tax credits are available for private-sector employers that are required to offer coronavirusrelatedpaidleavetoemployees. IRSwillbepostinginformationsoononthese credits on its website (www.irs.gov), including information on how to obtain advance payment of these credits.
The employer side of certain payroll taxes are deferred through the end of 2020. Deferred taxes will not become due until end of 2021 and end of 2022, with 50% of the liability being paid at each date. Any business that does not have a loan forgiven under the new SBA Paycheck Protection Program is eligible for the payroll tax deferral.
An employee retention tax credit is available for struggling businesses that are not eligible or choose not to participate in the new SBA Paycheck Protection Program. Any business that has been forced to fully or partially suspend operations, or that has seen a significant drop in revenues is eligible for a 50-percent credit for wages paid to furloughed or reduced-hour employees. For businesses with 100 employees or less, the credit is based on all wages paid, regardless of whether an employee is furloughed. There is an overall limit on wages per employee of $10,000. The credit can be claimed against the business’s quarterly payroll tax liability and is fully refundable to the extent of excess. There will also be options to receive advance payments. Small business owners should lookout for information at IRS.gov and talk to their payroll service provider, as applicable.
$350 billion is made available for a new Small Business Administration Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). The program would provide cash-flow assistance through 100 percent federally guaranteed loans to employers who maintain their payroll during this emergency. If employers maintain their payroll, the loans would be forgiven, which would help workers remain employed, as well as help affected small businesses and our economy to snap-back quicker after the crisis.
PPP has a host of attractive features, such as forgiveness of up to 8 weeks of payroll based on employee retention and salary levels, no SBA fees and at least six months of deferral with maximum deferrals of up to a year. Small businesses and other eligible entities will be able to apply if they were harmed by COVID-19 between February 15, 2020 and June 30, 2020. This program is would be retroactive to February 15, 2020, in order to help bring workers who may have already been laid off back onto payrolls. Loans are available through June 30, 2020.
$17 billion is available for immediate relief to small businesses with non-disaster SBA loans, in particular 7(a), 504, and microloans. Under it, SBA will cover all loan payments on these SBA loans, including principal, interest, and fees, for six months. This relief will also be available to new borrowers who take out loans within six months of the President signing the bill into law.
The CARES Act creates a new SBA Economic Injury Emergency Grant Program. These grants provide an emergency advance of up to $10,000 to small businesses and private non-profits harmed by COVID-19 within three days of applying for an SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL). To access the advance, you must first apply for an EIDL and then request the advance. The advance does not need to be repaid under any circumstance, and may be used to keep employees on payroll, to pay for sick leave, meet increased production costs due to supply chain disruptions, or pay business obligations, including debts, rent and mortgage payments.
What type of assistance will independent contractors be eligible for?
Refundable tax credits are available for independent contractors who would have qualified for coronavirus related paid leave if they were employees. IRS will be posting information soon on these credits on its website (www.irs.gov), including information on how to claim these credits.
50 percent of certain self-employment taxes are deferred through the end of 2020. Deferred taxes will not become due until end of 2021 and end of 2022, with 50% of the liability being paid at each date.
Independent contractors are also eligible for assistance through the Small Business Administration’s new Paycheck Protection Program and Economic Injury Emergency Grant Program.
What assistance is there for nonprofits?
The employer side of certain payroll taxes are deferred through the end of 2020. Deferred taxes will not become due until end of 2021 and end of 2022, with 50% of the liability being paid at each date. Any business that does not have a loan forgiven under the new SBA Paycheck Protection Program is eligible for the payroll tax deferral.
Certain tax-exempt organizations that have been forced to fully or partially suspend operations, or that have seen a significant drop in revenues are eligible for a 50-percent credit for wages paid to furloughed or reduced-hour employees. Organizations that participate in the SBA Paycheck Protection Loan Program are not eligible for the credit. For organizations with 100 employees or less, the credit is based on all wages paid, regardless of whether an employee is furloughed. There is an overall limit on wages per employee of $10,000. The credit can be claimed against the organization’s quarterly payroll tax liability and is fully refundable to the extent of excess. There will also be options to receive advance payments.
