How MacArthur Fellows Are Balancing Competing Demands During the Spread of COVID-19

MacArthur Foundation
5 min readApr 8, 2020


As COVID-19 (commonly known as coronavirus) continues to spread worldwide, many of us have adjusted to new schedules and realities by washing our hands frequently, social distancing, working from home, and more.

We’ve highlighted how MacArthur Fellows have found a number of creative ways to respond to this outbreak, but here are how some told us they are trying to balance competing demands in their personal and professional lives, and how they have set up their homes and schedules.

How do their approaches resonate with you, and what has your experience been? Please remember to social distance and wash your hands as much as you can to help stop the spread of the virus!

“It is important for me to have activities and a rough schedule planned every day. I have two children: Alfred is only 11 months old and Lukas is 8 years old, and we spend every day from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. homeschooling him. Exercise is fundamental to my mental and physical health, so I take at least an hour a day for myself either on a cross trainer, or following workouts with trainers on my iPad.

“For as long as I can remember, my days have revolved around work — researching and planning assignments for National Geographic, The New York Times, and others — but a worldwide lock-down means there is no certainty to my professional future (outside of coverage of COVID-19). I’m conflicted about not covering COVID-19, but there is no access to any medical facility in the UK right now — a censorship I find very disconcerting.” — Lynsey Addario, Photojournalist

“I’m doing videos and blog posts every day for parents who want advice, based on psychological science, during this crisis. And I’m the lucky one in the family because I get to work in the home office, rather than the kitchen (dad) or living room (my girls)!” — Angela Duckworth, Research Psychologist

“I’m taking advantage of this time at home to spend quality time with my family and practice my instrument as much as possible. I’ve also been writing a lot of music and trying to catch up with computer software that can help me take advantage of this time indoors. It’s trying times for sure, but I’m doing my best to stay positive and get ready for what’s on the other side of this.” — Miguel Zenon, Saxophonist

“I have transitioned my University of Michigan arts entrepreneurship and leadership classes to remote from my home studio, which also serves as the home base for my artwork production and general consulting. And often, my trusty sidekick Mocha is by my side :-).” — Aaron Dworkin, Music Educator

“This photo about captures the extent to which I’ve been ‘working’ while staying at home during the COVID-19 pandemic: unshowered, wearing a sweatshirt and pajama pants, and reading for the thousandth time a lovely book by Marcus Pfister called The Rainbow Fish. I can barely fathom the lives of those academics and other writers who are able in this time of quarantining and socially distancing to find ways to continue being productive.

“Not only will the next King Lear very much not be written by me in this current moment, in the way that Shakespeare is often supposed to have written that one of his many masterpieces during a similar outbreak of the plague in the early 17th century, but I would also struggle to write a single sentence about King Lear right now. More important, though, I think one lesson to be drawn from our current pandemic is that time spent with those you love most in the world is not ever to be taken for granted. So I look forward to tomorrow’s dozen-plus readings of The Rainbow Fish with relish.” — Jeffrey Alan Miller, Literary Scholar

“I have it easier than most because my children have flown the coop, so my only job is my actual job. But I have discovered that four things are essential to being productive in this new world we’re suddenly living in: working on a different floor than my husband; a window to look out of and remember that spring is arriving; a reasonably ergonomic chair; and a yoga mat. When I’m not on screen, you might well find me in a downward dog.” — Cecilia Muñoz, Civil Rights Policy Analyst

“For the last three weeks, we’ve been isolating on an island not far from Athens, where, even though Greece is on lockdown, I was able to take some solitary walks in the forest (as long as I had my police paperwork and ID in my pocket). But we returned to Athens yesterday, as we need to be here for my husband’s work (he is a journalist), and we have a better Wi-Fi connection for the children’s distance learning. I am extremely lucky in that I have an office next door to our flat, so I am able to get a bit of work done here away from the constant interruption of the kids, but am close enough to check on things.” — A.E. Stallings, Poet

“It is important while social distancing to keep connected to nature for our own mental health. In Fiji we are lucky with the ocean at our doorstep. With so few people around, we have been having great wildlife encounters with turtles, rays, seabirds and sea snakes. #EarthStrong” — Stacy Jupiter, Marine Scientist

Learn more about how the MacArthur Foundation is responding to the COVID-19 outbreak and supporting nonprofits during the pandemic. We have also shared guidance we have provided with regard to COVID-19 to protect the well-being of our staff, visitors to the Foundation, and people participating in MacArthur convenings. You can also review updates on the CDC website for more general information regarding the situation.



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