As I’ve watched the world around me change significantly because of COVID-19, I’ve somewhat laughed at the thought that my day-to-day life hasn’t really changed all that much. I’ve worked from home for more than ten years and before that, attended college via long-distance learning so the thought of working from home and knowing how to stay productive is second nature.
When my husband’s company was forced to close their physical location and transition all their employees to working from their respective homes, I knew my husband was in for a big change. He’s worked from home a couple of times but not consistently and he’ tends to be easily distracted so I knew we’d both be challenged to maintain productivity during this time.
My husband initially said he’d just set up his computer and accessories on our kitchen island or in our dining room and I immediately put my foot down and said that was not going to happen. For one, I didn’t want to see his “office” when I was cooking or in my “off” time and two, I knew that it wouldn’t give him any separation between home and work either. Working from home is actually something I know a lot about so today I’m here to share with you my best tips for staying productive when working from home with your spouse.
Know Yourself and your Personal Needs
Even for those in the best marriages or relationships, everyone needs some personal space. Most likely, before all this started, you and your spouse or significant other commuted to your jobs separately every day giving yourself some built-in personal time to listen to music, an audio book or whatever it is you like to do. May you had quiet time to read your Bible or work out. Whatever it was that you did, chances are you don’t have that time right now to yourself.
For me, I’ve come to really love my days alone. I get so much work done but I also know that I can take breaks to do what I need to do as needed. I’ve learned from long Christmas breaks that I get a little testy when B is home day in and day out. That meant that when he started working from home, we’d needed to create times of separation so that we don’t end up hurting our relationship.
Be Open about Your Feelings
I will start by admitting that communication is not my area of strength. I tend to hold things in until I blow up so this is an area that is a work in progress. Even though I don’t always practice it, I do know that especially in times like this where there are so many additional stressors, being open and honest about our feelings is so important.
Create a designated office/ work space
I understand that depending on your living situation, you may not have a dedicated room to use as your office but wherever you set up your workstation, make sure the space is dedicated to work and work only.
For my own situation, I obviously already have a dedicated work space in the shop / studio but when B moved home and wanted to set up shop in the dining room or on our kitchen island, I put my foot down. For him and for me.
Because he needs a private area to work and be on video and phone calls throughout the day, we decided the best option was to move him into my office and move me back out into the shop. This gives him a private (and quiet) place to work and gives me the run of the shop where all of my equipment and supplies are anyway. After two full weeks of working from home together, the set up is working out very well.
Set Office Hours
From B’s first day working from home, I made sure we got up at the same time we always have to keep our usual morning routine in tact. This is not only good for us but also the dogs as this is the routine they are most used to.
Just like before, we both work a fairly regular 8 – 5 with a 30 minute lunch break and some shorter breaks mixed in there. I’m working a little less only because the shop has been pretty slow with so much unknown about when larger gatherings will be able to happen again.
The key here is to allow yourself to call it quits for the night and not work into the evening any more than absolutely necessary. This will cause burn out faster than anything.
When B’s company first transitioned to working from home he mentioned how co-workers would show up to video conferences in their pajamas or ratty, torn t-shirts and bedhead. I guess his co-workers were really embracing the work-at-home-life. While he’s no longer wearing shirts and ties to work, he is still getting a shower and getting dressed in his “casual Friday” wardrobe even though he’s not leaving the house.
After two full weeks of working from home, he has said how this has helped him feel like he’s going to work instead of wanting to putz around the house all day.
Even if all you do is shower and put on yoga pants, the act of getting cleaned up and putting on fresh clothes will do wonders for your motivation and mind.
As I mentioned above, B and I work 8 – 5 each week day with a few breaks mixed in. At lunch time, we actually leave the shop / office and go over to the house, catch up on the news and eat lunch over there. This helps break up the day and does wonders for clearing our minds and relaxing a bit.
Where B is used to an occasional break to converse with a co-worker as his breaks, we are now taking turns going outside with the boys or I’ll start a load of laundry as an opportunity to get up and move around for a few minutes.
Take Weekends Off
While it is so very tempting to just sit down for a few minutes of work at night or weekends, please, refrain from blending work time with personal time. Just like you would in normal times, allow yourself to relax and enjoy your weekend even if your “office” is only a few feet from your sofa.
Give Yourself and Others Grace
This is a scary time for so many reasons. No one knows how long it will last or how bad it will get and this is on top of our day-to-day stresses. Listening to your body and mind and if you need to take a break, or do something else for a while, please allow yourself that time away.
While you are feeling stressed and worried, understand that others in your household are also feeling added stress and concern. This means we are all more on edge than normal and we need to keep that in mind when we are feeling especially anxious.