501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations, along with small businesses, 501(c)(19) veterans organizations, and tribal businesses, are eligible to apply for the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program. Through this program, a nonprofit organization can apply to an SBA-approved lender for a loan of up to 250% of your average monthly payroll costs to cover eight weeks of payroll as well as help with other expenses like rent, mortgage payments, and utilities. The maximum loan amount is $10 million. This loan can be forgiven based on maintaining employee and salary levels. For any portion of the loan that is not forgiven, the terms include a maximum term of 10 years, a maximum interest rate of 4 percent. Nonprofit organizations will be able to apply if they were harmed by COVID-19 between February 15, 2020 and June 30, 2020. To be eligible, nonprofit organizations must have fewer than 500 employees, or more if SBA’s size standards for the non-profit allows, and comply with the SBA’s affiliation rules for nonprofits. This program is retroactive to February 15, 2020, in order to help bring workers who may have already been laid off back onto payrolls. Loans are available through June 30, 2020.
A provision in the CARES package would authorize a program to allow any mid-sized nonprofit between 500 and 10,000 employees to get access to quick, low cost, government guaranteed credit through their local lender or financial institution. These organizations need cash now and so this program is set up to get money quickly in the hands of those who need it in order to preserve workforce during the COVID-19 health emergency.
The Treasury Department and Federal Reserve will have a degree of flexibility in designing the new program, but the expectation is for loan terms to last for no more than five years and to cover up to 100% of payroll over the previous 180 days, or 50% of revenues for the past year, for eligible organizations. Underwriting requirements should be kept simple, based on employer size, creditworthiness as of January 2020, and the ability to produce recent tax returns or audited financial statements. The legislation prescribes that the loans must carry an interest rate of no greater than 2% and to provide forbearance on principal and interest for at least the first 6 months. Borrowers will also be required to protect workers. Any loan recipient will have to attest that they’ll use the money to keep workers employed – at least to 90% of their payroll – and keep workers paid at close to full compensation and benefits. Borrowers will also commit to rehiring their workforce back to preexisting levels upon the end of the COVID-19 health emergency.
The most efficient way to deliver fast credit to eligible organizations is through existing relationships with local lenders. Under the program, any qualified organization should be able to receive financing at a local bank, credit union, CDFI, or qualified nonbank lender.
What types of businesses and entities are eligible for a PPP loan?
Businesses and entities must have been in operation on February 15, 2020.
Small business concerns, as well as any business concern, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization,
a 501(c)(19) veterans organization, or Tribal business concern described in section 8
31(b)(2)(C) that has fewer than 500 employees, or the applicable size standard in number of employees for the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) industry as provided by SBA, if higher.
Individuals who operate a sole proprietorship or as an independent contractor and eligible self-employed individuals.
Any business concern that employs not more than 500 employees per physical location of the business concern and that is assigned a North American Industry Classification System code beginning with 72, for which the affiliation rules are waived.
Affiliation rules are also waived for any business concern operating as a franchise that is assigned a franchise identifier code by the Administration, and company that receives funding through a Small Business Investment Company
What are SBA affiliation rules?
Affiliation rules become important when SBA is deciding whether a business’s affiliations preclude them from being considered “small.” Generally, affiliation exists when one business controls or has the power to control another or when a third party (or parties) controls or has the power to control both businesses. Please see this resource for more on these rules and how they can impact your business’s eligibility.
What types of non-profits are eligible for the SBA PPP assistance?
In general, 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(19) non-profits with 500 employees or fewer as most non-profit SBA size standards are based on employee count, not revenue. You can check here.
How is the PPP loan size determined?
Depending on your business’s situation, the loan size will be calculated in different ways (see below). The maximum loan size is always $10 million.
If you were in business February 15, 2019 – June 30, 2019: Your max loan is equal to 250 percent of your average monthly payroll costs during that time period. If your business employs seasonal workers, you can opt to choose March 1, 2019 as your time period start date.
If you were not in business between February 15, 2019 – June 30, 2019: Your max loan is equal to 250 percent of your average monthly payroll costs between January 1, 2020 and February 29, 2020.
If you took out an Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) between February 15, 2020 and June 30, 2020 and you want to refinance that loan into a PPP loan, you would add the outstanding loan amount to the payroll sum.
What costs are eligible for payroll under the PPP?
