As an increasing number of establishments close their doors and ask their employees to work from home due to coronavirus, more and more couples are faced with the age-old question: How TF do we both work from home without killing each other? Between different hours, different work styles, and different preferences when it comes to things like having music on or talking on the phone in the living room, it’s enough to put a strain on even the most steadfast of couples.
So, how the hell do I know this? For the past year, my husband and I have both worked from home. At first, it was in our 2-bedroom apartment in Austin, then it was in a 400-square-foot studio apartment (with two human-sized dogs mixed in, I might add). Now, thankfully, it’s in our 3-bedroom home. The point is, we’ve had to learn how to adjust to each other’s schedules, respect boundaries when we were literally working on top of each other, and manage to get through the workweek without breaking up and/or murdering one another. It takes a little work, but once you get it down, you’ll be able to
blissfully refresh your email while watching Netflix get your work done mere feet from your love and be as productive as ever.
Here’s how you work from home without killing each other, and actually getting work done.
1. Know Each Other’s Schedules
Maybe he’s working a 9am-5pm and you’re working a 2pm-10pm. Odds are you know each other’s schedules already, but just in case, fill your new coworker in on your hours. Do you have a meeting every Monday at noon? Are you allowed to sign off early on Fridays? Are mornings hectic and afternoons slow? Whether you debrief each other on a daily or weekly basis, knowing when you can and can’t interrupt the other is key to making all of this work. My tip? Before an important meeting, call, or assignment that you need full attention for, let the other know. They don’t want to f*ck with your career, but we’re all bored as sh*t and need some human interaction. Communicate when you will be actually busy so this co-working relationship doesn’t turn into the quarantined breakup from hell.
2. Make A Big Deal Out Of Meetings
I can’t stress this enough. When it’s time to actually like, work (i.e. you have a call with your boss or a meeting with someone), tell your SO a few times and ask for what you need. Do you need him/her to not come into the room? Do you need absolute silence? A few minutes before something big. remind your partner that you’re going to be busy for an estimated amount of time, and tell them what you need to succeed. If they don’t know, they can’t help you. But by laying down what you need and reminding them right before, it helps even the most forgetful partner give you the time and space you need. It’s the mantra of relationships: They can’t read your mind. Speak up and ask them to do the same.
3. Have Your Own Space
Someone gets the office, someone gets the bedroom. If that doesn’t work, someone gets the couch and someone gets the table. Maybe you switch it up daily or maybe you agree on these spaces and stick with them. Either way, designate work areas for each of you that are SPECIFICALLY your spots. This is where your work computer, your chargers, and your daytime snacks go. By having an area to call your own, it’s easier for the other person to tell you’re in work mode when you’re sitting at the desk versus when you’re walking around the kitchen on your phone. Plus, it will make after-hours relaxing easier if you don’t mix your “workspace” with your “lounge space.”
Pro tip: If you’re low on space, something as simple as sitting on the other end of the couch during work hours can make all the difference.
4. Utilize Doors And Headphones
Doors! They’re amazing. And headphones? They’re like doors for your ears! If you look at other “how to work from home” posts, one thing they all say is “pretend your SO isn’t there.” Which is, in my non-professional opinion, bullsh*t. First of all, one of the very few perks of this sh*tty and devastating pandemic is the fact that we not only get to work from home, but we (hopefully) get to spend some extra time with the people we love. It’s like college all over again when you’d sit in his bed doing your online Spanish class, except this time you’re getting paid and your livelihood is on the line.
Anyway, the point being, pretending the other person isn’t there is not only depressing, but it’s pointless. What isn’t pointless is using physical boundaries that the other person knows to indicate that now is not the time to hang out. For him? It’s the office door. For me? It’s headphones. If his door is closed or my headphones are in, we both know that the other is in the middle of some sh*t and to only interrupt if there’s an emergency, like another celebrity tests positive for COVID-19 or we’re officially out of toilet paper. By having something tangible that the other person can see, it makes them stop in their tracks and take a moment to decide if this is something they NEED to tell you this minute, or if it can wait until you go back to slacking off.
