My partner and I both work at eCom (not the same department) so we commute in and out together every day. Working sort of “together” is the norm for us so the transition to working from home wasn’t too big a stretch.
Even though it wasn’t a huge change, it was most definitely a period of adjustment. Even if you love your other half deeply, spending 24 hours a day 7 days a week with each other is intense. It took a while for myself and my husband to get into a rhythm that worked for us, now it feels nearly normal.
One huge plus is that my husband works in the IT department, which is very handy for those times where I have computer queries. A minus is that we have one workspace we share. And by share I mean he gets the bigger chunk of the dining table because he “needs” more equipment then I do. Did I mention we are elbow to elbow? And don’t get me started on the daily discussion of who will control the music. Today’s mutual choice is Weezer.
Here are a few things I have learned in the past 6 weeks:
So, if you are a fan of personal space you might have to compromise a bit. There are of course some people out there that are lucky enough to have an office space, or two separate areas so they can work separately, but I would imagine the vast majority of us don’t. Throw in homeschooling a child and well, having space is thrown out the window. It is, however, good to have boundaries when it comes to space. I will admit that I can sometimes but not intentionally spread out “my mess” as he calls it over to his side so I am now mindful to make sure I keep things on my side of the table and as tidy as possible. We have an invisible line we both try to not cross, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. But the main thing is we try.
Initially, my husband and I were taking all our breaks at the same time, super excited to spend them together. That has changed. We realised that not only are we spending all day together working, but we also have the whole evening to “spend time” together. We literally couldn’t be spending any more time with each other if we tried. Also, we found out how much we value our lunch breaks and how we want to do very different things. For example, my partner likes to catch up on all the action hero shows which I hate. I like to prep dinner or watch some YouTube videos. Instead of one of us compromising on our lunchtime activity, we realised it was okay that every single break time doesn’t need to be spent together. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes we will go for a short walk with the dog or watch something together but on a whole, we take lunch at a different time of day and enjoy that little bit of me-time.
Have you ever done those tests at Uni or work where you answer a bunch of questions and then at the end you get told what your working style is? I have and it turns out I need human interactions, one to one, teamwork, to succeed in my job. It was described to me as “You are a flower that needs watering and sunshine, the water and sunshine is your colleagues.” My partner, on the other hand, isn’t a flower, he is more of a cactus, needing to be watered once every few weeks. Sunshine is nice but he can survive without loads of it. In the first few weeks, I felt like I was pestering him for attention. As time has gone on we have learned to be conscious of each other’s styles. Now, my partner will stop for a short ten-minute conversation about nothing every couple of hours without letting out a sigh. And I will now ask him if he’s too busy for a chat before bombarding him with information about the latest Netflix crime documentary that’s coming. It’s worth chatting about what helps you both get through the day.
Let’s be honest, this virus has brought a lot of stress to our day to day lives. Every household is dealing with a million unknowns and worries at any given time. I have noticed myself that if I do have some weight on my shoulders, I often “come” to work in a heightened state of stress which can spill out to my working environment. It’s like that feeling you get when you want to fight with everyone, even though you don’t mean to be confrontational you just are but you’re not sure why. Being aware of your feelings and being open with each other is so important. Mutually accepting that not every day will be carefree and sometimes we are stressed because of the state of the world and that is okay. Not feeling like you have to be happy all of the time is okay. Some days I will just say to my other half, sorry I am not myself today and I may find everything you do annoy for no reason. He will always make a joke and then we laugh, it helps ease the stress when you both recognise that things are hard.
It’s nearly impossible to “leave your work at the office” when your home is your office. But it’s really important to have that normal leisure time where you can sit, chill, and chat about the day. Putting a timer on when to stop work and also work chat, needs to be established early on. You don’t want to spend your whole evening ranting on the sofa about something that happened earlier in the day, that isn’t pleasant for anyone in your household. Remember your life outside work still exists, you just share your workspace with it now. Also remember to have fun, make dinner together, play a game, watch a movie, take up a craft, or just do nothing, whatever makes you happy.
Above anything, the biggest thing I have learned from all this is to be kind to each other and to be thankful. It is very easy to be sucked into the vortex of ‘everything is awful’ right now, because the whole world is suffering. We are all processing what is going on in our own ways, and also expressing them differently.
I don’t know what will happen in the coming days, weeks, months but I do know things will probably not be back to “normal” anytime soon so we need to be patient with one another, take each day as it comes and also maybe get a daily music choice rota going.