Compensation (salary, wage, commission, or similar compensation, payment of cash tip or equivalent)
Payment for vacation, parental, family, medical, or sick leave
Allowance for dismissal or separation
Payment required for the provisions of group health care benefits, including insurance premiums
Payment of any retirement benefit
Payment of State or local tax assessed on the compensation of employees What costs are not eligible for payroll under the PPP?
Employee/owner compensation over $100,000
Taxes imposed or withheld under chapters 21, 22, and 24 of the IRS code
Compensation of employees whose principal place of residence is outside of the U.S
Qualified sick and family leave for which a credit is allowed under sections 7001 and 7003 of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act
What are allowable uses of loan proceeds with a PPP loan?
Payroll costs (as noted above)
Costs related to the continuation of group health care benefits during periods of paid sick,
medical, or family leave, and insurance premiums
Employee salaries, commissions, or similar compensations (see exclusions above)
Payments of interest on any mortgage obligation (which shall not include any prepayment of or payment of principal on a mortgage obligation)
Rent (including rent under a lease agreement)
Interest on any other debt obligations that were incurred before the covered period
What are the loan term, interest rate, and fees for a PPP loan?
For any amounts not forgiven, the maximum term is 10 years, the maximum interest rate is 4 percent, zero loan fees, zero prepayment fee (SBA will establish application fees caps for lenders that charge).
How is the forgiveness amount calculated under PPP?
Forgiveness on a covered loan is equal to the sum of the following payroll costs incurred during the covered 8 week period compared to the previous year or time period, proportionate to maintaining employees and wages (excluding compensation over $100,000):
Payroll costs plus any payment of interest on any covered mortgage obligation (not including any prepayment or payment of principal on a covered mortgage obligation) plus any payment on any covered rent obligation plus and any covered utility payment.
How do I get forgiveness on my PPP loan?
You must apply through your lender for forgiveness on your loan. In this application, you must include:
Documentation verifying the number of employees on payroll and pay rates, including IRS payroll tax filings and State income, payroll and unemployment insurance filings
Documentation verifying payments on covered mortgage obligations, lease obligations, and utilities.
Certification from a representative of your business or organization that is authorized to certify that the documentation provided is true and that the amount that is being forgiven was used in accordance with the program’s guidelines for use.
What happens after the forgiveness period for a PPP loan?
Any loan amounts not forgiven is carried forward as an ongoing loan with max terms of 10 years, at 4% max interest. Principal and interest will continue to be deferred, for a total of 6 months to a year after disbursement of the loan. The clock does not start again.
Can I get more than one PPP loan?
No, an entity is limited to one PPP loan. Each loan will be registered under a Taxpayer Identification Number at SBA to prevent multiple loans to the same entity.
What kind of lender can I get a PPP loan from?
All current SBA 7(a) lenders are eligible lenders for PPP. The Department of Treasury will also be in charge of authorizing new lenders, including non-bank lenders, to help meet the needs of small business owners.
How does the PPP loan coordinate with SBA’s existing loans?
Borrowers may apply for PPP loans and other SBA financial assistance, including Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDLs), 7(a) loans, 504 loans, and microloans, and also receive investment capital from Small Business Investment Corporations (SBICs).
How does the PPP loan work with the temporary Emergency Economic Injury Grants and the Small Business Debt Relief program?
Emergency Economic Injury Grant recipients and those who receive loan payment relief through the Small Business Debt Relief Program may apply for and take out a PPP loan. Refer to those sections for more information.
SMALL BUSINESS DEBT RELIEF PROGRAM Which SBA loans are eligible for debt relief under this program?
7(a) loans not made under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), 504 loans, and microloans. Disaster loans are not eligible.
How does debt relief under this program work with a PPP loan?
Borrowers may separately apply for and take out a PPP loan, but debt relief under this program will not apply to a PPP loan.
How do I know if I’m eligible for a 7(a), 504, or microloan?
In general, businesses must meet size standards, be based in the U.S., be able to repay, and have a sound business purpose. To check whether your business is considered small, you will need your business’s 6-digit North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) code and 3-year average annual revenue. Each program has different requirements, see https://www.sba.gov/funding-programs/loans for more details.
What is a 7(a) loan and how do I apply?
