Coronavirus has got the world on lockdown. And that means more of us are social distancing and working at home. If you’re lucky enough to still have a job* and can work from home, then you know that what sounded a bit like the silver lining on the social isolation cloud, has become a bit of a balancing act.
But what’s tougher than one person remotely? That’s right! Two (or more) or you. From someone who’s been working at home for a while now, I know some of the biggest frustrations of sharing that home-working space – no time off, lack of outside interaction, favorite snacks being eaten ( I could go on and on). But, I also picked up some tips along the way. And here they are – the best ways to stay sane when 2 or more are working from home.
*If you’ve been laid off or furloughed during this period, here are some great tips to keep busy and boost your CV while in self-isolation.
9 Tips to stay sane when 2+ are working at home
Get separate working areas
At first, it might seem cool to work in bed or on the couch. But after the first couple of days, you’ll need a little more space to spread out your documents, set your cup of tea down, and, in general, get work done.
Fail to separate your workspace from your relax space, and one of two things will happen.
- One, your productivity will drop as you go further into relax mode and focus less on work (“just one more episode of that amazing new series on Netflix”).
- Or two. You will keep working past your working time, leading to reduced quality in your work and even burnout.
Now, if two or more of you are working from home, this can be extra tricky. Of course, you want to stay close to your partner or roomie – you’re missing that communication from being in-office. But do so all the time and see your work suffer.
You need to make a space for each of you. That way you each have the freedom and area to work and concentrate at the tasks at hand, without stepping on each other’s toes.
If you live in a small space, this can be challenging. But perhaps one of you can work from the kitchen and the other from the bedroom or living room. At least for part of the day. Me? I’ve been lucky enough to have spent the past month at a desk in the garden (thank you, sunshine).
Manage your time together
Even if you were a Pro in time management before, the chances are that shift from office-life to working from home has put a dent in your perfect routine. And you’re not alone. Your lockdown companion is also facing the same challenges.
While you both strive to implement new working practices, this can put pressure on your relationship. What works for one or you might not work for the other. The best way to get through it? Communication and compromise.
Before you both start tapping away on the keyboard like madmen, sit down with your partner and discuss your daily routine. Try to set a schedule for both of you so that one person’s routine doesn’t disturb the other, and you each get proper working and rest time (this is essential for your circadian rhythm).
Be considerate, like you would be with your work colleagues even if you’ve switched that suit for a pair of daytime PJs.
And, most importantly, schedule break time together. You need time to interact. But more so, the sound of a kettle boiling and the smell of a tasty snack as you’re trying to work can be too tempting – take those breaks together.
Remember: meeting time is a sacred time
You are a serious professional, you know your job and do it well. But taking those important meetings at home is a whole different ball game to what you’re used to.
First, your colleagues or clients will see the inside of your sacred space, not your usual office-background, and second, you might have with unexpected interruptions – aka your lockdown partner.
If you desire, the first can is solved with some handy background changing apps, which you can find with a quick Google search, but of course, this is a personal choice. The second is a little trickier.
When you have an important meeting coming up, let your lockdown companion know in advance. That way, they can plan their time and meetings around it. This is vital to avoid conflicts or loud background noise, and especially if you have kids at home, and someone needs to watch them during the meeting.
Of course, this works both ways. Remember, their meeting time is sacred too. Give each other space to be professional, and you’ll find this confinement a little easier.
Accept you will get frustrated
If you were expecting that more time at home would be all sunshine and roses, well it’s likely that illusion has been smashed like those rose-colored glasses you were wearing.
Confined to a defined space, we are more likely to get frustrated and get into arguments with our partner-in-quarantine. Statistics show that over 80% of us have tiffs at home. The most common reasons are money, family, TV choice, not washing up properly, and work.
While it is ok to get frustrated – in fact, it’s normal even for introverts – it’s best not to take it out on your partner. First, cool the temperature in the room. Try some stress-relieving techniques to help you regain control over your emotions:
- And mantras, such as “this too shall pass.”
Once the dial has rewound from meltdown, it’s time to reduce the stress factors that got you there in the first place.