5. Find Your Focus
It’s easy to blame your SO for distracting you when the work day comes to an end and you realize you didn’t get everything done. If they didn’t keep walking into the room, kissing you and telling you how beautiful you looked in your old sorority tee and sporting a 5-days-since-washed pony, you might actually have gotten things done. Right? In reality, the first thing you need to realize working from home is how you work best. When are you most productive? Do interruptions completely ruin your flow or do you like having some random distractions? If your partner wants to chat, are you cool with them coming in and talking or would you prefer for them to wait and talk during designated breaks? Figure out how you work best then communicate that with your partner so you can both get your sh*t done in as little time as possible and bust open your end-of-the-day pandemic wine a little bit early.
6. Stick To Your Boundaries And Show The Same Respect You Would To Other Coworkers
If you need an hour in the morning to be alone with your coffee and misery, make that clear. If you like watching TV while you answer emails and don’t want to be disturbed while Ian Somerhalder is on-screen, mention that. Make very clear expectations of what you need to succeed and listen as your partner does the same. Respect what each other is asking (unless it’s something that hurts you or upsets you, in which case, talk about it) and gently enforce your boundaries if they forget or start to overstep.
Speaking of respect, even though you’ve seen this person naked and you pretty much, if not actually, live together, you still need to treat them like they’re one of your coworkers. Meaning, you have to respect each other’s time and space. While you might have a light workday and are able to get chores done and vacuum the entire house, he or she might not be able to drop everything to help you hang up those photos you’ve been meaning to display for the past year. Think of work hours as morphing your relationship for a bit. Yes, your person is there but no, you can’t demand their undivided attention like you normally can. Keep that in mind and read the vibes if he/she doesn’t seem as into slacking off as you are.
7. Take Breaks Together And Separately
One of the major perks of working from home is the breaks. Without your boss physically panting down your neck, you have the ability to get your work done and actually f*cking breathe. While it can be super easy to get honed into your computer, being hunched over your laptop while perched on your old sofa for nine hours straight isn’t great. Now you can actually take breaks without feeling guilty. During the day, take some breaks alone but also carve out a few you can take together. Whether that means sitting outside to eat lunch, folding laundry, or just sitting and talking over a homemade cup of coffee (ugh), having some time to chill out during the day together will not only make the workday go faster, but it will make you feel more connected.
8. Enjoy The Extra Moments Together
As much as I like to complain, working from home together is seriously the best, once you iron out the kinks. You get to have breakfast (or at least some coffee together), you can take a lunch break at the same time, and instead of sending each other memes throughout the day, you can talk face to face and/or make out. While yeah, it can be distracting to be around your SO all day, once you get your boundaries up and keep a line of communication open, enjoy it! Not only that, but make it truly special. Something I love about both of us being home for work is the extra opportunities we get to do lovey things. Kisses in the kitchen, a refill on coffee without asking, a surprise sandwich at lunch—little ways to show you care that you don’t normally get to do when you’re both at separate offices. Sure, there are more chances to get annoyed and underfoot, but there are also a lot more opportunities to make sweet memories and have fun during the weekday together.
9. Make Sure You Both Understand Where Sex Stands
For some, working from home together means more opportunities to get it on. For others, it means awkward moments where you’re trying to answer emails and he’s sucking on your neck. There’s no right or wrong answer here. You will have more chances to have sex, which is great if mornings aren’t for you, or by the time evening comes around you’re too exhausted to move. A little afternoon delight might just be your saving grace. If, however, you’d like to stick to a traditional schedule and hold off on sex stuff until outside of work hours, make that clear from the first turned-down initiation. Not only will it eliminate any additional sexually-charged stress, but you’ll both know where you’re at and have something to look forward to when you both finally shut down your laptops.
10. Have Some Clocked Out Time Together
One of the hardest parts about working from home together is still taking time to be with each other. It’s weird, because you’re under the same roof all day, eating the same lunch and grunting at each other when you refill your coffee cups, but you’re not actually spending tons of quality time together. Instead, make sure to still set aside some date time after or before work, just like you would normally do. Spending that extra passive time working together, while great, isn’t enough to sustain a relationship. Whether it’s a movie night, a picnic in your backyard, or making the most of your lack of commute and taking shots the second the clock hits 5pm, there are plenty of ways to have fun, be productive, and keep each other (as well as the rest of the world) safe.
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