7(a) loans are an affordable loan product of up to $5 million for borrowers who lack credit elsewhere and need access to versatile financing, providing short-term or long-term working capital and to purchase an existing business, refinance current business debt, or purchase furniture, fixtures and supplies. In the program, banks share a portion of the risk of the loan with SBA. There are many different types of 7(a) loans, you can visit this site to find the one that’s best for you. You apply for a 7(a) loan with a bank or a mission-based lender. SBA has a free referral service tool called Lender Match to help find a lender near you.
What is a 504 loan and how do I apply?
The 504 Loan Program provides loans of up to $5.5 million to approved small businesses with long-term, fixed-rate financing used to acquire fixed assets for expansion or modernization. It is a good option if you need to purchase real estate, buildings, and machinery. You apply through a Certified Development Company, which is a nonprofit corporation that promotes economic development. SBA has a free referral service tool called Lender Match to help find a lender near you.
What is a microloan and how do I apply?
The Microloan Program provides loans up to $50,000 to help small businesses and certain not- for-profit childcare centers to start up and expand. The average microloan is about $13,000.
These loans are delivered through mission-based lenders who are also able to provide business counseling. SBA has a free referral service tool called Lender Match to help find a microlender near you.
I am unfamiliar with SBA loans, can anyone help me apply?
Yes, SBA resource partners are available to help guide you through the loan application process. You can find your nearest Small Business Development Center (SBDC) or Women’s Business Center here.
ECONOMIC INJURY DISASTER LOANS & EMERGENCY ECONOMIC INJURY GRANTS
Are businesses and private non-profits in my state eligible for an EIDL related to COVID-19?
Yes, those suffering substantial economic injury in all 50 states, DC, and the territories may apply for an EIDL.
What is an EIDL and what is it used for?
EIDLs are lower interest loans of up to $2 million, with principal and interest deferment available for up to 4 years that are available to pay for expenses that could have been met had the disaster not occurred, including payroll and other operating expenses.
Who is eligible for an EIDL?
Small business concerns (including sole proprietorships, with or without employees)
Cooperatives and employee owned businesses
Tribal small businesses
Small business concerns and small agricultural cooperatives that meet the applicable size standard for SBA are also eligible, as well as most private non-profits of any size. See below for more info on size standards.
My private non-profit is not a 501(c)(3). Is it still eligible for an EIDL and a grant?
Yes, if you are a private non-profit with an effective ruling letter from the IRS, granting tax exemption under sections 501(c), (d), or (e) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1954, or if you can provide satisfactory evidence from the State that the non-revenue producing organization or entity is a non-profit one organized or doing business under State law. However, a recipient that is principally engaged in teaching, instructing, counseling, or indoctrinating religion or religious beliefs, whether in a religious or secular setting, or primarily engaged in political or lobbying activities is not eligible to receive an EIDL. If you are uncertain whether you qualify, please consult with legal counsel to determine whether your organization meets program criteria.
Who is eligible for an Emergency Economic Injury Grant?
Those eligible for an EIDL and who have been in operation since January 31, 2020, when the public health crisis was announced.
How long are Emergency Economic Injury Grants available?
January 31, 2020 – December 31, 2020. The grants are backdated to January 31, 2020 to allow those who have already applied for EIDLs to be eligible to also receive a grant.
If I get an EIDL and/or an Emergency Economic Injury Grant, can I get a PPP loan?
Whether you’ve already received an EIDL unrelated to COVID-19 or you receive a COVID-19 related EIDL and/or Emergency Grant between January 31, 2020 and June 30, 2020, you may also apply for a PPP loan. If you ultimately receive a PPP loan or refinance an EIDL into a PPP loan, any advance amount received under the Emergency Economic Injury Grant Program would be subtracted from the amount forgiven in the PPP. However, you cannot use your EIDL for the same purpose as your PPP loan. For example, if you use your EIDL to cover payroll for certain workers in April, you cannot use PPP for payroll for those same workers in April, although you could use it for payroll in March or for different workers in April.
How do I know if my business is a small business?
Please visit https://www.sba.gov/size-standards/ to find out if your business meets SBA’s small business size standards. You will need the 6-digit North American Industry Classification Code for your business and your business’ 3-year average annual revenue.
