The Realities of Couples Working From Home


Many workers are now sharing their home offices with a new co-worker: their significant other. And while you might think that working with the person you love sounds like a dream, it can quickly turn into a nightmare.

What were previously contained work lives have now spilled over into home lives, and vice versa. This means that your workday is now happening on top of, in the same rooms as, and sometimes right next to their workday.

Sharing your at-home workspace isn’t an easy task, and now that we’re several months in, your patience may be wearing thin. However, there are ways to make working alongside a loved one an easier experience for everyone.

The Stages of Working from Home with Your Partner

Just like there are different stages to a relationship, there are also stages to adjusting to work from home life with your partner. 

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Stage One: “This Isn’t So Bad” 

This is where we all started when first working from home. Akin to the “Honeymoon phase,” this stage is where you’re only seeing the bright sides of at-home working with your significant other. 

You may be thinking to yourself, “I love having someone to enjoy my morning coffee with,” or, “it’s so nice to be able to see them all day!” On top of that, you’re feeling the immediate perks of not having to wake up at an ungodly hour or not having to commute into work. You’re finally able to catch up on chores or get that organic grocery subscription because you have more time to cook together—whatever it may be, you’re enjoying this extended time together because it’s still new and exciting. 

Stage Two: “I Never Noticed That Habit Before”

After a week or so has passed, so too has the initial glee of the first stage, and you now start to notice all of the weird and annoying habits your partner has. Like how they speak abnormally loudly while on the phone, how they constantly munch on sunflower seeds, or you notice they say “you know” every other word. 

Maybe you’re getting tired of battling for bandwidth when you’re both on conference calls or you roll your eyes every time they ask you to wash the dishes while you’re in the middle of something. Suddenly, spending every hour of every day together isn’t feeling as nice as it had.

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Stage Three: “You’re Really Getting on My Nerves”

This is the stage where distraction becomes a serious problem. What were once small annoyances have slowly infiltrated your mind and are all you can think about. Their breathing starts to irritate you and you find yourself keeping a mental checklist of how many of your snacks they’re eating. 

All common courtesy seems to slip away; they start showering with the door open or scroll through TikTok on full volume while you’re in a meeting. Wait, why is my eye twitching?

Stage Four: “I Gotta Get Outta Here”

At this point, you can’t take it anymore. You look for any excuse to get some time away from them; walking the dog every other hour, grabbing some coffee down the block, anything to get a few moments alone. 

Or maybe you decide that it’s time to uproot your spot next to them on the couch and get your own space to work in peace. Whether it’s buying that fold-up desk that’s been in your Amazon cart since March or finally build the connected smart home you have put off, you’ve reached a breaking point and feel like you need to figure out how to make this work—and fast.

Essential Tips for Working from Home with Your Significant Other

To help you and your partner maintain balance while co-working, here are some essential tips to improve your WFH experience and avoid killing each other.

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1. Get Some Space

The golden rule for working with a significant other is to keep work and home life separate. But when you’re confined to close quarters, this is easier said than done. 

To help establish boundaries and maintain personal space, consider creating a designated work area for yourselves. This could be in a separate room or floor, in an oversized closet, or in separate corners of the largest room available. Even some time in the backyard or on the front porch can give you enough space to concentrate. If there’s not enough real estate for each of you to have your own “office” space, then either commit to being officemates or create a work schedule so that each of you gets the quiet time they need.

2. Establish Your “On” and “Off” Hours

Once your commute is a thing of the past, the question now becomes: When does your day start and end? It’s important to establish when you need to be “on” and when you can turn “off,” and to respect those boundaries. 

Be clear about your daily schedules, including what time you plan to set an alarm, when you need to start your day, when you have important meetings or obligations, or when you can take a lunch break or shut down for the day. By discussing these things beforehand, you’ll avoid unnecessary arguments and awkward situations like making a ruckus in the kitchen while the other person is on the phone.

Pro Tip: Start a shared calendar to keep track of each other’s daily schedules. Something like Google Calendar can help you create boundaries between when you’re tied up or when you can afford to be bothered. You can even use it to divvy up at-home tasks, like who’s going to take the dog out or who keeps an eye on the kids and when?

3. Create an Ideal Environment for Both of You

Does one of you like the constant murmur of a TV, while the other can’t stand it? Do you prefer the thermostat be at a cooler temperature than they do? Can you save vacuuming for the end of the day?

To create an environment that will work for both for you, talk about your preferences and potential distractions before they cause tension. Be mindful of the windows you leave open or the sounds that might draw attention and provide constructive feedback so that things keep running smoothly.

Pro Tip: Speaking of sounds, consider investing in some noise-cancelling headphones. Even if you’ve figured out how to minimize distractions with each other, you’ll always be grateful you can pop on some headphones and tune out other conversations or even the humming of your AC.

4. Keep Open Communication

Last but certainly not least, you must communicate—and communicate constantly—about how you’re feeling, what’s working, or what isn’t working. Let’s be real: You’re going get on each other’s nerves from time to time. But if you’re comfortable being honest about your feelings, you can work through conflict constructively. 

If you can accommodate each other’s work preferences, be open about when you need your personal space, and support each other in work and play, then you’ll definitely survive working from home as a couple.