Sharing might be caring, but sharing a space with another person 24/7 can put a strain on even the strongest of partnerships.
Let’s acknowledge right now that anyone who still has a job, and can perform that job from the relative safety of their home, is really lucky.
In saying that, though, it’s normal to find it challenging – especially if you’ve never worked from home before. Add a partner, housemate, parent or friend to that situation and it can be a recipe for tough times.
It’s OK to find working from home with your partner hard.
No matter how much we like or love someone, being in close quarters all the time can wear thin very quickly.
So how can we make it a little easier for everyone?
Tip 1: Separate your workspaces (if you can)
If you’re able to, create workspaces in separate rooms. This will allow you to have your own little area to set up your things, get comfortable, take calls and focus on your job without having someone else breathing down your neck.
If your home doesn’t cater to separate rooms for work, try setting up a physical or psychological barrier to divide your areas. By creating that sense of separation, you may find it easier to tune out little things like food packets rustling while you’re in an important meeting, or dirty dishes in your partner’s ‘zone’.
Tip 2: Share schedules with each other
Touch base each week or day to run through important meetings coming up, big tasks to get done or times where you’ll need to really knuckle down.
That way you can each be aware of periods where the other may be experiencing higher levels of stress than normal and know whether it’s OK to interrupt to ask if the milk is still good to drink.
Tip 3: Adopt a non-verbal communication system
Partners ‘Zoom-bombing’ meetings can be a hilarious interlude or a distracting disruption, depending on the tone of the meeting and the culture of your workplace. To avoid having to awkwardly explain why your at-home ‘workmate’ can be seen and heard dancing and singing in the background of your webcam, have some sort of signal to let your partner know you’re on a call or video meeting.
For example, you could adopt a red light, green light system with each other, with red light meaning please stay away while green light means feel free to pop in and say hi. It works for more than just meetings, too. You can also use it to let the other person know when you need a clear headspace to focus on the work at hand.
Tip 4: Spend time apart from each other
When you’re in each other’s pockets during work time, relaxation time and sleep time, it’s important to make a conscious effort to dedicate a slice of each day to spend on your own.
It doesn’t matter how you use that part of the day – you could try walking, painting, reading in the garden, playing a video game or just chatting to the birds outside. It’s more important that you spend it alone to give yourself time to feel your emotions, think about your day, and reset your mind.
It can even give you something to talk about later when conversation topics are running dry. When you spend every second together, there’s nothing new that the other doesn’t already know about. But when you have some time away, you can chat about the kind person you passed while out for a walk, the aggressive duck you saw at the lake, or the bee that almost stung you in the garden.
Tip 5: Keep the romance (or friendship) alive
It’s very easy to be sucked into the mundane of your daily routine when options for outings are so limited. Dedicating an evening to keeping the spark of romance or friendship alive is a great way to connect on a deeper level.
Whether you’re working from home with your partner, or with a housemate or family member, you can invite them to a ‘date night’ or a ‘mates’ night’.
Plan your time to include things you don’t do every other night. For example, if you usually cook separately, cook a meal together instead, or support a local restaurant by grabbing some takeaway. And instead of streaming your standard TV series, dust off the board games and see who the trivia master really is. For more inspiration on things you can do while self-isolating, check out these 10 ideas for date nights.
Keep in mind that everyone handles stressful times differently and one common reaction is to become short-tempered and unhappy. If this sounds like you or your partner, and if things just become too much to handle, it’s important to seek help. It’s normal to struggle, but struggling alone isn’t your only option.
To talk to a telephone counsellor, you can call us on 1300 364 277.