Being confined with your spouse 24/7 can be challenging, and adding the pressure of work could be disastrous if you're not proactive.
Over the years, people have asked me how my husband and I can work and live together in the same home and not strangle each other. While I admit, I've been tempted more than once, we established a system early on, and while it has not always been easy, it's our normal.
In the aftermath of China's coronavirus quarantine, the divorce rate there has skyrocketed, likely due to couples being stuck in close quarters for too many weeks.
Here are some survival tips that have kept us sane (and married!) over the last 17 years:
Designate separate workspaces.
Initially, it may seem romantic to work side by side with your spouse. You sneak loving glances, and it may almost seem a bit naughty. But to be realistic, it doesn't last. You each need your own space to work within the home. This isn't a vacation; there is still work to be done. Therefore, to avoid distracting each other, separate work areas allow you to focus on your jobs. It also prevents you from getting on each other's nerves after the initial honeymoon phase—clicking pens, snacking on crunchy pretzels, humming songs under one's breath, work calls ... Trust me, you're going to get annoyed. Therefore, separate work areas are major key.
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Discuss expectations early on.
Miscommunication often leads to resentment, which can easily turn into an argument. Avoid this by discussing each other's ideas and concerns on how best to co-exist working in the same home. Let's face it: not everyone is the same at work as they are at home. Being open and honest with one another can also help you avoid that irritated eye-rolling, grimacing, and muttering under one's breath. I can tell you from experience that many times I have walked (stormed?) out of my husband's office—not just irritated, but actively throwing a lot of (unkind) shade. We've worked on that over time, however, it still occurs.
Message or text each other during the workday.
It may sound ridiculous to message or text the person who is in the other room, yet while focusing on a project, unnecessary interruptions can derail a whole train of thought. A quick message or text is a less intrusive way to communicate. Also, it avoids yelling back and forth to each other—Now, that gets annoying really fast!
Use earbuds or headphones.
If you're working on something that requires your undivided attention, cancel out the outside world to avoid the distractions of the normal household chaos (children running around, the dog barking, and delivery people dropping packages ordered online).
Take a break.
Trust me, it is really easy to get wrapped up in work and suddenly look at the clock, realizing that you're still in your jammies and it's already the middle of the afternoon. Plan on making a lunch date with your spouse: enjoy a sandwich together or take a walk to shake off the cobwebs. And for goodness' sake, change into some street clothes.
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Set a time to shut down.
Without commuting or having to pick up kids, it becomes very tempting to continue working for just another "15 minutes"—and then another. Set a time to shut down and leave the work for tomorrow. Just like at the office, it will still be there. This is a tough one to implement because it is so easy to just keep working. However, this is not most people's normal, so after "work," enjoy this time you have together.
It's not easy and not always pretty, however, you too can survive with some structure, communication, and boundaries. After 17 years of working together from home, my husband and I are still married, still speaking, and we actually still like each other. If we can do it, I know you can, too!
What do you think? Do you have any suggestions on how to survive working together at home without wanting to strangle your partner? Tell us in the comments!