Remote working with your significant other

March 18th, 2020 Posted by Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “Remote working with your significant other”

In the wake of pretty much mass hysteria about COVID-19, including infection, death, travel bans, social distancing and everything else that comes with it, there’s also been a strong focus on businesses trying to figure out what to do with staff (and whether they can work remotely or not). For those who can have staff off-site and work remotely, the conversation I’ve seen happening online focuses on remuneration, best practice on paying for staff data to remain online, video-conferencing tools, etc., all focused on the business imperatives, but I’ve not seen much about the people themselves. The conversation is more “How will my business keep going?” and very little “How will my staff cope working from home?”

Here’s where it becomes tricky. The problem is that while every organisation strives to build their own office culture and way-of-work, remote workers are now taking that energy home (habits are hard to break), which may conflict with their significant other’s office culture and way-of-work. My personal experience is this:

My wife has been working from home since before we met. Working with or consulting to organisations in other countries across various timezones has enabled her to build a solid remote-working routine and energy that I’ve never quite been able to grasp. It’s frighteningly efficient and applaudable. She can get work done in perfect time, manage our household (contractors, shopping, etc.) all while getting it done in the quite, serene comfort of our own home. There’s structure, process and a work/life balance that most people would envy. She really has it all figured out.

Enter Don into the mix. For the past 18 years I’ve working in an office with loud punk rock blasting through the speakers, people shouting across the office, ping-pong balls bouncing on tables (ping pong and workstations), sporadic bursts of “Happy Birthday to you!” from the crew when people walk through the doors (almost every time it was not, in fact, their birthday), and jumping on tables and singing at the top of our voices to whatever track was playing at that point in time (granted, I’m probably the most guilty of this one). I’ve now entered into her domain. Her calm, her planned days, her structure. A few days into me working from home, I’ve found out that I:

  • type extremely loudly on my keyboard
  • make throat-noises when I’m concentrating
  • need to chat to her at random times about random things, breaking her stride

and a few more things that I can’t recall, or am yet to hear about.

Anyone who knows us well will agree that Lauren and I are a solid unit and can weather a lot of storms as a strong force, but getting into a new work rhythm at home together, bizarrely, has been a challenge. So here’s a few things we’ve put into place that I believe has and will continue to help us, and I’m hoping may help you too.

  1. We work in different spaces in the house. Sharing a desk/table with someone who doesn’t work the same way you have before, is a potential argument waiting to happen.
  2. We plan our days the previous evenings or mornings and know exactly what the other is doing, in order to plan around each other, particularly when it comes to potential noise during video calls.
  3. We agree on mealtimes, to save time, energy and dishes. This also has us ‘meeting up’ in the middle of the day to discuss the morning’s events, if anything particularly interesting happened.
  4. As best as we can, we keep gaps between videocalls (at least 30mins). Generally, if I was riding from meeting to meeting, I’d have this time to address an email or two, to think about the meeting I’d just had, or to think about and mentally prep for the meeting I was going to. Jam-packing calls in a row loses that.
  5. To avoid cabin fever, we go for strolls. Either in our garden or around the estate. It’s not a marathon, just a decent amount of time around the block for fresh air and perspective.

Another big reason we try to stay clear of each other during the day is to ensure that at the end of the day, much like it was when I was working from an office away from home, that we still have something to chat about at dinner time. Looking forward to catching up on the day not only helps me build some excitement about certain things, but also gives us both the opportunity to review the day with some perspective. Oftentimes, these end-of-day reviews and conversation end up with ideas/tasks to improve them, which has always been a spectacular gift.

My question to you:

If you’re working from home with your significant other, or roommates, what are you doing to ensure your sanity and best way-of-work?

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Copyright Don Packett 1980-2020