Working from home with your partner can be really difficult. Here are some tips on how to work together in harmony.
- Working from home with your partner is a challenge since now you are with them 24/7 in both the setting of "work” and “home”.
- Being able to co-exist peacefully while work means communicating with each other about your needs when it comes to work and respecting each other’s boundaries.
- You can also do smaller things like starting a shared calendar, having “catch up” times together, or making separate workspaces
Many companies have allowed their employees to work from home to help slow the spread of COVID-19. Back when we used to go to the office every day, you had to deal with long commutes (most likely), endless traffic, and maybe that one annoying co-worker.
But now that work is taking place at home, that one annoying co-worker seems so easy to be with in comparison. Meet your newest "officemate” in this “new normal” - your spouse, partner, girlfriend, or boyfriend. While there are many benefits of this (like time spent together), it can still be a challenge for many, especially if you have kids. But that’s a whole other story.
Where once upon a time you used to have your own schedule and own space, now you’re all jammed one space 27/4 - unless you’re lucky enough to live in a big house.
Adjusting to these new circumstances is important if we want to remain productive at work while staying happy in your personal relationships. Here are some quick tips to help make working from home with your partner a bit more bearable (and maybe even fun).
Respect each other’s boundaries
First and foremost, you need to respect each other’s boundaries. It’s very rare for couples to have to be together 24/7, but COVID-19 has got us stuck at home with nowhere else to go. During this time, you’ve probably learnt a lot about how your partner works – respect that.
Try to refrain from blurting out your random thoughts or sharing random videos, especially when your partner seems busy. If you find it annoying when someone doesn’t stop talking to you in the office, it’s annoying when you do it at home too.
Understand that we are all different and work differently. Some may be okay with random chitchat while others are not. Let your partner know when you’re busy and when you need quiet time. You may need to remind them a couple of times before they get used to your "quiet time”. But this brings us to our next point...
Set up “office” rules
Dr. Guy Winch, a psychologist in New York City and author of Emotional First Aid, suggests establishing rules. Sit down with your partner to come up with rules and to really discuss the small details.
Talk about what spaces will be used for work, where your individual workstations will be, what the “office hours” are, where to go when someone needs to take a call or has a meeting, when it’s time to be quiet, who will do household tasks, etc.
It's a good idea to also go over what’s considered a distraction for you. Music in the background may be fine for your partner, but might cause you to lose focus. You might not be able to think of everything in the beginning but as the days progress, you can continue your setting up of “rules” until they’re acceptable to the both of you.
Set up your spaces
As much as possible, set up your own work spaces. If you're going to be working from home for the rest of the year (or maybe even longer), it’s a good idea to invest in buying a work desk. It doesn’t have to be big or expensive. Get an office chair too. This will help you get into work mode and will let your partner know that you’re in work mode when you’re sitting on your desk. If you can both get your own desks, even better.
You might need to do some rearranging to make it work. Brainstorm how you can turn your home into a coworking space. This part is actually fun.
To lunch, or not to lunch?
Decide if you will have lunch together and what time. You might find out that you both actually have different schedules for eating lunch. Although, having lunch together is a good idea because this becomes your “catch up” time. If you spent the morning working separately, lunch is a good time to get together to share that random thought and funny video.
Take breaks together
Being cooped up inside 24/7 is no good. Take a quick afternoon walk outside together around the block or around the compound. You can do this after having lunch or after your work day. Again, this time can be your “catch up time”. Just don’t forget to wear your masks and keep distance from people!
Start a shared calendar
It might help to treat each other like co-workers when you both clock in for work. Start a shared calendar where both of you can see each other’s meetings, conferences, or schedules, so you know when you can bother your partner and when it’s time to be quiet. This is especially true if either one of you has an important meeting or webinar coming up.
Communicate your needs
While it’s good to set up a routine, you won’t always be able to stick to it. Maybe today you’re too busy to cook lunch or you have a meeting scheduled for the whole afternoon. Maybe you need the whole day to focus or you’re not to loaded today. Let your partner know this. Communication is the key!
Turn off after the work day
Lastly, don’t forget to keep the balance of work and home. Boundaries are hard to distinguish now and people are having a tough time separating work from home because they are happening in the same place.
If you set up your “office rules”, you should have also set your “office hours”. If you don't have an extraordinary amount of work that day, commit to turning off, spending time with each other, and relaxing. It’s not just good for your relationship, but is essential for our mental well-being.
It might be a while before things go back to “normal”, if it ever will. So in the meantime, we all need to take the extra effort to make our situations work. If you’re having a difficult time working with your partner at home, communicate with each other, set up rules, and be intentional with how you interact with each other during “office hours”.
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