One of the most amazing things about today’s artistic world is how collaboration can happen across borders; both state borders and societal ones. People who might never have met have the opportunity to work together toward beauty, inspiration, justice, peace—and pure creative exploration. Tools to facilitate collaboration unbounded by geographic location are increasingly ubiquitous in our everyday life.
With over half of the global population under lockdown, it is no wonder that the coronavirus pandemic has been broadly characterized as an indiscriminate, universal threat to humanity. Media outlets continue to highlight infections among young people, healthy celebrities, and prominent leaders from all over the world in an effort to show that the virus knows no boundaries. However, while the “all in this together” narrative appeals to our need for solidarity in times of distress, it also runs the risk of erasing vast and inequitable differences in how people are experiencing the crisis. After all, the virus may not discriminate, but capitalism, racism, and classism sure as hell do. For people of color in particular, the COVID-19 pandemic has only deepened existing inequities.
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One of the major challenges with a switch from working in an office to working from home is figuring out how to manage teams. How can you effectively provide your team with the resources they need to do their work? How can you make sure that they know what your team is working on without micromanaging? How does your whole management philosophy change when you don’t have an office and can’t physically see or meet with your team?
We’re all anxiously awaiting the time when we can “go back to normal” after social isolation, quarantine, and all of the other measures we’re taking to protect ourselves and our community from COVID-19. We want to go over to our friends’ apartments, go to coffee shops, bookstores, and bars. We want to have picnics and go out dancing. We want to hug each other. But we also have an opportunity to think about the ways in which we don’t want to go back to normal. For so many of us, normal is food and housing insecurity, living paycheck to paycheck, inadequate healthcare, work environments that don’t accommodate accessibility needs, toxic bosses, and more. We don’t want to go back to normal. We want better. As writer Aja Barber puts it, “what world do you want to return to?”
Moving money is one of the biggest practical challenges companies and organizations face when quickly transitioning to a fully distributed environment. While most administrative staff can fairly quickly transition to working from home, accounting and finance teams often hit roadblocks because of the procedures that they use to handle payments from their organization or company. It’s unclear for many financial teams how to easily perform this function away from their office. The finance team is often tied to a specific location in order to process and account for financial data due to control mandates. Cloud-based accounting systems have become more popular over the past few years, but finance teams are still encountering limitations (like physical check depositing* and cutting) before they can perform their duties remotely. [*More on this in a later piece.]
If you’re like me (and roughly 90% of US taxpayers), you claim the standard deduction when you file your income taxes each year. For those of us who don't have enough qualifying expenses (mortgage interest, property taxes, etc.) to itemize when we file, the standard deduction probably makes the most sense. Because of this, I am not able to deduct my charitable contributions, despite the fact that I donate to 501(c)(3) organizations.
For everyone who has just started working from home, we know that you’re experiencing a huge shift in your work life and in your day-to-day. Fractured Atlas took a long time to transition to being a fully distributed team, finally making the leap at the end of 2019. We’ve had a lot of time to think about the challenges of virtual work. Over time, and through plenty of trial and error, we have been able to build a virtual office culture in line with our values and our mission, that supports the team as individuals as well as workers. For all of you who are just entering the world of working from home, we know that it’s challenging. And especially challenging if you work in a sector that’s not used to virtual working, like the arts or nonprofits. Plus, any issues you might be having working from home are almost certainly compounded by everything else that’s on your mind as a result of COVID-19, which is why you’re working from home in the first place.
If you’re reading this article, you’re probably one of the millions of artists who are trying to put together the pieces of not just your craft, but your life. The COVID-19 outbreak has forced us all to rethink our daily living routines and cope with the reality of deferred goals for the year. The arts community has been faced with the double challenge of re-focusing their efforts in how they share their work with their audience, in addition to likely losing other sources of income (especially for artists working in the service industry). For many, this means losing your venue, canceled rehearsals, interrupted travel arrangements, or little-to-no audience turnout.
There’s not much to smile about these days. As I’m writing this, the United States just surpassed China as the nation with the most confirmed COVID-19 cases in the world, and it’s all but certain that by the time we “flatten the curve” we’ll see more loss of life than any other country as well. While the news is dotted every so often with a heartwarming story or ridiculous video of how we’re all coping with our new normal, it’s hard to feel that any good can come of this particular moment. I think there’s an opportunity for the arts community to address a massive issue that it can’t quite figure out how to talk about: poverty.