When my husband Jesse and I first rented our 625-square foot, one-bedroom apartment a few years ago, we couldn’t have envisioned being marooned there during a global health crisis.
In pre-pandemic days, Jesse already worked from home 75 percent of the time. But once I started working from home full-time as well, both he and I found ourselves trying to find focus and productivity in our own respective corners of 625 square feet.
But now we’re under a stay-at-home order in our state, practicing “social distancing,” and learning that “working from home” involves much more than just a desk and a laptop when you’re sharing a workspace with your spouse. We’ve learned how to better communicate and work together in order to mesh our professional schedules and obligations as much as possible.
The need for space, even when you don’t have it
Even if you don’t have a lot of space, try to ensure you and your spouse have your own workspace. It could be desks in opposite corners — put everything you need to work in that space and treat it like your “office.” Jesse and I both have our own separate workspaces, and we’ve created a schedule of when we each need quiet, focused time to work or make phone calls. We’ve found this to be one of the best ways to make sure working from home together is as seamless as possible.
On the one hand, it can be a shock to the system when you’re accustomed to going from point A to point B at certain times throughout the day, and suddenly that schedule is obsolete. Giving yourself a schedule throughout the day can help you with discipline and organization. But we’ve also found it gives us time during which we know we’ll be able to dig in and focus, and work without interruptions.
The need for silence and solitude
For us, it was at first tempting to talk all throughout the day, just because we weren’t used to being able to do so. But we quickly learned we have different work styles: Jesse can focus well with background noise, light conversation, or distraction; but I need total silence to get anything accomplished.
After a few instances of getting annoyed with each other, we came to realize our differences in work styles and came up with a schedule that respected those times for silent work time and solitude.
But in addition, given the fact that we’re under stay-at-home orders that make socializing with others impossible, we also realized that it’s legitimate and not an insult to the other when we need time apart, especially as introverts! Don’t feel guilty for making some time to be alone — a half hour of reading by yourself or taking a walk can clear the mind and help any introvert recharge.
Plan to spend time together
We were accustomed to being apart for at least half of the day. So when we were suddenly at home all day long together, we would feel a little guilt in not talking to each other throughout the workday. But to some degree, this made us lose focus on work — the constant interruptions made it hard to get tasks finished. It was an adjustment to realize that it was okay to be focused on our own work throughout the day.
Just as when we were working in our respective offices, we’ve begun planning specific time throughout the week to spend together. Dinner together, evening or morning walks, and working out are just a few ways we’ve ensured we spend quality time together while still respecting our workload.
Marriage is already a school of patience and self-sacrifice — it may be even more so when you’re living through a pandemic! We’ve tried to make a point of showing each other a little more grace and forgiveness during a time that is unbelievably stressful and uncertain. We can show love to our spouses and make our work-from-home experience more seamless by doubling down on loving and giving well. Extra patience helps, as do the little things that mean a lot, like a thoughtful note, cup of coffee, or picking up a few extra chores around the house.
Over the past few weeks, we’ve hit a few snags, gotten a little annoyed at each other, and had to re-evaluate what’s working and what isn’t. But we’re finally finding our stride in working together and meeting our own professional obligations, even though we’re navigating the very interesting world of working from home in a small, small space. These times certainly are not easy, but we’ll be better for this experience if we continue to use space, silence, and patience in service to our work and our marriage.