In today’s coronavirus (Covid-19) environment, many of us are stuck working from with your spouse or partner, perhaps children, too. Sometimes that’s a blessing and a luxury we’ve been dreaming of, but other times, it’s tremendously stressful and you might want to scream at your spouse.
We’ll share 5 tips for how to survive working from home with your spouse, maybe even have a good time:-)
First, we’ll just acknowledge that’s a genuine challenge when you have two people working and living in the same house, perhaps even with a bunch of kids in the house.
#1 Compartmentalize your workspaces.
Compartmentalize your workspaces, so you know who’s working where and when. We’ve seen some good examples with couples we’ve coached. One couple that have kids at home and both work full time, came up with him being on kid duty in the from 6:00 AM to 10:00 AM, then he’d go to work in his “garage office” while she took over the kid duties in the house till 2:00PM.
If you have a very small space you might need to use dividers or curtains or to create some private work space.
A man we coached worked it out with his wife, so they agreed that when he was on his work time, they’d literally pretend like he wasn’t at home. If she “accidentally” tried to talk to him during that time, he’d say, “Remember, I’m not here”. It took them a little bit to get used to that, but they’re now working harmoniously together.
#2: Create time apart
We always say that relationships need time together and time apart. Not unlike breathing. During our regular work schedules – i.e. before Corona – we often have a lot of time apart built in, because we work and do activities in different locations. During those times, it’s more a challenge to build in together-time. But now, given how much we’re in the same space all the time, it can be the exact opposite. Now, we need to create apart-time.
Depending on your physical space, you might need to get creative and negotiate win-wins to accomplish this. Maybe you can turn your back in a little corner and having time to meditate or read a book or play a game. Either way, it’s important that you find time where you can focus in on yourself.
#3: Nourish your soul, body and mind.
During your alone-time, do things that nourish your soul, body and mind. Don’t use all your alone-time watch Netflix and scroll through Instagram (although that’s fun too:-). In our house, Sonika is learning to play piano, so she finds private time while practicing a new song. Christian starts off his morning doing tai chi on the deck outside the house. Friends and clients tell us they meditate, sing, take walks, do yoga, study new topics, dance. Whatever it is for you, make sure you get to recharge and nourish, so that when you do come together with your partner again, you feel refreshed and filled up. That way, your together-time is going to be much more satisfying and intimate.
#4: Do what you’re doing right now.
For some of us, shelter-in-place has resulted in much more free time and less work. But for many others, it’s the exact opposite. We have to figure out how to work in a new environment, we have to be workers, parents, teachers, you name it. It’s overwhelming. It’s easy to feel that there isn’t sufficient time to do any of our duties well. One man I coached said he’s feeling guilty for not working when he’s with the kids and guilty for not being with kids when he’s working. He wasn’t being effective while working, but also wasn’t being present with the kids and wife.
So let yourself do only the thing you’re doing right now. If you really focus, you get more work done in half an hour than in three hours of half-focused, feeling-guilty work. Say to yourself, “For the next 30 minutes, I’m with the kids, and nothing else. I’m going to love my time with the kids!”. After that, tell yourself, “For the next 30 min or 3 hours, I’m working on this work project and nothing else”. Choose the activity you’re engaged in, and let yourself do one thing at a time. (We know might have sub-optimal circumstances, but try this as much as possible).
#5: Express appreciation and gratitude.
This is always a go-to, don’t-ever-stop recommendation in any relationship. But during critical, stressful times, it is extra important that we express our appreciations out loud. For many years, we had a “standard operating procedure” of expressing three appreciations of the other person or of our lives before we go to bed. Every night, appreciation and gratitude is the last thing we say or hear before we drift off to sleep.
If you’re feeling tension in your relationship, your focus gets directed onto the stuff that isn’t working and the stuff you don’t like. The human negativity bias directs out attention to what is not wanted. Unless we direct our attention somewhere else.
The more we can focus in on what we love and what we appreciate, the better we counteract that negative tendency. It’s been demonstrated that relationship does better when we maintain a high ratio of of positive-to-negative interactions.
Today, you probably don’t have a choice in the matter about working from home with your spouse. You just have to, and there’s nowhere to go. So we just have to make the best of it. We’re in a time where relationships could turn into divorces, but it’s also a time that could help relationships and marriages turn even deeper, even more intimate, and even stronger.
Expressing appreciation and gratitude lubricates all the moving parts of our relationship and helps everything flow better. We heard from one woman today who said she was surprised to discover just how much she loved being with her husband 24/7 … much to her delighted surprise.
Sharing appreciations and what we’re grateful for is a quick way to connect, smooth our the kinks, and put “love deposits” in the bank for when stress gets high again.