How do I apply for an economic injury disaster loan?
To apply for an EIDL online, please visit https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela/. Your SBA District Office is an important resource when applying for SBA assistance.
I am unfamiliar with the EIDL process, can anyone help me apply?
Yes, SBA resource partners are available to help guide you through the EIDL application process. You can find the nearest Small Business Development Center (SBDC), Women’s Business Center, or SCORE mentorship chapter at https://www.sba.gov/local-assistance/find/.
CASH PAYMENTS TO AMERICANS
Who qualifies to receive a check and how much will an individual receive?
Anyone who filed a tax return this year or last year. Individuals receive $1,200, married couples receive $2,400, and child dependents (under 17) receive $500.
What are qualified income levels based off of?
There is no qualified income threshold or requirement to receive the rebate. However, the rebate phases out at a 5 percent rate above adjusted gross incomes of $75,000 for single filers, $112,500 for heads of household, and $150,000 for joint filers.
Can those collecting Social Security or disability receive a check?
Yes, if they filed a tax return this year or last year, or received a form SSA-1099. Otherwise, they need to file a tax return.
Will SSA administer the funds to my EBT/Debit card that I receive my SSA benefits through?
Our understanding is that IRS is sending out the rebates (via direct deposit or checks)
How does an individual claim their check?
They do not need to claim their checks (unless they have not either filed a tax return this year or last year) – IRS will send out rebates automatically to their direct deposit or to the address provided on the last tax return submitted.
How long will it take for this check to be delivered?
Rebates sent via direct deposit will take a few weeks. Rebates sent via checks may take a few months.
Will I be taxed on this check?
No, rebates are not taxable.
Will I be eligible if I haven’t finished filing my 2018 taxes?
You need to have filed either a 2018 tax return or a 2019 tax return. If you have not filed either, you will not be eligible. You can file a 2019 tax return now to claim the rebate.
Will I be eligible if I have a lien against me, but I am in non-collect status?
Yes. Rebates will not be subject to garnishment, except if back child support is owed.
I withdrew my retirement in 2018- so my income that year was inflated. Is there any waiver for one time sources of income?
In this case, the taxpayer should file a 2019 tax return.
CHANGES TO TAX FILING What has changed for income tax filing this year?
The tax filing due date has been extended to July 15. Tax returns and any income taxes owed will not be due until July 15.
Are there any changes to tax filing for businesses?
The income tax return due date for calendar year corporations has also been extended to July 15. Tax returns and any income taxes owed will not be due until July 15. Employers can defer paying the employer portion of certain payroll taxes through the end of 2020, with all 2020 deferred amounts due in two equal installments, one at the end of 2021, the other at the end of 2022. Deferral is not provided to employers that avail themselves of SBA 7(a) loans designated for payroll.
I have a loan and I am worried that I won’t be able to make my monthly payments. What can I do?
Contact your lender directly. The CARES Act allows banks and credit unions more flexibility to work with borrowers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Does bill provide any relief for consumers who can’t pay their bills?
This bill does not. This section of the bill only provides instruction on how lenders or creditors should report consumers who have received a forbearance or some other accommodation to help them make payments.
Individuals having problems paying their bills should contact their lenders directly. The CARES Act allows banks and credit unions more flexibility to work with borrowers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
We will continue to work to enact credit reporting relief for borrowers who are struggling to make their payments during this crisis.
Who can use the Fed lending facilities?
The Federal Reserve will design the facilities. According to government officials, we expect there to be potentially over a dozen different facilities. The legislation specifically indicates that there should be a facility for states, municipalities, and tribes, as well as a facility for medium- sized business that are not eligible for the SBA program. It will also be critical for the Fed to consider other needs, such as protecting homeowners and renters.
My small business is in financial trouble and I’m considering filing for bankruptcy – how does this bill help?
This bill allows more small businesses to reorganize under Chapter 11 using procedures that are less expensive and that allow small business owners to retain control of their operations through thebankruptcyreorganizationprocess. Underthisbill,smallbusinesseswithupto$7.5million in debt can take advantage of these streamlined Chapter 11 procedures. This new relief will be available for one-year.
