How to Work From Home

Our team is spread out across the world, so we’re used to working from home and relating to each other virtually. But for many, we know working from home is brand new… and intimidating! How do you stay productive and focused? And if you’re working from home and with your kids, how do you juggle parenting and work at the same time?

Here’s tools, tips, and strategies from our team members for working from home.

Choosing your tools for productivity and connection

There are plenty of tools available to help maximize your productivity and connection. And bonus—many are free!

We use several tools to keep our team connected and productive across 3 continents and at least 8 time zones:

  • Slack for quick chats and check-ins with coworkers. You can also use it for video chat, screensharing, text messaging, and sharing documents.
  • Zoom or Google Hangouts for virtual meetings. Both allow you to screenshare, and paid Zoom accounts let you record so you can go back to your meeting later if you need to.
  • Trello or Basecamp for keeping track of projects, managing your progress, and collaborating with teammates.
Anna’s desk, accented with Legos, coloring pages, and art supplies. Anna helps organize Love Anyway Gatherings. Photo by Anna Brooks/Preemptive Love

Managing the kids

Many of you are not only starting to work from home for the first time, you’re doing it with a bunch of brand-new young “coworkers.” It’s a lot. We get it! Here are some tips for managing your work with kids. For more ideas, read our Seven Tips for Working From Home With Kids.

  1. Create a schedule. Keep it simple (use 60-90 minute blocks of time, or even 30-minute chunks for preschool-age) and post it somewhere where everyone can see it. And when you invariably deviate from the schedule, don’t beat yourself up about it. Use the schedule as a guide for your day rather than a concrete rule.
  2. For younger kids, print lots of coloring and activity pages.  We have some free coloring pages you can download, which include conversation prompts to use with your kids.
  3. Be flexible and take breaks. Remember kids are human, too. As tumultuous and stressful as this time is for us, it also is for our kids. Have patience. Try as much as you can to make this new situation work for them, just as much as it does for you.
  4. As much as you need connection and relationship right now, so do your kids. Validate their experience in this but encourage them to think about ways they could still reach out and talk to those friends they are missing.

Keeping your focus

If you’re not used to working from home, it can be distracting, especially given all your new “coworkers” who have their own agenda. Create a schedule for yourself, too. Set aside blocks of time to focus on certain tasks. Give yourself 10-15 minute breaks to go for a walk, get the kids set up with the next activity, or throw a load of laundry in.

It’s also a mindset switch. For so long your home was where you came after work. There was a definitive line between work and home, and now that line is blurred.

As much as possible, try to keep yourself in “work mode” during your normal work hours. This doesn’t mean you can’t respond to other needs in the house, but address them quickly and get back to your next work task.

Many find that dressing as if you’re going to work, or at least getting out of your PJs, helps signal to your brain that it’s time to work.

This also means at the end of your workday, try to close out and be present with family members and roommates. Eat dinner together (without the phone close by). Play a game together. FaceTime someone and share about your day. Read a book. Try to step away from work—even though you’re in the same place—so you’re ready to come back tomorrow.

Kayla, who produces our Love Anyway Podcast, and her husband created an office space out of their basement storage room. They found old paint, shopped their house for decorations, and hung up old curtains to hide the exposed sump pump. Photo by Kayla Craig/Preemptive Love

Carving out a designated workspace

Having a designated workspace will do wonders in helping you focus at home. If you have a room you can use as an office, that’s great. But even if you don’t, even a desk that is set up just for you will help you get—and stay—in a professional mindset.

From our team’s experience, we can attest that your children will try to take over your desk with knick-knacks and artwork. As much as possible, try to keep yours as a space that is just for you and your professional needs. Set up a separate area for the kids if you need to.

Invest in some headphones—preferably noise-canceling—for phone and video calls. Talk to your kids before you go on a call so they know you are going to be occupied. Let them know when you’ll be available again. You can also use visual cues—a sign on a door or wall—to help them know when you are in a call and need quiet and when it’s ok to interrupt.

Communicating well

You’re not face-to-face in an office setting anymore, so communication is different. It can be trickier.

Use your communication tools wisely and effectively. Slack and other messaging apps are great for quick communication—checking in on the status of a project, asking a quick question, giving a reminder. But a lot can be lost in text. (Though you can sometimes use emojis to help communicate tone or mood.)

For more serious conversations, pick up the phone, or better yet, start a video call. So much is lost when you can’t hear tone of voice or see the other person’s face.

And be sure to keep building relationships with your coworkers. You’re not passing each other in the hallway or breakroom anymore, or popping over the cubicle wall just to chat. Work in a little time each day for a short video call to check in with one another, or send a quick message to a colleague.

Be intentional about your work, but also your work friendships. You’ll find it helps fuel your motivation to get back to projects when you feel like you’re on a team with people you know and care about.

Combating loneliness

Working from home can feel lonely, especially if you’re home alone. Working from coffee shops and restaurants isn’t safe right now, but there are still other ways you can foster connection and fight loneliness.

We’ll keep saying it: use video calls. They don’t have to be long and you don’t have to look perfect for the camera. But seeing someone’s face and hearing their voice really does go a long way in feeling connected. If you normally ate lunch or grabbed coffee with a coworker, try to share the same experience over video.

Go for walks in your neighborhood, while still being careful to keep at least 6 feet from others. It’s a good reminder that a world exists outside our home office. Wave to neighbors as you walk. Take along a piece of chalk and leave a note for a friend outside their door. Take note of nature and be encouraged that our world is still changing and growing, even in the midst of everything.

In the last few weeks, it probably feels like everything has changed. You suddenly work from home. Your kids are home, too, and it’s not safe to go anywhere. You’re trying to manage life in the midst of a pandemic, when more bad news seems to come with every refresh of the page.

It’s so much to carry.

We have to take it day by day, step by step. We want to help. We’ve worked from home for a long time. Maybe not always with kids, but we have ideas on how to make it work for you and your family. So that your job, your family, your own sense of self can stay intact and healthy and whole.

We’re with you.