- Talk it out. Why are you frustrated, and what can be done about it? Don’t blame, just explain.
- Take care of yourself and your mess. You each must take responsibility for your own space and mess. This helps reduce arguments. Just be self-aware.
- Pick your battles. Ok, you’re frustrated, but does it warrant a discussion, or maybe you should let it go this time?
Note! None of this applies if the situation you are in is abusive. Lockdown or not, if you believe yourself to be in danger, get out of that situation immediately and consider contacting the relevant authorities in your area.
Make time for play time
All work and no play make Jack a dull boy. That means if both of you are constantly working or take breaks at separate times, you’re more likely to become stressed with the situation.
Make time for play too and do it together. Now, that doesn’t have to mean sitting down to a board game at lunchtime. It can simply mean grabbing a cup of coffee and a chat together to de-stress from the morning meetings, a quick 5-minute dance-off (yes, you’ll look silly but who cares?!), or a swift video game battle.
Do whatever works for you and your lockdown buddy. But remember to take a break from what you are doing during the day and make time for each other. This is vital to you and your partner’s well-being – it is not a waste of time.
Communicate outside the home
By day 3 of the lockdown, you'll probably be feeling as if you've run out of things to talk about with your partner. You'll be hearing the same stories again and again. Now, it's not that you don't love them, it's just you're missing that water-cooler gossip that you usually get at work.
As humans, we are social animals and have an innate need to communicate with others. It lights up our brains, making us feel better. And it's been proven to have adverse effects when we don't socialize. For example, the stress hormone cortisol rises, putting you at a higher risk of heart disease and other illnesses. In short, we need that social connection.
Unfortunately, during the lockdown, we can meet our friends or colleagues face to face the way we usually would, it's just not safe. But, thankfully, technology has provided us with the resources to keep in touch despite the miles.
Pick up the phone, go on a Zoom or Skype call, or simply send a message. You don't always have to discuss work with your colleagues, try asking about their day. Chances are they're as isolated as you and will welcome the small talk in a time like this.
Or, if you don't have colleagues right now, then reach out to a friend and ask about their lockdown stories. Not only does it break up the monotony, but it also helps to know someone is going through a similar situation to you right now.
Do this, and by the time your next break rolls around, you'll definitely have something to discuss with your lockdown-partner.
Move your body
Do you know how stiff you feel after sitting all day in the office chair? How much do you enjoy your walk to the kitchen for lunch or taking your breaktime meal to the local park?
That doesn’t go away just because you are at home. You need to get up from your workspace and move around – regularly!
At least once an hour, get up and get your muscles a stretch. You can choose any form of activity you like, for a 5-minute blast – a quick yoga routine, a mad dance to your favorite tunes, or many even a small workout.
Get your partner involved too. After all, it’s good for both of you to move your bodies. This not only helps keep your bodies in shape, but it also delivers a happy-hormone boost to your brain, improving your mood and concentration.
We even have a free Stay-at-Home Kit on our app to help you.
Get a good set of headphones
Background noise can be distracting, especially when you’re trying to concentrate on the task at hand. Even if your lockdown partner is trying their best to be silent, it can be frustrating.
Investing in a decent set of noise-canceling headphones, if you don’t have them already, can help block out some of the environmental noise and help you get in the working-zone.
Turn on your favorite tunes to get inspired or switch to a productivity playlist. Of course, this doesn’t mean you should ignore your partner, but reducing additional auditory noise can help you focus.
Now, if you have kids, obviously hitting ignore isn’t an option. Every parent knows that silence is a very, very bad sign. While you can use your headphones to reduce noise, make sure your little ones are in your sight-line, and the music isn’t turned up too loud.
Laugh it off
The truth is, right now, many of us are just winging it. Nothing will be perfect, that’s a fact. But even when it seems that just about everything is going pear-shaped, the most important thing you can do is don’t stress about it.
Yes, it might be terrible, but for your mental health. The best solution is just to laugh it off. One day the lockdown will end, and you will see your friends and family again. But for the moment, just laugh, it’ll make you feel so much better.