The number of cohabitating couples working from home together has skyrocketed since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. While initially, working alongside the person you love sounds like a dream, it can quickly become a nightmare. Results from research conducted early in the pandemic indicated that 34% of relationships reported an increase in conflict and a decrease in intimacy. Equally worrisome are the corresponding increases in depression and loneliness among those reporting higher levels of conflict. While working from home with your partner can put unique pressures on your relationship, the effort is well worth it. Below are tips to help you and your partner develop a healthy, functional, and loving remote work environment at home.
1. Separate Business and Pleasure
The golden rule for working from home with your partner is to keep work and home life separate. However, this is easier said than done, especially when you work from home. Establishing healthy boundaries can be key to maintaining a harmonious relationship. Boundaries include:
- Work hours. Set regular work hours and stick to them as much as you can. Doing so will prevent you from working when you should be focusing on your partner. Establishing a “no visit” policy during work hours can also prevent you from distracting each other throughout the day.
- Limit work outside of business hours. When you work from home you can check your email, answer calls, or follow up on tasks at any time. Do your relationship a favor and limit the amount of work you do in your personal time so you can focus on your partner.
- Keep personal disagreements to non-work hours. While this can be difficult, you both owe it to your jobs to concentrate on your work when you’re working. Resolve to address your personal issues outside of your work hours.
“You are everything.”Jim Halpert, “The Office“
2. Practice Smart Role Play
Your roles at home might be different than your roles in business, which can sometimes cause tension and control struggles. So even if you’re the boss at work, that doesn’t mean you should rule with an iron fist at home. This can be a challenge when you’re both working at home because there is no distance between your home persona and your work persona.
But the key to success when working from home with your partner is to focus on each other’s strengths. The more you play to your strengths, the stronger you are as a couple. For example, if one is better at technology, allow that person to manage software updates and Wi-Fi troubleshooting. Even if you don’t work for the same company, you can still work together as a team.
The last point is to be extra fair about dividing household chores. Studies show that women are being unfairly disadvantaged in this area during the COVID pandemic. Make sure you are both responsible for maintaining your home. Creating a schedule and assigning tasks can make responsibilities clear if necessary.
“So, it’s not gonna be easy. It’s gonna be really hard. We’re gonna have to work at this every day, but I want to do that because I want you. I want all of you, forever, you and me, every day.”Noah, “The Notebook”
3. To Share or Not to Share
Sharing a home and workspace with a partner is challenging, especially if you have completely different work styles and preferences. For example, one of you may love working with your stuff spread out on the couch and lounging in cozy pajamas all day. Your partner may prefer to work at a tidy desk while wearing professional attire.
If this describes your scenario, do your best to create a separation between your workspaces. In the best circumstance, you can work in different rooms, even if it’s a closet or basement. At worst, you may have to delineate your desk area from your partner’s. Another option is to share an office and create a schedule so that each of you gets some quiet time alone.
“I’m scared of walking out of this room and never feeling the rest of my whole life the way I feel when I’m with you.”Baby, “Dirty Dancing”
4. Use Safe Words
When you’re working from home with your partner, you’re going to get on each other’s nerves from time to time. Whenever one of you is annoyed or at a tipping point, use a safe word to let the other person know you need a break. For example, if your partner whistles while they work, give them some time to play a tune. Just make sure to use your safe word to let her know when you’ve reached your limit.
Think of funny words to break the tension, such as “catawampus” or “nincompoop.” You can also choose a word that represents a fond memory, like the name of a city you visited or the main character of the first movie you watched together. Find an inside joke that keeps things light while letting the other person know you need a bit of a break from the shenanigans.
“In my opinion, the best thing you can do is find someone who loves you for exactly what you are. Good mood, bad mood, ugly, pretty, handsome, what have you.”Mac, “Juno”
5. Engage in Conversation
Working can leave little interest for conversation at supper time. But maintaining personal interactions outside of work is crucial. Recognize that there may be more to learn about each other, even though you seem to spend every waking moment together. Strong relationships take work. So when you clock out from your job, you need to clock into your personal relationship to ensure your home life is balanced.
Even during the pandemic, you can spice things up by being a little creative. There are plenty of romantic outdoor activities. Walking around the block can constitute together time when you’re holding hands and dreaming of the post-pandemic future. If you don’t want to leave the house, have a picnic in the backyard, or subscribe to a meal delivery service and prepare delicious dinners together.
“In case I forget to tell you later, I had a really good time tonight.”Vivian, “Pretty Woman”
6. Give Each Other Downtime
When conversation gets annoying or you need some space, give each other time each day to be alone. If you live in a small place, try having one of you go into a separate room and shut the door to relax. Maybe you can even schedule a few hours each week to be completely alone. For example, one of you gets the whole place to yourself on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, while the other gets Monday and Friday mornings to romp around solo. Figure out what works for you and respect each other’s need for privacy.
“Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she had to walk into mine.”Rick, “Casablanca”
7. Support Each Other
When working from home with your partner, be each other’s accountability buddy. Optimize your time and improve the quality of your work by keeping each other accountable for achieving goals. Help each other by picking up the slack when things get busy. Listen to each other’s needs and struggles and be there to advise and support.
As an exercise that can help both your career paths, have a career planning meeting where you each set goals and devise routes to achievement. Post the plans on the wall for both of you to see, track milestones, and leave encouraging feedback. It always helps to have a trusted accomplice on your path toward success. Plus, witnessing someone else working toward a goal can motivate you to work toward your own.
“You make me want to be a better man.”Melvin, “As Good as It Gets”
8. Enjoy the Closeness
Most working couples spend at least eight hours apart from each other each day. Factor in time spent commuting to and from the office, occasional overtime, after-work errands and social events, and much-needed personal time, such as showering and sleep, and you’re looking at just a few hours each day of quality togetherness.
Working from home with your spouse gives you an opportunity to develop stronger bonds because you are physically together most of the time. You should think how wonderful it is to spend so much time together and truly venture through life arm in arm. Be grateful for this opportunity and try to appreciate it, even (or perhaps especially) when you’re bickering.
“If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaky feeling you’ll find that love actually is all around.”David, “Love Actually”
9. Take a Couples Retreat
Take a break when working from home with your partner to enjoy life outside of work. Use some of your hard-earned cash to treat yourself to a COVID-friendly couple’s trip. For example, rent an RV and roam around to different campgrounds exploring nature. Another option is to rent (or buy if you have the resources) a cabin in the woods, or on a mountain, or by the seashore. As remote workers, you have the luxury of taking your work with you wherever they go. So, grab your laptops and go for a ride.
“When you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.”Harry, “When Harry Met Sally”
10. Stop and Smell the Roses
Always take time to pay attention to the little things that matter, as they tend to matter the most. Notice and appreciate the good moments and let go of the bad. Leave love notes at each other’s desk, send each other cute emails on occasion, or get flowers delivered by surprise. Incorporating such romantic acts at home will keep your relationship thriving.
“The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.”Christian, “Moulin Rouge”
In the end, open communication is the primary key to a healthy relationship. Be honest about your feelings and work through conflict constructively. Accommodate each other’s work style preferences and need for personal space as much as possible. Practice accepting each other, warts and all. If you can leverage each other’s strengths, work through your differences, and support each other in work and play, then you’ll make an unstoppable virtual team.
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