Working From Home, Together. (Relationship Counseling)
Are you one of the millions of Americans who now work from home (WFH) at least one day a week? Do you have a cohabitating significant other who is now joining you in this relatively new workforce frontier? Maybe one of you recently started a new position that offers the option of remote work, and you are just now settling into your work from home routines. Perhaps one of you made the transition during the beginning of the Covid-19 Pandemic in 2020 and the temporary change is now a permanent reality. Or maybe you are in a unique position where you have been logging in from your home office for years and now you are in a position where you must share your Wi-Fi connection with the person you love. Are you struggling to keep the peace in your relationship with this new change?
Navigating the world of remote work etiquette and technology is challenging enough as it is. Trying to figure out how to bring your professional lives home without negatively affecting your personal lives is even harder. If you and your partner have noticed an increase in tension between the two of you since setting up a home office, please know that you are not alone. Many couples are spending a lot more time at home with each other than originally planned, and this might be a difficult adjustment. When your home becomes your office, there are so many new areas to negotiate and sometimes this can lead to disagreements. You may live in spaces that do not allow for each working member to have their own private space during the “workday”. If addressing any of these factors with your partner feels intimidating, the following communication exercises may be a great way to get started starting the conversation.
How to Work From Home, Together: Finding Balance
Many remote-work couples are also discovering that it has become challenging to keep the relationship's romantic spark alive. When it comes to togetherness, sometimes it really is about “quality” over “quantity”. More and more couples are reporting that their significant other has started to feel more like a roommate than a romantic partner. In addition to all of that, moments of intimate connection are becoming nonexistent. How can couples who were thriving before remote work get back to a place of healthy balance if their jobs have gone 24/7 remote? Or if one partner retired during the pandemic and one of you is still trying to work. There are endless combinations of remote work that might be creating new challenges in your relationship, and they are all valid reasons to renegotiate a few WFH ground rules between the two of you.
Remote work has the potential to bring lots of benefits to our health and wellbeing in the ideal situation. It can potentially help improve work/life balance, eliminate, or at least reduce commute time, and increase productivity if we are able to find a setup that works well for us. Unfortunately, there are quite a few details that need to be worked out with our partners before we can fully embrace all of the good things that remote work has to offer. So how can couples strike a balance between fulltime office mates and lovers, not to mention parents, caregivers, business owners and all the other titles you might be trying to manage from home?
How to Work From Home, Together: Readdressing and Reanalyzing Boundaries
The following list contains a basic list of questions regarding work from home arrangements designed for you and a partner to answer together. Many couples made the transition from the office to remote working during difficult times in the pandemic when stress levels were at an all time high. There is no doubt that you both did the best you could during a very scary time, and that certainly deserves some serious credit, but you may be surprised what you rediscover when you sit down together and readdress something.
Not all of the questions on this list may apply to you or your situation and you may be inspired to come up with a few of your own. This is not a definite list of areas you may need to readdress with your partner, but it is a good place to start. When it comes to working from home together as a couple, establishing healthy communication and boundaries are incredibly important. Try to find an hour where the two of you can sit down together with as few interruptions as possible to answer each question as honestly as possible. If there are questions that you and your partner are struggling to negotiate on, that could be an indication that you may benefit from seeking the assistance of a couple’s counselor to help reach an agreement.
Working From Home, Together. Questions for Couples
WFH Space Questions
Who gets what room to work in? How is this decided? Does this feel fair?
Is each space private enough? If not, how could privacy be improved?
Is the temperature in the house comfortable for both of you? Can this be changed?
Is one person’s office set up in a common space? If so, how does this impact the rest of the household?
WFH Noise Questions
Can you hear your partner's work calls during the day?
Can you hear other members of the household? Does this impact your work performance?
Is noise during work hours a concern in any way? If so, is there anything that can be done to address the sound disruptions?
Could noise canceling devices or headphones improve your set-up?
WFH Technology Questions
Is the internet service stronger for one person than the other?
Is cellular service stronger for one party than another
Is the internet impacted when one person is on a video call or streaming?
Do you need to share technological equipment such as a computer or printer to do your jobs during the day?
WFH Break Questions
Do you take your work day breaks together?
Do you eat your meals together during your breaks?
Is there an expectation that one person is responsible for preparing food for the lunch break? Is someone in charge of cleaning up? Does this arrangement feel fair?
WFH Childcare/ Caregiver Questions
Are there other members of the household that require care during the workday? If so, who is providing this care?
Do these obligations impact one party's work more than the other?
Does the current childcare arrangement feel fair? Why or why not?
WFH Schedule Questions
Do workdays occur on the same days for everyone? What impact does this have on the household routine?
Do your work days begin at the same time? Do they end at the same time?
Do your workday schedules change day to day? How is this impacting your relationship?
Do you have a way to communicate when you have an important work obligation such as a meeting or call and don’t want to be interrupted?
Is company allowed to come over when one person is still working?
WFH After-Hours Questions
Are either of you expected to answer work calls after business hours?
Are either of you expected to answer work emails after business hours?
Are the two of you able to schedule some time together on a regular basis where you will not be interrupted by work obligations?
Do either of you feel you could benefit from some designated alone time after the work day?
WFH Concluding Questions
Is there any area that this checklist has not covered that you still would like to talk about?
If you could change anything about your work from home routine, what would it be?
Do you feel you are getting enough external social interaction?
Do you plan to work remote indefinitely or will this only be a temporary position.
After you have taken the time to sit down with your partner and answer the questions on this list that apply to you, take a moment, and pause to reflect on how you are both feeling. Notice if you are feeling any tension or frustration. Do you feel that this exercise brought up a point of conflict or disagreement in your relationship? Perhaps this exercise touched on an area of your relationship that you both have been struggling with lately. Or did this exercise foster a sense of connectedness? It is also very possible that you are feeling a bit of both. If any strong emotions did arise from this exercise, take a minute to make note if there were any items on this list that brought up more tension than others. Was there anything that came up during this activity that surprised you? Was there anything you learned from this exercise that you didn't know about your partner's situation?
Negotiating a remote work setup that is healthy and supportive for both parties of a couple is a big task and it’s okay if it takes multiple conversations to figure things out. Adjusting to remote work can take time and trial and error. Try to reflect if this questionnaire triggered any deeper conversations in your relationship such as issues regarding communication or boundaries. If you find that you are still struggling to reach an agreement on work from home logistics, you may benefit from the support of a professional couple’s therapist.
You can self schedule an in-person or virtual couples therapy session at the Center for Growth by calling (215) 922-5683 x 100.
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