It’s been said that absence makes the heart grow fonder, a cliche that is surely put to the test when new work-from-home arrangement forces couples to spend 24-hours per day in the same space. Literally.
Although the anticipation of catching up with a loved one after a long day’s grind at the office is the obvious benefit that gets robbed from couples who voluntarily (or involuntarily) opt to work from home, we spoke with one of our team members Maika Hoekman Head of People Operations, to find out how she and her husband, make things work in their remote working arrangements. Since they have succeeded in their careers and romance alike, we’ve taken Maika’s key points and listed the five things you can do to coexist while you and your boo work from home.
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1. Separate your workplaces & separate your living space
Sounds like a no-brainer, but sharing office space will invariably result in conflict. When you and your partner have competing meetings scheduled, who will get the space? Who will have to uproot their desk and move it elsewhere? Solution: maintain separate work areas. And on that note, make sure you keep your most intimate living space separate from work. Yes, this means the bedroom is off-limits for work! Nothing kills the mood (or the ability to “let go” of a hectic day) than the chime of an incoming email while you’re in bed (sleeping, of course).
2. Stick to a schedule
While it’s understandable that work-life balance involves giving and taking hours (particularly for those attending to children and pets while working from home), set hard boundaries for the end of your workday. At that point, and at that point only, should you engage in domestic chores like meal prep, shopping, cleaning, etc.. Not only will mixing the two result in a lack of focus and dropped productivity but vacuuming while your significant other is hosting a key meeting will almost certainly result in a cold shoulder at dinner time. Plus, as Maika points out, taking on domestic and professional responsibilities not only blurs the line of where one starts and the other ends, but it will inevitably lead to burn out. We may not be a relationship therapist, but we’re absolutely certain that burnout is not conducive to keeping romance alive (Stephanie Fairyington at Thrive Global tends to agree).
So sticking to a schedule makes sense to avoid burnout. Unplugging is just the start, however. Just as important when it comes to coexisting with your boo when working from home is checking in. To reinforce that last point: just as important is checking in. Even though working longer hours might result in days, weeks, or even months where quality alone time is compressed, it’s crucial that the time you spend with your significant other is top quality, and you achieve that by checking in, being present, investing in the moment, etc.. Maika said: “You actually need to have a clear time for both of you to unplug and share quality time together.” Setting a schedule and unplugging is just part one of the two-part recipe for keeping the romance alive! Don’t forget the “quality” ingredient in “quality time together.”
4. Set Boundaries
As obvious as this sounds, we realized it’s a lot more difficult to implement than we thought. Where do you turn when you need a quick business-related answer or a sounding board for a solution when you’re working from home with boo? Well, your boo, of course (unless your family pet can translate datasets and quarterly reports). At the office, these matters could build teamwork and camaraderie around the water cooler, coffee station, one’s desk, or the nearest boardroom. But at home? As Maika points out, “On one side it’s awesome that you can brainstorm with your partner, ask for advice [but at the same time it’s hard] because you come to a point where you only talk about work!” No matter how poetic you and your boo might find a job description or your latest performance appraisal, it can’t quite replace Shakespeare (or, more realistically, movie night, a good conversation about your relationship aspirations, or a romantic hike or drive through the countryside). Setting boundaries and excluding work once you’ve checked in and unplugged will keep your romantic interactions creative and enjoyable.
5. Speed is King
Thus far, Maika’s tips for coexisting with your boo while working from home have centered around work-life balance. But a sure-fire way to make sure your workday unravels as smoothly as possible, thereby allowing the pleasures of your romantic life to evolve without the burdens of a tense workday holding it back, is to make sure you have the best internet speed package available in your area. Maika agrees. “It’s a MUST because you need to keep in mind it’s two computers at least, plus two phones, Netflix, Spotify, etc.” I compare slow and choppy internet to the days of commuting after a long day at the office; nothing ruins romantic dinner plans as quickly as construction or traffic that significantly delays your arrival (by hours, not mere minutes) home. Enabling a smooth workday (and that means crisp, quick, and seamless internet) ensures the foundation is set for quality romantic time once your schedule gives the wink to unplug and check-in.
Remember, no matter how “solid” your relationship with your significant other, the introduction of working from home means an added element has come into the home. For many couples, significant change such as a sudden work-from-home arrangement where none existed previously, can cause tension, arguments, or worse. This may seem like a given as the loss of “alone” or “unwinding” time blurs the line between career and romance.
But consider Maika and her husband, and adopt the five tips above to ensure work and life blend smoothly without the traditional buffer zone between the office and bedroom (figuratively and literally). The reality is that coexisting with your boo while working from home can actually strengthen your union.