Coronavirus: Keeping the Peace While Working from Home
During the Coronavirus pandemic, we must keep our loved ones and ourselves safe by practicing social distancing. We haven't used this term freely in our culture until now. We need to stop touching our face, shaking hands, hugging, or touching other people unless it is necessary. We want to cover our nose and mouth when we sneeze or cough and wash our hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. These are all good habits for the flu season, but they could become the new norm.
Telecommuting Due to Coronavirus
In March 2020 and beyond, social distancing means many adults will be telecommuting part-time or full-time to their job. Also, there is the potential for school and daycare closures, which could mean that your kids will be underfoot too. With all these social changes being thrust rapidly upon us, you could imagine that more "together" time might not be ideal for you and your significant other. If there is tension at home, this means you will get less personal space. If you have a strained relationship, working at home and/or staying home with the kids adds more pressure. In this post, I suggest some strategies that can help everyone be safe and keep the peace at home:
Structuring Your Household With Zones
You and your partner could spend anywhere between 2 hours a day and 12 hours a day working on a computer, talking to clients, reading documents, and doing other administrative tasks. Some workers may even bring home projects that require manual labor. Structure your home environment for adults and kids so everyone has a zone to be in during the workday. Pick a separate area of the home for each worker and equip it with the right office technology and sturdy furniture. You might need additional counter or table space and a storage area for your work supplies. Teach your kids these areas should not be disturbed, so important materials are not damaged or lost.
Create a Schedule
Make a grid and block out each person's row or column for the day. During certain hours, you and your partner should delineate your office hours. These are hours when you shouldn't be disturbed and you won't be expected to take the kids to appointments. You also won't be expected to have conversations, cook meals, or care for pets. Office hours are a time when the kids shouldn't expect to bring their friends over either. Your colleagues and clients will receive direct access to you without distractions at this same time each day. You and your partner could rotate usage of a separate space where you won't be interrupted during phone calls and virtual meetings.
You and your partner must model for everyone in the household how to be respectful of the house zones and the schedule. Block time in your schedule to help with parenting duties and participate in family activities. Keep up with your commitments, and don't expect that your partner will pick up the slack. If you need to reach your partner during office hours, write a Post-It note or send a text message, which gives your partner the option to respond when there's time. You should never interrupt private telephone calls or meetings because you wouldn't be able to do that if your partner was at the traditional workplace.
Don't Ask Too Many Questions
If you are working at home, you may overhear conversations that your partner has with colleagues and clients. You don't want to be nosy by asking too many questions. You don't want to be demanding when you need your partner for something. Work conversations would normally occur where you wouldn't have access to that information. Also, don't inspect your partner's cell phone, mobile device, or computer terminal. Don't try to read emails or pull up the company's Outlook calendar. If there were something going on outside of this partnership, you would become aware of it anyway. Snooping or interrogating your partner would only create an atmosphere of distrust and would not fix your strained relationship.
Make Time for Yourself and Your Partner
Remember, the goal is to maintain a peaceful atmosphere in the home, so any tensions won't cause excess trauma to your kids, pets, and extended family. Everyone must live together in the home, and you and your partner might have to work at home for months. There is an open-ended timeframe for this social distancing paradigm. You all might start getting a touch of cabin fever just like when the kids are ready to go back to school. It's important to block time in the family schedule for you to be alone with yourself and to do activities with your partner. This should include time for exercise, meditation, relaxation, and fun!
If you decide against going to the gym due to germ exposure, you could walk, run, and do calisthenics to stay in shape. You can also take your lunch to the park. You and your partner can go for a long drive while the neighbor watches the kids. The goal is to strengthen your partnership and keep your family feeling safe and supported. Your partner and your kids need you to be strong.
Your best bet for not becoming ill with Coronavirus is maintaining your health. Get enough rest, take vitamins, eat right, and manage your stress levels. If working at home turns into months of extra togetherness, you and your partner can adjust the schedule to take more breaks from each other. Over time, if everyone respects the house zones and the boundaries of office hours, it will be a supportive environment. If there is too much arguing going on, then the living situation may need to change.