A few weeks ago, there was a crack in the universe— and COVID-19 was the culprit. Practically overnight, the majority of the workforce started working from home. This included my husband, who normally goes into the office or is on the road traveling.
All of a sudden, my work space became his work space. Now, I’m used to working from home and have been doing it for some time. What I’m not used to is sharing my work from home (WFH) space, especially with someone who does not work from home regularly.
After encountering a few bumps in the road early on (such as my husband asking me questions like “have the dogs gotten their snacks already?” while I’m in the middle of presenting to a group via video conferencing, or me asking him what he wants for lunch and having someone on the other end of his call jokingly chime in with, “I’ll take a grilled cheese sandwich!”) we decided we had to establish some basic ground rules of engagement. (Editor’s note: these rules can be applied for sharing space with anyone — your partner, spouse, or roommate.)
1. Before the start of our day, we share our schedules with each other. We discuss how many meetings we each have that day, what times they will be happening, and for how long. That way, we are mindful of each other’s schedule and can avoid accidentally disrupting one another.
2. We keep the noise level down around each other. That means not clanging pots and pans in the kitchen when making lunch, yelling at the dogs to stop fighting, and or any number of things we normally do when we’re not working from home together. We will also close our doors when conducting conference calls.
3. We communicate via text more. This helps avoid situations like the ones we encountered early on.
4. We don’t use our speakerphones. Instead, we use our earbuds or headsets. For the most part, we can already hear when the other is speaking on a conference call, we don’t need to hear what the other folks on the call are saying.
5. My time, his time, our time. We take breaks throughout the day without each other. We take time out to get fresh air. We go for walks alone. This helps to re-calibrate our minds as well as give us some space from each other. We agree on a quitting time everyday, which is normally 5PM. Then we do something together — either go for another walk together or cook together. We try not to talk about work, at least for the first hour.
6. We share best practice WFH tips with each other. I encourage him to use video conferencing more and utilize group chats instead of emailing. He encourages me to have team meetings more than just once a week to simulate (as much as possible) the normal interactions you would have if you were in the office.
Just like millions of people in this situation, we are no different — we are learning, adjusting, and evolving. We are making the best of our situation. So far, so good!