Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, more people than ever are working from home—and for many couples, that means not only sharing living space with their partner, but sharing a workspace, too.
If you’re not used to WFH with your partner, you probably have questions about how to make the transition. How do you balance work time and home time? And how do you WFH home together without putting any added stress on your relationship?
Similar to moving in together for the first time, figuring out how to WFH together for the first time can be challenging. Let’s take a look at some tips for a successful WFH with your partner situation: how to navigate the process, how to find your WFH groove, and how to strike a balance between work life, home life, and prioritizing your relationship with your partner:
If you and your partner weren’t expecting to work from home together, you probably don’t have a plan in place for how to navigate your new situation. But if you want the WFH with your partner experience to be a successful one, you need to come up with a plan—and you need to come up with it together.
Sit down with your partner and work out the details of your new situation together. Where are you going to work? What are your work hours? How much support do you need from the other person—and how much space?
Taking the time to get on the same page early can help make this already strange experience with your partner feel more manageable.
When you and your partner were working in an office, your days had structure. There was a beginning, middle, and end. Clearly, the current situation has thrown a wrench in that structure. There’s no commute, no working in an office, no post-work gym sessions or happy hour with friends. And your significant other? They’re around all the time.
That said, just because your normal schedule and structure doesn’t apply to your new WFH situation doesn’t mean you don’t need it. In fact, schedules and structure are even more important as you transition to working from home with your partner. Without structure, the days will start to blend together; it can be hard to get things done in your work or your personal life—and those challenges can bleed into your relationship.
If you want to avoid the “Groundhog’s Day” feeling, work with your partner to insert some structure into your work day. Some potential ideas:
And, just as importantly, make sure to carve out time every day for self-care like doing an at-home yoga workout or taking some alone time to read or listen to music.
The more structure you have in your day, the easier it will be to get into a WFH flow with your partner. The more flow you have, the easier it will be to navigate the transition.
When you work from home, it can be easy for your work life to infringe on your home life. And before you know it, you’re answering emails in bed, taking work-related phone calls when you’re supposed to be watching a movie with your partner, or going over a presentation at the dinner table—none of which are great for your relationship.
If you want WFH with your partner to be successful, it’s important for you both to create a sense of separation between work and home. And the best way to do that? Designated workspaces.
If you have a room with a door where you can set up your home office, great! If not, no worries. You can just as easily set up workspaces by putting a desk in a corner of a room or even delegating a certain seat at your kitchen table for work.
Set up separate, designated workspaces for you and your partner (whether those are two separate home offices, a shared home office with two different desks, two different desks in different corners of your living room, or two different chairs at your kitchen table—just work with what you have).
Then, keep your work confined to that space (no emails in bed!). That way, when you leave your workspace at the end of that, it’s easier for you both to transition out of “alert and at work” mode and into “relax at home” mode, which will help keep WFH-related stress to a minimum.
You love your partner. You respect them. But if there was ever a time to go a little overboard on the respect front—especially when it pertains to their work—now is the time.
Do you like to listen to music during the day—but your partner needs silence to concentrate? Pop on your headphones (and fight the urge to sing along). Is your partner taking a Zoom call with their team from your kitchen table? Make sure to grab snacks, water, and anything else you might need from the kitchen before the call starts. Is your partner working through lunch to hit a deadline, but your barking pup is making it hard to concentrate? Use your lunch break to take your dog for a walk around the block to work off some energy.
The point is, the more respectful you can be during this WFH transition, the easier it will be for the both of you to work from home together. And, of course, the respect has to go both ways. Let your partner know what you need and if and how they can adjust their behaviors to be more respectful of you and your work. As with so many relationship things: communication is key.
No matter how respectful you and your partner are of each other, chances are, there are going to be hiccups and missteps as you’re getting used to working from home together. And that’s OK. The key is to use those moments as opportunities to learn and do better.
At the end of every work day, have a quick sit-down with your partner to discuss your workday. So, for example, you might meet with your partner at the end of the work day and say something like this:
“So, today, I really enjoyed our afternoon coffee break. It was such a nice way to break up the day, and it was great to have a few minutes to chat with you and get away from work stuff. One thing I found challenging was when you didn’t put your headphones in for your conference call. I found the noise really distracting. Tomorrow, can we both try using headphones for any scheduled meetings?”
By addressing any potential issues as they happen, you can prevent them from snowballing into larger issues—and potentially putting a strain on your relationship.
Look, let’s just be honest—this is a tough time. Not only are you navigating WFH with your partner, but there’s also a lot of uncertainty in the world that has people feeling afraid, overwhelmed, and stressed out.
That’s why it’s so important to cut your partner and yourself plenty of slack. Do everything you can to make the process of WFH with your partner as easy and stress-free as possible. If you run into challenges, have trouble adjusting, or start to get on each other’s nerves, it’s OK.
This is an emotionally charged time, and you and your partner are probably both going to make a few mistakes as you try to figure it out. So cut each other (and yourselves) as much slack as possible. You’ll get through this together.