How to Work From Home With Your Partner Without Going Crazy

Tips from experts and real couples working from home about how we can all co-work with our partners through this pandemic without going crazy

Daxiao Productions/ Shutterstock
Daxiao Productions/ Shutterstock

Despite not switching jobs or adding anyone to my team, I have a new co-worker that I see more than anyone now. 

My new co-worker is my husband. I — like many in the Working Together community — will be working from home for the foreseeable future. This means that my work day is now happening on top of, in the same rooms as and sometimes right next to my husband’s work day. This new reality is teaching me that despite thinking I had a good idea what a consultant’s day to day looks like, I really had no idea. In tandem, my husband is realizing that the work of a remote journalist is wildly different than he thought it would be.

“There are only two things required for conflict: difference and proximity,” wrote couples therapist Jake Thiessen on LinkedIn. “This time in our lives puts couples and families in much greater proximity with each other than is typical. Consequently, their differences will become more and more obvious.”  

Working from home together has led to the occasional fight and frequent miscommunication. So I wanted to learn from experts and from you how we can all co-work with our partners through this pandemic without going crazy. Here is what I found out from hundreds of you on LinkedIn

We’re all uncomfortable — and that’s OK

On top of figuring out your partner’s work schedule in real time, all of our work schedules are changing. What a day at work looked like in the office hardly resembles what our new lives working from home have turned in to. Confronting that reality head on with your partner is crucial, said marriage and family therapist Jonathan Dixon. 

“It’s completely understandable for many of us to feel like we’re out of our comfort zone and to experience some ‘growing pains’ as we adjust to our new reality (for the time being),” he wrote on LinkedIn. “This makes it incredibly important to work as a team, directing your energy as a couple towards the common enemy (COVID19 related changes).”

Having a morning meeting to discuss the plan for the day can be a simple way to alleviate some of the discomfort we are all feeling, he added. 

Social distancing applies to your partner, too

Several experts weighed in on LinkedIn that having your own space to work away from a partner — if possible — is critical. Once separate spaces are established, it’s also important that couples respect the boundaries of that space during the work day. Creating baseline rules around when and how to interrupt each other during the day can go a long way to help preserve sanity as well. Also, while it may be tempting to take breaks together during the work day, taking breaks alone may be just as important to preserve sanity.

Distancing your work life from your home life as the spaces you are doing both become one is also important.

“Don’t get caught up in the details of home while you’re working, and don’t get caught up in the details of work when you’re off work,” added Executive Director at Insights Counseling Sherry Douden. “Clear boundaries will help with stress overload. In this way you avoid feeling like you’re working 24/7.” 

Communicate, communicate, communicate. And then communicate again. 

During uncertain times, couples need to do the best they can to avoid miscommunications about expectations while living in isolation. Collaborating on a daily schedule that outlines both personal and professional obligations — including things like outdoor activity and exercise — is a good place to start, said marriage and family therapist Meg McLeroy. This also gets everyone on the same page for how the work day will look differently now that a commute into the office isn’t on the table. “Blaring Jay-Z in the bedroom to get you pumped to take on the world might not work with your spouse’s idea of extra sleep,” joked marriage and family therapist Jeremy Anderson. 

It’s also essential for couples to reconsider “who does what” during this time, McLeroy added. Just because your partner was the one who did a majority of the cooking, for example, before the pandemic, re-evaluating those roles and responsibilities will be key to staying productive during it. 

Give your partner some grace

Becoming more empathetic during this time may be the answer to a lot of the anxiety we are all feeling. That especially applies to the person you are partnering with to get through the pandemic. “Now more than ever it is significant that we work together and practice ‘we ‘ rather than ‘me.’, wrote Clinical Psychologist Dr. Lori Whatley on LinkedIn. “With teamwork we can manage this challenge and even come out stronger and better than we ever imagined.” 

But what does that look like in practice? Marriage and family therapist Tennelle O. Jones recommends noticing and appreciating three things about your partner each day. Marriage and family therapist Luisa Silva says it’s important to find and talk about the silver linings of the situation when possible too. 

“Give yourself and your partner some grace,” she wrote. “These are unprecedented times and we’re all dealing with a range of emotions about the current state of affairs. Be patient with yourself and your partner and just remember that you’re both doing the best you can and these arrangements won’t last forever.” 

For more tips on working productively with your partner, click here

What’s Working

Business Unusual. We’re going live four days a week to talk with you about how the coronavirus is impacting the ways we are all working. The way COVID19 is turning the economy upside down is filling me with a lot of anxiety. I brought on a series of experts to walk us through the headlines on hiring, personal finance and more. You can join the conversation above. 

Managing through corona. I continue to be impressed by the brave management decisions leaders are making in real time during the pandemic. New York Stock Exchange President Stacey Cunningham made the difficult decision to temporarily close their trading floors for the first time in history. “The safety of our employees and Floor personnel is paramount and, despite their continued willingness to keep the Floor operating, we felt it prudent to move to all-electronic trading at this time,” she wrote on LinkedIn. 

Push for paid leave. 73% of Americans support the paid leave legislation that passed last week giving emergency relief to all workers, according to a new survey conducted by LeanIn.org and SurveyMonkey.

What to watch. If you have some extra time on your hands, I have two Netflix recommendations for you. Self-Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walkeris a four-part series with Octavia Spencer shares the story of the first self-made female millionaire in America. And She Did That is a documentary series showcasing black female entrepreneurs across the country.  

Who’s Pushing Us Forward

We have lots of leaders providing free classes, lists and resources to help you get through this time. Here are a few I noticed: 

Originally published on LinkedIn.com

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