I have been in Chapter 13 bankruptcy for 3 years. I recently lost my job and I can’t afford my plan payments right now. I’m worried that I won’t be able to complete the Chapter 13 process – does this bill help me?
Yes. This bill allows individuals and families currently in Chapter 13 who are experiencing financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic to request a modification of their Chapter 13 plans, including by extending their payments for up to 7 years. This new relief will be available for one-year.
If I receive a stimulus check from the federal government, will it impact my ability to file for bankruptcy?
No. Under this bill, stimulus checks from the federal government cannot be used to determine whether you are eligible for filing bankruptcy. And, if you file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you will not have to turn your stimulus check over to your creditors. This new relief will be available for one-year.
Work From Home Tips & Best Practices
Article: The Verge: How to work from home
HAVE A SEPARATE WORKSPACE
A separate workspace doesn’t have to be a dedicated office with a door that closes (which is often not an option in smaller living spaces). It should be an area that mentally prepares you for work mode, whether it’s a separate room, a small desk set up in a corner of the living room, or a laptop at the end of the kitchen table. Ideally, it would be a place you don’t go to relax, like your bedroom or your sofa, and a place that other members of your household know is designated for work.
If you find you’re most productive with a laptop on the sofa, then by all means, set up shop there. It may take a bit of trial and error to figure out what area of your home is most conducive to getting work done.
ESTABLISH A ROUTINE, INCLUDING NON-WORK HOURS
This was the hardest part for me to adapt to when I started working from home: with devices that allow bosses and clients to reach us constantly, you can end up working 24/7. Try to start work around the same time every day if you can, and schedule breaks (including meals) around the same time if possible. I would also advise not eating in your work area, but I can’t put myself up as a good example — all journalists tend to eat at our desks, even the remote ones.
Ideally, you should try to get some outdoor time once a day, to get coffee or walk the dog, so you don’t go too stir crazy.
Working remotely can feel isolating at times, so as part of your routine, try to interact with your co-workers regularly (yes, introverts, even you). Chatting over messaging apps like Slack (even just saying “Hello!” when you sign on in the morning) and holding meetings over Zoom or another video app are two quick and easy ways to stay in the loop. However you connect, don’t let email be the only way you interact with colleagues.
Finally — and this is the rule I violate most often — try to end work at the same time every day. Obviously, there will be times when a late deadline or project needs after-hours attention. But in most situations, a 10PM work email can wait until the following morning for a response.
DRESS THE PART
Look, one of the biggest selling points of working from home is that you can wear what you want. This is true, and some days, especially if it’s miserable weather or you’re not feeling 100 percent, indulge a little and wear sweats and comfy socks. But to keep a sense of routine, try to get dressed and do it around the same time every day. This might sound a little odd, but I find that in addition to jeans and a comfortable shirt, wearing shoes (instead of slippers or just socks) helps me keep that sense of work vs. relaxation. I’m not talking about the most expensive shoes in your closet; sneakers, flip flops, or other comfortable footwear are just fine.
KNOW YOUR BODY
I splurged on a good desk chair when I first started working from home, and you may find that’s a worthwhile expense; it’s hard to work if your back is bothering you or you’re not comfortable. Definitely make time to get up and walk away from your desk at regular intervals to stretch your legs (one colleague is a fan of regular breaks for a few sun salutations) and make sure your work area is well-lit so you don’t strain your eyes. The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes look away from your screen and focus your eyes on something 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
DON’T HAVE KIDS
Ha, I jest. But in all seriousness, make sure everyone in your family (kids, parents, spouses, and anyone else with a key to the premises) knows that when you’re working you’re not available to help settle minor juice-box-related spats or engage in idle chitchat. Shared living spaces can get noisy, so if your workspace isn’t isolated from common areas, I strongly recommend getting some noise-canceling headphones to signal to others that you’re not to be disturbed and to avoid getting drawn into conversations that are going to distract you (shout out to my well-meaning husband who has a knack for this) while you’re on deadline.
If you’re going to try to do chores while you’re working from home, be realistic about what you can get done. Taking out the garbage or checking the mail are two ways to get away from your desk for a quick break, but it’s probably not practical to try to conquer that mountain of laundry all at once while you’re on the clock.
