Relationship Survival Strategies for Working From Home
When you are literally "in it together."
Posted Mar 13, 2020
Washing your hands won’t be enough to ensure emotional stability and workplace continuity. Be intentional. Establish clear boundaries, expectations, and opportunities to find the silver lining during these stressful times.
Establish office hours and respect each other’s parameters
Be sure there is a clear start and stop to the day, and ideally a time for lunch (that you may want to share as a welcomed break). You will exhaust yourself and your partner if your home is incessantly infused with work. It’s equally important to avoid interruptions during office hours. If you wouldn’t call your partner at the office in the middle of the day to discuss an issue, don’t barge into their home workspace and distract them by venting about your colleague or obsessing about a parenting issue that kept you awake last night.
Be clear about domestic jobs
Since you’re both at home, there will be more cooking and cleaning to do. We can’t predict the latest health developments, but we can control the cleanliness (and sense of order) in the home and workspaces. Whose job is it? Rather than stew over the breakfast dishes your partner left in the sink, consider creating a work wheel or rotation for daily chores.
Have a morning huddle/scrum
Act like an agile tech startup—have a quick, standing morning meeting with your partner to answer these questions:
- How did yesterday go?
- What do we need to do to refine our new working arrangements?
- What do you need to succeed today? This may include a request for greater quiet, access to the landline for better reception during an important call, or a chance to have a few hours at home with no one around.
If your home is large enough, carve out separate rooms that are used strictly for work. Don’t let office paraphernalia spill into personal areas. As best you can, create a distinct threshold to cross when your workday is done. All living in one or two rooms? At the end of the day, close the computer, put away papers, maybe even toss a sheet over the piles you can’t otherwise hide.
Avoid bandwidth power struggles
Do you have enough? How best to allocate? Test the strength of connection in various parts of your home and use this to determine where you will each work. See if there’s a considerable drop-off from one spot to another. The couch may be your first choice, but if the Wi-Fi signal struggles to reach it, no one wants to hear you cursing. The requirements for various platforms can be found here: Popular Science.
Match the space you work in with the level of focus you need
Maintain attention. Make your home seem bigger. Mix it up. Reviewing a document, writing a report, or taking a phone call all require different kinds of focus. Don’t chain yourself to the desk. But also remember, if your partner is in the downstairs office, that may mean they’re really concentrating. When you are hiding in the guest room with your laptop you may be deep in thought. Identify places where either of you can work on “lighter” tasks and may be (happily) disturbed.
Inescapable noise stresses our system. Blood pressures rise, problem-solving diminishes. Use headsets to listen to music. Don’t pace around the house on your conference call. Turn off electronic notifications. Avoid banging your desk when the numbers tumble. Scream into your pillow instead. That’s one benefit of working from home.
During breaks, talk about topics other than the Coronavirus
Stay prepared and informed, but know when to stop. Don’t depress your immune system by operating on full alert at all times.
Give each other downtime
If you live in a small place, try having one of you go into a separate room and shut the door to relax. Your home has become a satellite office, but it’s not a prison. Take turns going out and leaving your partner alone. Discuss times that might work for both of you to coordinate “away time.” Honor the introvert. Historically, your beloved may have revealed their sparkling personality after work, but during the day, they prefer not to engage. Take the hint.
Your partner is not your workplace best friend or business coach
Want to let off steam? Need to complain? Seeking advice? Reach out to your coworkers today like you did yesterday when you shared a physical office. Your partner has enough work drama to keep them busy. Don’t add yours.
Agree to a goofy code word
Let’s be honest—you’re going to get on each other’s nerves at some point. Find a code word to let the other person know you’re reaching your limit. Make up a word or phrase that makes you both giggle. Break the tension.
Enjoy lunch together, do some yoga, or dim the lights for a few minutes.
Build in new rituals to refresh your energy and your enjoyment of each other. Working from home together is a chance to have some fun together—right in the middle of the business day.