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How to work from home with your partner without losing your mind (or filing for divorce)

Caroline Allen
Contributor
Many people have found themselves working from home with their partners. (Getty Images)

With companies acting to slow the coronavirus outbreak by advising their employees to work from home, more and more couples are finding themselves in unchartered territories.

For me, though, it’s business as usual just as it has been for the past eight years.

My husband and I have always worked from home - or in an office - together. In fact, there aren’t many working days that he’s not sitting one metre away from me.

For many, this is an entirely new way of working and it has sparked my friends to send me bi-daily text desperately asking me “how do you do it? How?

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Despite my relatively easy experience working with my partner, lawyers have predicted it won’t all be smooth-sailing for a lot of couples.

Baroness Shackleton of Belgravia told peers at Westminster that a rise in divorce rates was “very likely” owing to so many of us being shacked up with each other over the coming weeks.

“Our peak times are after long exposure during the summer holidays and over Christmas.

“One only has to imagine what it's going to be like when families are sealed in a property for a long period of time,” she said.

Ever the optimist, I’ve put together some tips on how to make working alongside your partner work for you.

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Be your own people

The first rule of work from home club is that you have to - no, need to for your own sanity - have different hobbies and interests.

That’s easier said than done during the coronavirus outbreak - which has left my husband with no Saturday afternoon football to play and me with no Wednesday evening yoga classes.

It’s time to get inventive. Look at tasks you’ve been wanting to get on top of for a while. For me, it’s cleaning my make-up brushes, putting together some photo albums and re-organising my brimming bookshelf.

Make games of stress-inducing decisions

Who makes the tea? Who gets the room for a conference call when you both have a conference call at the same time? Which radio station do you listen to?

If these seemingly mundane questions have already produced their fair few glares, it’s time to relax a bit.

We play rock, paper, scissors for all of life’s unimportant decisions. There can be no arguments over the validity of rock, paper, scissors, let me tell you.

Little gestures

If I notice his water bottle is empty, I’ll fill it. If he gets himself a snack, he’ll get me one, too.

For two people who work in the same vicinity, we don’t really speak all that much in a day but it’s the little things that stop the glare from coming out too often.

Over this period, you won’t be in your usual habitats, so it’s important to give each other a bit of a break and work as a team.

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Ask each other for advice

If I’m trying to think of a title for an article and can’t think of the right word or he’s working on two designs and can’t decide between them, we ask each other for advice.

It allows you to subconsciously be a part of each other’s days without having to ask questions like “what are you working on?” and “what are you doing now?” which lead to longer conversations.

If you’re in a flow, these questions can be a bit derailing.

Don’t take your work home

Yes, it’s funny because you’re at home but it doesn’t mean you need to speak about work when you’re off the clock.

If you both work in separate offices you’ll naturally come home and talk about your days - your work, your colleagues, your journey. Those topics tend to go out of the window when you’re in touching distance of one another.

Now, we’ve got to a point of being able to discuss work outside of being at work, but it took a long time to get there without it feeling overwhelming.

My advice: avoid work chat for the next couple of weeks until you’ve built up enough of a conversation to stop it from feeling stilted.

Treat each other like colleagues during work hours

You can’t wander into your work space demanding your partner helps you fold the sheets while they’re mid-way through a conference call.

Boundaries need to be set pretty early on to establish clear work time and home time.

It becomes trickier if your partner works unsociable hours - or hours that are different to yours - because you might find yourself at home but not speaking to each other for long periods of the day.

Let’s rally together and prove Baroness Shackleton of Belgravia wrong!