Another suggestion: don’t offer to be the on-call person for friends and neighbors. Of course you should help in emergencies, but if you’re always the go-to for package deliveries or to feed people’s pets “because you’re home anyway,” this can quickly become more time-consuming than is fair. Establish — and stick to — clear boundaries about when you are and aren’t available.
GET THE TOOLS YOU NEED
You’ll get a lot of advice about investing in various work tools, such as a standing desk or a separate work computer. If you have the resources to do this and think it will help you (and better still, if your company will reimburse you for these expenses), go for it. If your company is requiring you to work from home, find out what tools they’ll provide and what they’ll pay for.
In addition to the noise-canceling headphones, the only must-haves for my own work-from-home setup are a decent Wi-Fi connection, a computer that meets my needs (this will vary greatly depending on your job), and a reliable cellphone. But if you end up working from home long term, you’ll figure out what you need and what you can afford.
So if you do need to work from home, how do you do it successfully—especially if you are scrambling? Here is what you need to know.
I am a manager. What do I need to do now to make sure my team can function when we are at home?
Make sure they have the right tools. Have them do a test run and report any problems. Ensure they have the right laptops, network access, passcodes and instructions for remote login.
Set some ground rules. If you don’t want employees using public Wi-Fi or other unsecured access points—for example, in libraries or cafes—say so.
Set up tools to maintain personal connections. Schedule group meetings by videoconferences and set up group chats via tools like Slack or Microsoft Teams.
How do I make sure my boss knows I am working?
Make an extra effort to check in with your bosses and co-workers. In many messaging tools, you can set a status for colleagues to see. If you sense there is a misunderstanding via email, pick up the phone or hop on a video call. And be as dedicated to your job remotely as you are in the office—don’t use telecommuting as a way to secretly do other things.
How can I try to recreate that informal office back-and-forth when I am separated from my colleagues?
Email can be tricky—our inboxes quickly blow up and it doesn’t lend itself to casual conversations. Your company most likely has chat or videoconferencing tools; make use of them. Group collaboration tools like Slack and Google Hangouts can feel closer to regular conversation and videoconferencing lets you see people’s faces. To create a water-cooler feel, many companies also create nonwork chat threads on themes ranging from cute animal pictures to sports talk. And there are plenty of video-calling apps to choose from—Skype, Google Hangouts, Zoom or FaceTime.
What is the ideal work-from-home space?
While not everyone has space for a home office, it is important to set something up that allows as much privacy and quiet as possible. Remind other people in your household that even though you are at home, you are still working. Try to keep it separate from your personal spaces, if possible—spend your time there working and don’t hang out there when you’re not.
How do I minimize noise and distractions from children, pets and outdoor sounds?
Separate your spaces as much as possible. Then invest in a pair of noise-canceling headphones. On conference calls, mute your microphone when you aren’t speaking so your co-workers can’t overhear your children. And when videoconferencing, be mindful of what the camera is picking up behind you.
How do I make sure my home internet is fast enough?
Most U.S. households don’t use most of their bandwidth, but you may encounter slowdowns during periods of heavy use—like when you’re trying to work from home while your children are watching videos or playing games. Your router and your location in the house make a difference too.
The best solution for poor connectivity: Switch to Ethernet. Most laptops don’t have Ethernet ports anymore, but you can get a dongle. And you will need an Ethernet cable to connect to your router. If Ethernet isn’t an option, move as close as you can to your Wi-Fi router.
What if I need to make overseas calls? How do I avoid running up charges if I am using my cellphone at home?
Google Hangouts, WhatsApp and Skype let you make international phone calls over the internet for very low rates. And if you are both on the service, the call is free.
Working from home can feel lonely. How do I fight isolation?
While you want to minimize distraction from your family members or roommates, you also want to avoid feeling like you are completely alone all day. Maintaining social connection is tricky when we are trying to create social distance to stave off the virus. But there are ways to maintain your mental health: Call people on the phone or videochat and break up the day with some exercise. Some employers have also begun offering online resilience training for staff to address the challenges of working from home during the outbreak.
How do I set boundaries so I don’t feel like working from home is overtaking my personal life?
Try to maintain a schedule—start and end your work at the same time as if you were in the office. Be in your home office when you’re working, but leave it when you’re not. Imagine that you are simply relocating your office to another building.