Quick question: has the honeymoon ended yet?
I’m not talking about an actual honeymoon if you were one of the few people who still got married out there in the past fortnight.
I’m taking about the global honeymoon – your work from home (WFH) honeymoon.
Our world has shifted
As the majority of the nation has entered into a lockdown and many people are now enduring an extended period of WFH, couples around the nation may still be in the novelty phase of working together for the first time.
Hey, we get to have lunch together!
Hey, we can work in our pyjamas!
Hey, we could squeeze in an episode of Tiger King on Netflix!
But in a matter of days or in some cases, hours, the novelty will wear off.
Hey! I’m trying to Zoom my boss, shhh!
Hey! You took the last hot-cross bun!
Hey! You’re typing too loudly!
The global stressor of COVID-19 is going to be layered with a domestic stressor of couples having to finally confront the truth; work was our ‘break’ from each other.
Now that the vocationally-enforced relationship release valve is gone and we’re with each other 24/7, how are we going to cope?
Well, we’ve been work-ing, marriage-ing, parent-ing and business-ing together for about 15 years now, and reckon we’re doing a fair job of it thus far. The results?
Build a business. Tick.
Lead a team. Tick.
Raise a coupe of kids. Tick.
Stay married. Tick.
Don’t kill each other. Tick.
So let us pass on some handy tips for couples out there who have now been forced to work together.
How to work from home with your spouse in harmony
Win the morning.
In an unstructured and ill-defined WFH context, which most are when you’re first heading into them, is a recipe for crossed wires and conflict. The sooner you can establish rhythm and ritual the better you’ll both be. Discipline brings freedom. A great friend of ours Nam Baldwin, one of Australia’s most in demand high-performance specialists, encourages the following mantra;
If you win the morning, you win the day.
So how do you both get your day off to a purposeful, productive start? I guarantee that if you both focus on this, you’ll treat each other better throughout the day.
Even though you might be housebound, how can you still find your own corners and zones to allow you to be you?
Even if you have to organise a roster or schedule to allow each other an understanding of when and where to access high-traffic spaces, make an effort to make it happen. Creating boundaries isn’t a form of limitation, it’s a form of liberation.
Separate the person from the behaviour.
Sure, you might be working together now, but you’ve still got to live together. In an environment where conflict might be on the rise, how do you navigate the bumps and still be civil to each other?
Simply get a whiteboard, butchers paper, notepad, whatever, and go visual. If something’s annoying one or both of you, write it down and create a ‘third point’ between you so that you can both talk about the behaviour as an ‘it’. You can be supportive of the person, but challenge a behaviour vigorously. If on the other hand you start to challenge the person vigorously, well, that’s a recipe for WWIII.
Respond, don’t rescue.
You partner might have a few ups and downs at work. Nothing will change there. However, previously you’d get the edited version after a day and often after a cooling down period on the commute. Now you’re likely to get the unfiltered stream and as a protective partner, you may feel the need to help.
Don’t do it.
As a good partner you should listen and be an empathic sounding board, but truthfully, it’s not your business; and certainly not your business to be the rapid-response rescue team. They haven’t needed you up until now, and they don’t need you in the next 5 minutes.
Be kind and show gratitude.
These are volatile times economically and also sociologically. Stress is going to be higher than normal for a while. Breathe a little deeper and realise we’re all a little sunburnt at present.
Y’know when you spend too long in the sun and the next day a small pat on the shoulder can feel like someone is driving daggers into you?
Well just like sunburn, we’re all going to over-react for a while until the pain wears off. Kindness and gratitude are our aloe vera; they can soothe even the pinkest skin.
Know this; you’ll get through it.
Hopefully these five tips can work to help you get through the challenge of co-existing in the work-from-home minefield over the coming weeks. Treat the time as what it is; a chance to learn new skills and to appreciate what we have. Good luck moving ahead.