Ideas to Manage Your New Coworkers (Partners, Roommates, Spouses) When WFH

By Anne Peters, LMFT

Hi everyone! I hope you are all staying healthy and doing your best to take care of yourself during this trying time. Working from home (or WFH) has become a new normal for many of us. See our past blog post on tips to be productive when working from home and today, we are going to tackle how we can be effective at working from home when we are now surrounded by new “coworkers,” who have been promoted from their last gig of partner, spouse, or roommate. Let’s face it, working from home independently is hard. But when there’s more than one businessperson working at the same time, we could definitely use some tips.

1. Designate space: This is critical to managing multiple workers within a common space. Set up designated work spaces separated by a wall, separator, etc. This is important to decrease distractibility that will likely occur as you work next to your partner, and will hopefully increase productivity.

2. Timing: Set a designated “work time” and “home time” and abide by it. We are all wearing many different caps right now, so the line has to be clear of when the work cap comes off. Decide together what works best for your household. For some, working the same hours will work best. For others, child care is a factor and you may need to stagger work hours. If you’re a visual person like I am, lay it out on a white board or piece of paper. That way, everyone in the household knows when it’s “work time” and when “home time” can begin. This is especially important if you have an important work call coming up or even a virtual social event with friends. Encourage your partner or roommate to pencil in when they need claim on alone time, and you do the same.

3. Teamwork: Now more than ever, we need to think of our households as our team. In many of our communities, it is still recommended that our household members are really the only individuals we come in close proximity to. With that being said, make a commitment to yourself and your family that you will support their needs, and that you will make your needs known to them as well. It could be silly, but come up with a team name for the family and use it (probably with laughter to follow) when it seems like the team morale is low. The “Happy Hand-washing Hansons” or “Deliberately Distancing Dixons” have pretty good rings to it.

4. Offer grace (to yourself and others): Let’s face it, mistakes are still going to happen and conflict will still arise, just as it always has. Since we are really working to think of our household as a team, remind yourself that when mistakes happen, it can likely be due to the level of stress we are all encountering right now. Use these experiences to problem solve how to make it better in the future. Like I’ve said in many blogs before, I truly believe we are doing the best we can with what we’ve got. Use those I statements (“I feel _____ when _______ because ______. What I need is ______.”) I statements feel less threatening and are a great way to appropriately communicate when you feel conflict arising.

There you have it! I hope some of these ideas will be helpful as you continue to explore the world of WFH with your partners/roommates/spouses. It’s unchartered waters, so find what works for you and your household. We are doing the best we can. We’re all in this together!

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