Last year, millions of us suddenly found ourselves forced to convert our homes into workspaces, whether that meant installing a whizzy garden office or clearing a corner of the kitchen to make room for a makeshift desk and chair. While the break from the daily commute and making small talk with colleagues by the kettle was welcomed by many, we also had to very quickly get used to sharing our hastily created workspaces with a brand new colleague – and their annoying habits!
Learning to work alongside our partners might have started as something of a novelty, but it rapidly presented some significant and enduring challenges. Of course, many of us are now preparing for a more permanent return to the office, but it’s likely that we’ll keep working from home for a large chunk of our office hours. So, with the huge benefit of hindsight (and several new pieces of research), how can we adjust our home offices to give everyone sharing the space what they need to do their job well? Here are our top tips for peaceful and productive home working with your partner.
1. Agree the ground rules
People who institute rules for working from home with their partner are more likely to feel an increase in their productivity and motivation. Common rules include communicating about schedules, wearing headphones when in a meeting (or playing music), moving to a different area when taking calls, adhering to similar work hours, only talking to each other on agreed breaks and not doing housework or chores during the work day. The majority of people who successfully implemented a set of shared rules during lockdown reported that the experience had strengthened their relationship and increased their enjoyment of their work day.
2. Take a break together
The most effective way to ensure you’re both taking breaks that don’t disturb the other person is to compare schedules in the morning and block out agreed chunks of time you’re both intending to step away from your work. Ideally, finding a window in your diaries that you can take a break together is great for both your relationship and your work day – whether that’s a shared lunch or snack break, a mid-afternoon walk or run, or reading a book together in the garden (weather permitting!).
3. Invest in your workspace
Now it’s clear we’re not just playing, and home offices are our immediate, indefinite future, it’s time to invest in a decent office chair and the right equipment to do your job in comfort. Your employer might even foot the bill for the essentials. Ideally, you and your partner won’t be in the same room, but wherever you both choose to be, it’s important you have your own permanent, designated spaces, which are set up for your individual home working needs. If you have the means, creating a separate work space from the rest of your house is the home working utopia; somewhere you can leave set up permanently for work that you can walk away from outside of office hours. You might both want to buy some decent headphones too; a good noise-cancelling set can do wonders for shutting out the sounds of your other half on the phone or watching TV on their break.
4. Plan when you’ll both work from other places
If you’re both heading back into the office for a couple of days a week soon, plan which days work best for you both to give the other more time and space to work at home. As restrictions continue to lift, you could also agree when you’ll work from the library or a coffee shop, or take a long call on a walk, so your partner can work from home for a solid chunk of time without distraction. Changing up where you work, even just for a morning, can really help with your mindset and overall wellbeing, and also help prevent cabin fever.
5. Support each other
In the physical absence of colleagues and line managers, you may need to lean on each other a little more during (and after) the work day for support and motivation. Discuss your goals for the day, or ask for time to debrief after a difficult or challenging meeting. Listen to each other’s needs and struggles and be there to advise and support. Working from home together is a unique opportunity to actually find out what your partner does at work all day! Other than you, there’s no-one more invested in your career than your partner; working from home together could offer some incredible opportunities to share your professional roadmaps and set aside dedicated time to devise (and collaborate on) your routes to achievement. Partners who build in time to offer support to each other report more enjoyment of their jobs as well as clearer career goals and greater optimism for their professional futures.
How can we help?
At times you might want to apply for a transfer, or take your partner to a tribunal for their incessant throat-clearing, but cut yourselves some slack – it’s not an easy dynamic to adjust to, nor was it one you volunteered for. But following these five suggestions should help to make the whole experience more enjoyable and productive. If working alongside your partner during the pandemic has motivated you to look for a new role, Amber is here to help. You can give us a call on 01932 355000 or email email@example.com to plan your next career move.