Tips for WFH with Your Spouse (from someone who did it before quarantine)
In this bizarre time of self-isolating, many of us are finding ourselves trapped in our houses and apartments with our significant others or roommates. If we’re lucky, we also get the opportunity to keep earning our paycheck while working from home.
While it’s enticing to wear the same pair of leggings for 4 days straight and stop washing our hair, there’s a better way! These are the suggestions from my experience on how to survive the apocalypse and stay sane while working from home – and not killing each other!
First thing’s first. Self care.
You won’t be able to be your best small-space coworker self if you aren’t feeling your best. This starts with WASHING YOUR HANDS.
I know you’ve seen the memes. I know you’ve sung the ABC’s or whatever 20-second chant you’ve come up with (I saw one for Gossip Girl and nearly fell out of my chair laughing). This is just your gentle reminder that washing your hands is the second most important thing you can do to avoid the spread of the virus. First is obviously social distancing, but you knew that. You’re reading this article.
Make the Bed
Your mom had it right – making the bed each day is hugely important. Naval Admiral William H. McRaven explained why in his commencement address at the University of Texas at Austin in 2014:
“If you make your bed every morning you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another.
By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter.””
Also, it’s super nice to climb into a straightened bed after a long day of quarantine.
Shower and “Get Ready”
Get ready for what? You know what I mean. Clean up, put on pants, and brush your hair. You start your day with your usual routine and you’ll feel more normal and less sluggish than if you just roll through the day in your pajamas.
This doesn’t mean putting on a suit; just a clean pair of leggings or a new flannel. The act of changing clothes will do wonders for differentiating one day from the next.
This does have one caveat: I don’t recommend putting on make-up or heat styling your hair. Firstly, who do you have to impress? Your roommate or significant other have already seen you without those done. Secondly, what better time to give your skin and hair a break?
This is a great chance to step up your skin care and get that complexion radiant. Your hair will thank you for giving it a chance to be free.
Get Your Fix
If you’re a caffeine addict like us, you may be addicted to your local coffee shop. Or if you live in an area devoid of small businesses like we do, Starbucks. Now’s a great time to break your addiction to the $6 latte. I’m all for supporting small businesses, but in the interest of staying quarantined, I invested in an Aeropress. Starbucks doesn’t need my money anyway.
It’s up to you what product suits your coffee needs, but the $30 I spent on mine has paid for itself several times over already. I’m able to make my Americanos in the morning in minutes, and don’t have to risk being contaminated/contaminating anyone else in the process.
Even though I’m not buying a daily coffee, supported my favorite roasters by buying several pounds of espresso beans when this all started to go down. Needless to say, I am stocked for the apocalypse, and will be sipping on high quality coffee as it comes.
Keep a Regular Schedule
This may sound like the lamest thing to ever come out of my mouth – don’t worry, it’ll get worse. Keeping a consistent schedule even if your job doesn’t require it will keep you sane, and will ensure that everything that needs to get done does.
I spent 2 years not working when we moved to Arizona and my going to bed and wake up times were all over the board. I was irritable, fatigued, and completely unproductive. When I started working last year, I worked hard to reign it in and start being more consistent. This made me much more productive during the day, which served itself in my being actually tired at a regular time!
If your job doesn’t require working certain hours, make sure to set up “work time” and “non-work time” for yourself. Ambiguous hours can result in lowered productivity or working more than you should. You need to have balance, even if you’re not leaving your house.
This segues nicely into the next point.
When You’re Done with Work, Be Done with Work
It’s easy when you’re working from home to blur the lines between when you’re working and when you’re not. You’ve set a schedule for yourself and your work day, now stick to it!
It’s important to set the boundaries of when you’re working not just for yourself, but for your colleagues as well. If you don’t, soon you’ll be fielding emails and phone calls all day and night, when you’re just trying to binge Tiger King.
My mom has telecommuted at her job for the past 26 years. Among some of the above advice, which she ingrained in me for my whole life, she recommends taking breaks.
This doesn’t mean that every five minutes you should take a long scroll down your iPhone. Take breaks as you would in the office. If it’s 10:15am and you’d usually head to the break room for another cup of coffee, do that at home too.
Take your lunch break. Go for a walk instead of eating at your desk. These breaks will be a good change of scene and will keep the day from dragging on.
Getting outside as much as possible is another tip to avoid the drudgery. You don’t realize how much oxygen outside has until you haven’t been out for three straight days.
