Working side by side at home but drifting apart

Working side by side at home but drifting apart
Myself and my wife are both still working from home. We are trying our best to juggle managing work and the children but it’s not easy. Even though we are side by side for most of the day our communication has drifted.

It’s totally understandable that the novelty of working from home has now well and truly worn off for some people. When it all began this time last year, none of us could have predicted we would still be between the same four walls for the vast majority of our day.

You might now look with rose tinted glasses on the office politics, Mark from IT who always grated on your nerves and your lunch sometimes mysteriously going missing from the kitchen. Now your open plan office consists of you and your wife. Your headspace lunches are going downstairs and watercooler chit chat is non-existent.

It looks like an element of working from home will be a feature for some time to come so it’s important that you set good boundaries for personal time and space as well as how both your working days will be structured. You might have talked in general about the pandemic and its impact but have you recently had your own family HR meeting and talked about practical ways to respect the feelings and issues you might be having by working in such close proximity?

Establish some ‘office rules’ like what are your respective working hours? Do you want to share a lunch hour together some days or could you use that as time for yourself for a walk, run or cycle? Have you re-evaluated the best way to work as a team in managing work and children? We could learn something from our very own intrepid explorer Shackleton, when he was marooned in the Antarctic and didn’t lose a single soul, one of his keys was routine.

Discuss what works best for one another, for example you might be really productive in the early hours while your wife is more of a night owl, use what works for you both and then work out the best way to coordinate a schedule that works best for the whole family. This could include some new parts to your routine like family game nights, cooking together or games in the garden with that commute time you have gotten back.

It’s important to also re-evaluate what is working and what is not working. Even though you are side by side you might not actually be checking in with each other enough, if at all. Having a good routine and structure is really important. Have boundaries for when your work day starts and ends and ways to make the switch to home life so you can communicate again. From a psychological perspective it’s good to have something that helps you make the mental switch from work to home life. It could be changing into comfier clothes, locking the office door or taking a ten-minute walk around the block to decompress from the day.

Try not to use the additional hours you have at home at work, instead invest that time into your relationship and time for yourself. Don’t let your usual work hours bleed into what should be family time and remember as this pandemic and various restrictions changes and its impact on you changes keep the discussion ongoing about what works and doesn’t work and make changes accordingly.