Over two months into quarantine, many of us are struggling with our work from home routines.
At first the novelty was appealing. We could dress how we wanted. We could see our partner or text them from another room, or even interrupt a work meeting with some coffee.
Following the #WFH hashtag reveals that working from home has created hilarity – and conflict.
But as days turned into weeks, and in some places and professions there is no clear date for return, the blurred boundaries and freedom has become a source of frustration and arguments. Where, when, and how to work has become a battle ground for relationships.
However, there is good news. By carefully examining and setting parameters around a few key aspects of #WFH, you can restore harmony. Read on for specific steps to help your #WFH experience stay productive and harmonious.
Define / clarify your work space
Living room couch, kitchen table, home office, dining room floor … so many options! For some people.
For others, especially those in shared small urban apartments, there are a small number of places to work. Resources like a window and even WiFi access might be limited.
Either way, list and divide your resources by answering these simple questions.
- Where are the places that one of you could work?
- Do you have favorites?
- Is there a clear “best” spot that one or both of you need at certain times?
Once you have this short list, divide the spaces up fairly, starting with the “favorites” that do not overlap.
Then divide the contested spaces up based on a schedule with fair parameters.
Define / Clarify work hours
Different types of work have different hours. And, just as when you were working outside of the home, these hours determined when you could spend time together.
Noted relationships experts like Esther Perel have confirmed that time apart is good for a relationship. It is when you apart that you have experiences and interactions that you can discuss when you are together. These times apart restore the “mystery” of the relationship and keep it fresh.
You can help keep your relationship fresh by scheduling time to be apart from one another. Set clear parameters for when you are at work and when you are “at home” and follow them.
Respecting these boundaries will help your relationship survive the quarantine.
(If possible) Get outside!
We are natural animals. Research has long shown that we need connection with nature and time outdoors to restore our sense of self and perspective.
While we can go long amount of time without getting outside, it is just not healthy or desirable.
Most of us live in a community where it is relatively easy to get out and into nature. Simply taking a walk down the street or to a local park for 20 or 30 minutes each day can help restore the balance that has been lost in quarantine.
(And) Bring the outside in
Our nature fix can be filled indoors too. This is a great time to situate house plants around your workspace.
In addition to bringing life to your workspace, plants can have beneficial effects on the air in your apartment.
The biological roots of this impact are not clearly understood, though improved air quality generally correlates to better health. However, we know through many studies that simply having living things in your space, like plants and pets, brighten your mood and improve overall health and well-being.
This is the perfect time to invest in plants for your home.
Dress for work
The first few days (or weeks) of quarantine were great! Sweatpants day! Pajamas day!
It is easy to overlook how great it makes you feel to get dressed up for a presentation or even just for work every day. There is no reason why you can’t choose to look and feel your best while working from home.
Some people choose to get dressed up every day as if they are going to work. This might not be for you.
However, if you are among the people who have chosen to never get dressed up, make some exceptions.
Have a big meeting? Get dressed up!
It’s Friday? Get dressed up!
Are you in charge of a presentation? Wear your best outfit!
Occasionally breaking out of the leisure suit into formal clothing will boost your mood and the attitude of those around you at work and at home.
And now of course you are with each other all of the time. All. The. Time.
It might be easy to forget how important it is to spend time just with each other, and not with our work and responsibilities hanging over our heads. Here’s where lunch dates come in handy.
Once a week, schedule a break in the middle of the day. Take turns making lunch. And just eat, and talk about your day.
Don’t try to solve any problems here. Don’t work in a little grocery list-making.
Just be together. Tell stories. Laugh. And then, when the time is up, hold your self to your routine and get back to work.
Taking a few simple steps to establish boundaries in your work life and your personal life will help fan the flame of your relationship.
If you are feeling unusually down or depressed and these feelings persist for a long time, you likely will benefit from talking to a licensed therapist like Sakina Issa.
Luckily, these conversations can happen discreetly and by appointment using the same tools you have grown comfortable using at work, like Zoom or GoToMeeting. Just click the button in the upper right hand corner.
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