Q: My partner will soon begin working from home full time. How do we make this transition successful for both of us?
Ann, 47, nurse
A: Every aspect of life is affected in a transition like this, so discuss and plan for as much as you can in advance.
Let’s look at a few different scenarios. If you’re currently home a lot, this will disrupt your routine. It may be for the better, but the increased togetherness does require adaptation.
Or perhaps you both now work outside the home. Having one person working from home can provide a temptation for them to become the errand person.
If you have kids, this can become especially problematic, as the home-based person can slide into covering days off school, doctor visits, etc.
This isn’t fair to the person working from home. As it is generally an unintentional slide into imbalance, it’s best to set ground rules. Find a way to share responsibility so that perceived convenience doesn’t go too far.
Same with chores. Just because a person works from home doesn’t mean they should necessarily be tossing clothes in the wash or emptying the dishwasher during the day.
Another risk is having the office take over the home. To the extent possible, set up a space where your partner can work. He or she can then leave the “office” behind and have some physical separation.
Setting clear work hours will also help. A flex time model may make sense, depending on his or her employer’s expectation. It will also help with the boundary issues; it’s easier to protect designated work time.
One challenge many people face when working from home is the decrease in social interaction. Electronic connection only goes so far, and you may find that your partner turns to you more for interaction needs. This could be very draining for you, especially if you come home and need downtime.
Address this by planning some structured ways for them to connect with co-workers or other professionals in their field. It may be coffee breaks with colleagues or monthly meetings. Even working at a library or coffee shop one day a week can help.
Talk about all of these topics in advance and make an initial plan. Then, once they are working from home, set up regular check-ins. Maybe you want to do it weekly at first, and talk about what’s working well and what needs to change.
If you catch yourselves getting on each other’s nerves, look for ways to defuse it before it escalates. Take timeouts, or just find a few minutes to do something fun.
Treat it as an adventure — a new phase in your day-to-day life. There will be aspects you like, and those that are more difficult. If you can be in it together, rather than getting edgy or adversarial, your relationship may get even better.
What challenges do you face at work? Send your questions to Liz Reyer, leadership coach and owner of Reyer Coaching & Consulting in Eagan. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.