As self-isolation and social distancing ramp up, most people are being asked to work from home, where they can, during the coronavirus outbreak.
And for a lot of us, that means our partners will also be at home – we suddenly have a new co-worker.
While we’re used to sharing everything from our bed to our dinner table and TV time with this person, sharing an office and working day can be quite the shift.
For some people, this is the norm. If you and your partner or spouse are already self-employed, you might know the merry dance between sharing space, tea rounds and daytime housework. And you may be lucky enough to have your own desk space already worked out.
But for others, it will be a case of sharing the kitchen or dining table, making time for phone calls, and working out who should make lunch…
Sharing desk space will be tricky
If you have a space – and lots of space – to work at home, that’s great – for example, you can share a large dining table, or one can take the dining table while the other uses the spare room dressing table.
However, for many of those suddenly working from home, it’ll be about sharing either the sofa or kitchen workbench, or finding your own corner of the house to work from.
Sharing out space can be a challenge – just like when a co-worker’s paperwork starts to migrate into your ‘zone’, so your partner’s things can end up on your desk. Their coat on your chair, or their cup on your coaster.
A tip here is to be wary of your own encroaching. You might be annoyed that they left their notepad in your ‘zone’, but don’t forget you might well have been hogging the home phone all morning.
You have different tea break/lunch needs
When you’re in an office and fancy a coffee or tea break, you might offer to make one for your colleague, but often it’s just you having five minutes’ break by the kitchen area.
At home, suddenly it’s ‘let’s have a cup of tea’ and it’s hard not to completely down tools and have a good old chinwag over that hot beverage.
It’s OK to have tea or coffee breaks at different times – and best to try and have them in a different room to the one you’re working in.
You’ll battle over the heating
Battles over temperature in a regular office are usually between a team and the HR or facilities department.
But when you work from home, suddenly two peoples’ heating needs can vary. As can their approach to whether the heating should even be on. Let’s just say thank goodness it’s getting warmer now!
And the housework has to wait…
It’s very easy to be distracted, and while you might like to break up your ‘work from home’ time with some light housework (hanging out the washing, emptying the dishwasher, for example), the working day is not the time for chore wars. If they aren’t a bed maker, now is not the time to try and persuade them otherwise. Ditto washing up, or dusting.
Save those for the long evening in together, or that weekend of isolation ahead (especially now you’ve had to cancel the cleaner’s visit).
Biscuit wars might occur…
Along with those tea breaks come snacks. And it’s often the case that your other half might snaffle the last custard cream that you had your eye on.
You have to try not to make this a point of argument. Secret biscuit stashes are the only way.
You’ll find out random facts about them…
If you consider all the random conversations you have with co-workers, this might start to seem a little more normal… Spending your working day with your partner as a ‘colleague’ will mean you have ‘those’ random chats with them.
Which can mean anything from finding out they have a ‘business phone voice’ to that they type REALLY LOUDLY.
There’s a comrade for lunch breaks
Having a lunch break with one of your nearest and dearest is actually really lovely. You can cook together, eat together, and sort out any life admin while you have your break.
That said, if you normally exercise at lunch, or go for a walk around the block, sitting down chatting might be the last thing you want to do.
See this as an opportunity to have a good lunch break together. But make sure you keep an eye on the clock and don’t forget to go back to your desks.
You will argue
‘But I don’t argue with colleagues!’ you say. Thing is, that’s because you have that work boundary. But all boundaries are off, here.
And once that typing or phone voice start to grate, there is a chance you’ll want to scream at them. That’s when it’s time to go to the other room either for a ‘work call’ (yes, you’re making that up) or a walk around the block. Not together.
But at the end of the day, you have a work mate who truly gets you
And they do know just how you like your cup of tea or coffee.