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Working from home during crises

Sunset Panama City Beach Florida Sept 2010If you work from home you’ve learned that you must work or you don’t get paid. Sometimes, things happen. Kids get sick, you get sick, time runs away from us and we don’t work as many billable hours that we thought we would but it’s still doable because these are probably the reason we work from home to start with. We work from home we want the flexibility to be able to take care of our family. We work from home so that we can earn money and balance motherhood. Sometimes it works, sometimes not so much.

Working from home during a crises can be either impossible or doable depending on if you’re prepared or not. Here is what I have learned the last few days since the horrible and tragic weather we experienced in North Alabama. Now let’s be clear, my family and I are safe, and fine — yes, we had a close call, but all we have lost is a little food, a little money we didn’t plan on spending so that we could leave town and go stay someplace with electricity, hot water, hot food. I really wanted to take our daughter away from the devastation too.

In addition, my husband and I both have health issues that prevent us from being very helpful and we also did not want to be an added burden to the hard working heroes that are serving the area so tirelessly. Plus, I must have Internet service in order to do my job. But, as I’ve learned the hard way, having Internet connection is only part of the problem. So, I hope you never have to face this situation, but just in case, here are some tips to stay prepared.

Use the Cloud — I have an external hard drive, but in our haste to get out, we left it behind. I have been toying with the idea of backing up everything online instead of with my external drive or in addition to, but I never got around to it. Consequently, I’m here in a hotel with only an empty laptop and none of my business files. In the future, as soon as I get back home I’ll open an account to keep backups and important files in the cloud.

Project Management System — A program such as Central Desktop, Basecamp, or other project management system is important for a Virtual Assistant to use. This will help you keep most important client files in the cloud. I do use project management systems with some of my clients, however, I don’t make them use it and allow them to work how they’re most comfortable which often means we work via email, this is not really efficient. When I get back I will implement project management systems with every client.

Keep the laptop current — I never use my laptop as I prefer to use my PC. I rarely even turn on my laptop. I only take it when I go on vacation and then I only use it to check email and nothing where I need client files. Additionally, my laptop has an older version of Word which I never use and it feels foreign to me. It also does not have a copy of Adobe, Dreamweaver or any of my other software programs that I use. After this experience I will keep my laptop updated and use it more often so that I can work just as fast on my laptop that I can from my home PC.

Emergency files — It’s important to have a portable emergency file cabinet that you can take with you with your important papers. Have birth certificates, copies of driver’s licenses, passports, business licenses and emergency cash in the locked file box. Grab this on your way out the door. While this doesn’t have that much to do with your business, it will help when you’re trying to get a hotel or health care.

Passwords — In your emergency files it won’t hurt to keep a list of sign on and passwords for all your online accounts too. While you may remember, and fortunately I have been remembering passwords (after a couple of hours) or been able to resent some, it would be better to keep a list. It’s possible you could end up using a completely different computer than even your own laptop, so the list will come in handy.

I hope you never have to go through any type of crises such as the one we have in North Alabama since April 27, 2011 but if you do, you can be prepared. I’m very fortunate to have a lot of fabulous clients who are understanding, but even though they will wait on me — If I don’t work, I don’t get paid. I must work a certain number of billable hours to pay my bills, and utilities or not, home or not, I have to keep working.

Oh yea one more thing:  If you’re going to stay in a hotel to work, make sure to ask what is going on that week in the area you plan to stay. While you might be escaping a natural disaster, with the idea of working, others might be there celebrating by, oh I don’ t know, riding and revving up their loud motorcycles all hours of the day and night.

photo credit:Creative Commons License Bob Therina

About Stephanie Watson

Mom | Wife | Virtual Assistant | Content Strategist
Stephanie has been working from home for over 20 years as a virtual assistant, template bender, and content writer. She's currently transitioning to business coach. You can learn more about her at her website


  1. I am in Georgia and while we have suffered some serious devastation here, I know that ya’ll in Alabama have suffered more. Our prayers are with everyone affected.

    Great tips for preparedness!

  2. A good way to handle those password problems is to use a password manager. A lot of people user a tool called roboform.
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