Keep In Touch
Just because you can’t pop over to your coworker’s desk to see how they’re doing doesn’t mean you can’t reach out. Email, call, or text them to check in and remind them that you’re there.
When everyone is working from home, it’s easy to feel like you’re on an island; avoid that by having non-work conversations with your coworkers, just as you would at the water cooler.
A simple “How are your kids doing with their distance learning?” or “Can you believe Jessica on Love is Blind?” are ways to break up the day and keep being social while keeping your distance.
Remember Screen Time Guidelines
Tips that are important when you’re working in an office still apply when you’re at home. Screens continue to be a huge detriment to the health of our eyes, even when you are in your home work environment.
The 20-20-20 rule is a great thing to remember if you’re working all day on a computer. The rule says that every 20 minutes, you should look at something 20 feet away, for 20 seconds. This will prevent eye strain, and is vital in our electronic environment.
It is inevitable that you’ll be on your phone more than you would at the office, but it’s important to make sure it isn’t lessening productivity. Setting it out of sight or face down will prevent the urge to grab it every time you get a push notification or have a small lull in your day.
Smartphones also have usage timers and do not disturb functions now, so those can be great tools to decrease the amount of distraction you’ll face.
You’re Working from Home with Another Person – How Do We Survive?
Since we moved to Arizona, we’ve shared a home office and both been home all day. We are old pros at working from home, together.
Cancel the Noise
One of the first purchases Michael made after realizing just how much I talk in a given day was high quality, noise cancelling headphones. I jest, but they are a very important investment for needed silence while working. It helps to focus on your own work when you can blast your own music without disturbing the other person.
As I write this, we are both in headphones, being productive next to each other.
Separate if Possible
If you have the ability to have different work areas, do it. That’s as simple as someone working from the living room and someone from the bedroom or kitchen. If you’re lucky enough to have multiple rooms in your house, it can make life easier to have different offices.
Conference calls, podcasts, and general human noises won’t be an issue if there are walls or doors between you. Then at the end of the day, it’s like coming home from work when you meet up in the living room to order dinner and watch TV.
Even if you’re quarantining alone, it’s important to have a specific area that is your “work area”. When you’re in that room or spot, you’re working. Carrying your laptop from room to room and working wherever is another surefire way to blur the lines between working and not.
One Room, No problem
In our case, we have one office, where both of our desks are. This can get to be a lot of togetherness if we don’t take steps to keep sane.
If you have different schedules or are able to set your own hours, consider taking time away from being in the same room. A little distance can go a long way toward retaining your sanity in the long days of being home together 24/7.
For example, I will be in the office for a few hours and then take 45 minutes to an hour to go empty the dishwasher, do some laundry, or read in a different room. Rinse and repeat until the work day is over. This keeps us from spending too much time together and inevitably getting sick of each other.
Even getting up and taking a quick lap around the house or going to the refrigerator at different times can be enough separation to keep the work and home environment humming along without friction.
Communication is Key
The final and arguably most important part of working from home with someone else is communication.
You need to find what works best. Whether that means texting each other or full out interrupting a work flow with a loud declaration (my favorite). A quick, “Let me know when you have a minute” or sliding over a post-it note when you’re wearing headphones are great, non-intrusive ways to get your office buddy’s attention.
Finding the best mode of communication will save you from spats throughout the day, and will let you both be the most productive you can be.
If you’re one of many who has been furloughed, laid off, suspended, or any of the creative, heartbreaking ways our employers choose to soften the blow that we’re not getting a paycheck anymore, there are things you can do to avoid the monotony and inevitable anxious spiraling.
The tips for self care above are still vital to keeping a routine when you’re not working. Showering, changing clothes, and setting a schedule are all important to not becoming a zombie.
I found it helpful to make a list of all the projects that I’ve been putting off for “when I have time”. Guess what. You have nothing but time now. And bingeing the latest meme-able show is not a great use of all your time.
Deep clean your kitchen. Organize your closet. Whatever you’ve been putting off, set a major project for each week. Checking these things off between episodes will leave you feeling accomplished, and will take a weight off your shoulders that you may not have known was there.
Accomplishing something each day will give you satisfaction, and will make the days pass faster. Without measurable goals and achievements, the entire quarantine has the potential to drag on and on and on and on…
How Are You Working from Home?
These are the things I’ve found to help in our long period of both working from home all day. If you have anything to add or amend, please reach out anytime at our Directly Contact Us page!
Stay Safe, Stay Healthy, and Stay Home! We’ll catch you on the other side!