How To Work-From-Home With Your Partner

It’s March 16, 2020 & it already feels like it’s been a wild year. Our nation has encouraged a drastic, mandated quarantine as we strive to flatten the curve of the impending cases of COVID-19. But you already know that, as does the rest of the world right now. We’re expected to spend the next 2-8 weeks in self-isolation, only leaving our homes if we truly need to for supplies or doctor’s visits. It’s a weird time, there’s no doubt about it.

For me, working from home is nothing new; I’ve been doing it since 2017. But what I’m not used to, as I’m sure many of you can attest to as well, is working from home while also sharing a small space with your live-in partner. Sure, 1-2 days is fine – but we’re talking up to 8 weeks (or more) of constantly sharing a dedicated, at-home work space (which comes at a limitation, especially if you live in an apartment.) Just like many of you, I’m adjusting to a new normal as well. With Thomas home for the next 2ish months max, we had to sit down & figure out a plan that will allow for both of us to get our work done effectively, without losing our minds not having our usual alone time – something we both appreciate having from 9-5 most weekdays lol.

Corona virus or not, there will be a time when you and your partner will need to share a space to work-from-home. If Thomas and I can do it in an apartment, then I have faith you & your partner can do it as well.

Here are some tips for working-from-home with your partner:

Discuss Your Expected Work Day + Habits (The Night Before)

Do you have a work call at 9am? Is he expected to get a project done by 12pm the next day?

Do you hate to be interrupted? Does he work with headphones?

Knowing what the other has going on helps to eliminate the stress behind figuring out how to work in this new normal. Before going to bed, talk out-loud about what’s on the agenda for each of you the following day ahead & how you both like to handle your work responsibilities. Being on the same page and understanding each other’s expectations/habits from the start encourages a healthy atmosphere of mutual respect for one another’s careers. Why chat before bed? Because it’s a time where you both can give your full attention to listen to one another and discuss without life’s interruptions (for the most part.) Leaving it for the morning, when you’re both busy getting ready, can only trigger panic if one (or both of you) aren’t prepared for the other person’s planned day of attack.

Determine Who Has More Flexibility With His/Her Work Schedule 

This goes along with the above about discussing expectations per work days – determining who has more flexibility with his/her schedule & being transparent about what can’t be changed (as easily.) This is especially important when it comes to scheduled calls/Skypes. For example, I’m in the position where I can move my schedule around more easily than Thomas, because I work primarily for myself and he has a team to accommodate. Therefore, I give him more priority to set times with calls & I plan my schedule around them so we’re not on the phones at the same time. This also encourages us to be transparent with one another and respect the time set for such things by not interrupting with unnecessary sound/conversation.

Try To Follow The Same Morning/End Of Day Routine

Tackling the hours before work together can set you both up for success in itself. Set an alarm that both of you can wake up to & designate a window for your morning routines. For example, Thomas and I normally use our morning hours to workout, shower, make coffee, & then he leaves for work/ I get started on mine. With the gyms now closed in Hoboken for social distancing, we have to adjust to at-home workouts in our living room or going outside for runs (for the time being.) That being said, one of us isn’t going to start an at-home workout in the middle of the day if the other needs to work (talk about a major distraction.) So we plan on having the same time set aside for such activity. This also goes for our lunch breaks & intended finishing hours for each day. We both are striving to make it feel as normal and routine as we can, with accommodations as needed. Being on the same page in the morning is a great way to start.

Be Mindful Of Space

At the end of the day, you’re both probably sharing a space that’s meant for one person to work effectively at. Thomas and I are fortunate to have a 2-bedroom apartment where I can escape and close the door as needed to work. We’re also fortunate to live in an apartment building that has a dedicated lounge to work in most times, so until now we’ve never had to truly accommodate sharing our home for a full day’s work. With our apartment lounges closed for social distancing, we still feel grateful to have the second bedroom (& door) to close off if we need to do our own form of social distancing. But I understand that not everyone living in an apartment together has these luxuries of space; I remember my studio apartment and thinking about how I’d navigate that with Thomas is stressing me out as it is.

If one table and two chairs are all you have right now, don’t worry – there are still ways to make this work effectively and fairly for the two of you. A quick solution is to buy a tiny writer’s desk for one of you to sit at and work. Sure it’s not the most practical but if space is what you need & currently lack, then there are plenty of options you can consider without feeling buyer’s remorse. Just set up camp in another corner of the apartment for the time being; it’ll give you both your own areas and mentally help you both feel more in control of the situation.

If you have a larger home, try converting one of the spare bedrooms or unused rooms into a temporary office. Get a cheap desk, rearrange some things, and make it a space of your own. I totally understand the importance of having some separation, so don’t feel like it’s not worth the time to create for yourself. If anything, now is entirely the time to do what you need in order to keep things progressing as normal.

If there’s anything to take away from these tips, it’s that communication & mindfulness encourages mutual respect and therefore, a successful transition to working-from-home together. I truly hope these suggestions help you feel more at ease as we continue to figure all of this out. In these unpredictable times, one thing is for certain – that we have the ability to encourage one another & keep the hope alive.
At the end of the day, things will get better & this too shall pass. In the meantime, let’s appreciate what we have & what we’ve been blessed with – more uninterrupted time with our loved ones than we’ve ever been granted before.