Last year on Valentine’s Day, millions of workers were rushing to leave the office to get ready for a romantic evening. A few weeks later, many of us started to work from home – spending 24/7 with our partners and families. As a result, some surprising work habits have emerged, some less-than-ideal: discovering that your partner is the person who says “circle back” on every call, or that they read their emails out loud might quell some passion.
Working from home with a partner has been an experience no one anticipated. It has forced many of us to reinvent routines, argue about who sits closest to the Wi-Fi router, and discover that everyone in the house can experience imposter syndrome, which is the idea that you’ve only succeeded due to luck, and not because of your talent or qualifications.
Work from home continues to be a reality for many of us, and as 9 out of 10 American workers declare they experienced burnout in 2020, it is more important than ever to take a step back and give a fresh look to you and your partner’s at-home routines. The six tips below are a good starting point to help you to preserve your relationships, without losing productivity.
Honesty is key
Acknowledge to each other that these are trying times. It is important to recognize and voice the fact that, although you are crazy about each other, you never signed up to be together literally all the time — and you also probably didn’t sign up to be coworkers (or even co-teachers, if you have kids that need homeschooling). Spoiler alert: your partner probably feels the same.
For the last year, you saw your partner in a new light and learned more about who they are during the day. You heard them in countless virtual meetings and 1:1s, saw them attend online training, and maybe even heard them in a disagreement with a colleague. While you may feel compelled to start giving them advice based on your observations, this is one of those times where, unless feedback is solicited, it might be better to mind your own business. In most cases — whether it’s what’s on their plate, their interpersonal relationships with co-workers, or how they approach their to-do list — you probably miss too much context to be able to provide the best advice.
Keep your focus
It can be easy to discuss home-related projects in the middle of the workday, but this can take both you and your partner down a rabbit hole of distraction. Instead of interrupting each other, keep track of joint personal tasks in a work management tool like Asana. When you and your partner sit down after the work day ends, you can review your at-home to-do list and can take ownership of the tasks at hand. If your partner continues to constantly interrupt your work, let them know what you need, and discuss together the challenges of jumping between tasks and conversations, also defined as context switching.
Establish your personal space
Unlike your office, workspaces at home can be limited. If you don’t have separate rooms to do your work, establish ownership of your own personal working areas. Be sure to define spaces for where you keep your work “stuff” – files, computer, monitors. This can help maintain boundaries between work and home (and you and your partner).
As the weekend approaches, collect any last-minute work and personal tasks in a work management platform, close your laptop and put it, along with all your work documents and accessories, in a drawer or closet. The key is getting your work artifacts out of sight for the weekend, so you can turn off the work part of your brain and recharge.
Be organized together
At the end of each day, review each other’s next-day schedules to coordinate who is working from where, and who can pick up some of the “life slack”. Will it be a “both of us at the dining room table” day, or will one of you need to take calls from another room? Can one of you run errands or handle childcare while the other is in meetings? Planning ahead will help to avoid misunderstandings and resentment.
Enjoy the additional time together!
While this period is deeply challenging, it’s also an opportunity to see each other more often – and that can be a great thing. Take the opportunity to share a walk each day where you can get some fresh air and check-in with each other. Just because you hear your partner’s calls doesn’t mean you know what’s going on, or how your partner is feeling about the day. Making a mid-day check-in ritual is a great way to reconnect and also to step away from your work for a bit.
I’ve recently read that right now, that work is so omnipresent that it can feel like you’re not working from home, but instead that you are living at work. It’s critical to find ways to separate the two — especially when it comes to your relationship. Try implementing these tips, reinventing your routine one step at a time, and you’ll be surprised how much of a difference it can make in both your work and personal life.