If you and your partner both work from home, you're familiar with the unique challenges it can present to your relationship. From feeling like you're always on top of each other to having all of your quality time interrupted, the freelance life can be rough on relationships. Here's how to keep the spark when you both work from home.
If you like your partner (hopefully you do), the prospect of being able to work from home together may have seemed great at first. You get to see each other all the time! You can have sex any time the mood strikes! The novelty of this arrangement can bring a nice jolt of life back into your relationship. Unfortunately, this honeymoon period soon fades, and you may find yourselves feeling a little sick of each other.
Perhaps the most important key to preserving your relationship is to keep some separation. If you're lucky enough to have the room, try to create separate office spaces. If there's a way to close off the space with a door, or even a room divider, that's even better. Even if your apartment is tiny, try to carve out your own little nooks. These spaces should be yours and yours alone, and should be used for work only if possible. It's preferable if you don't have to stare at each other all day, so even turning your bodies in different directions is beneficial. Headphones can also be a great way to tune each other out.
Another option is to try working outside of the house one or two days a week. Try getting a desk at a coworking space, perhaps on separate days. Alternatively, try working at a coffee shop or even the library.
Keep Regular "Office Hours"
When you're both at home together, it's way too easy to distract each other. You go to the kitchen to get another cup of coffee, innocently ask, "hey, did you see that amazing video of the dog and the balloon?", and all of a sudden you're going down the YouTube rabbit hole together for half an hour.
Even though the flexibility of working from home can be awesome, try to come up with your own office hours, and communicate them to each other. Try to be diligent about not interrupting each other during those times. Try not to talk about your non-work lives during work hours, unless absolutely necessary.
Beyond that set schedule, you should also come up with ways to signal to each other when it's especially important not to disturb you. Try closing the door, putting up a sign or post-it note, or simply saying, "I've got an extremely important deadline at 4pm, so can we hold off on everything else until then?" You can also find ways to signal when you are open to interruptions, like this idea for using red, yellow, and green cardstock.
Similarly, explore how you'll end your workday. This is challenging even when you work home alone: it's much more difficult to create a distinct "stop" time and stick to it. Work somehow finds a way to bleed into your non-work life. Try to set a specific time that you'll commit to ending work each day. Together, see if you can come up with some sort of end-of-day ritual, like going on a walk (together or separately), or ceremoniously slamming your laptops shut.
Don't Critique Each Other's Work Styles
When you both work from home, you're far more exposed to the differences in your working styles. As hard as we all try to be productive, we still need moments to zone out and goof off. Inevitably, your partner will walk in just as you're tinkering with your Fantasy Football lineup yet again. Try not to make any comments about your partner's working style or offer unsolicited productivity tips. Your nagging might help your partner make a few extra sales calls that month, but the level of irritability you'll create just isn't worth it.
Keep Your Stresses Separated
One of the most difficult things about working from home together is that you're constantly exposed to each other's stress. You see your partner pacing back and forth while biting their nails to shreds. You hear them yelling during a conference call. It's almost impossible for their stress to not affect you. Sometimes you may take their stress personally, especially if they're being grouchy with you. Their stress may wind up making you stressed in return. Other times you may want to jump in and give your partner advice or try to fix the situation. It can feel like you're both having to deal with double the amount of stress, which just sucks.
Try to be honest about the ways that your stress affects each other. There aren't always going to be easy ways to keep your stress separate from your partner, but there are a couple tricks to try. One is to maintain your distance from each other when you're stressed. One person can hole up in one part of your home, or can go outside to blow off some steam. The person who is not stressed may want to plug in headphones or relocate to a cafe, to avoid taking on their partner's stress. Another idea is to make an agreement with each other that you'll explicitly ask for support when you need it, so you won't be as tempted to automatically assume the fixer role. Or just try to be clear and say something like, "I'm really stressed out right now. I'm sure you've noticed, and I apologise if it's affecting you. I need to deal with it on my own, so I'm going to shut myself in the office for a few hours."
Communicate About Cleanliness
Differences in cleanliness become all the more apparent when you both work from home. One person might feel distracted by seeing dirty dishes in the sink, while the other might not want to interrupt their flow by having to clean up throughout the day.
Have discussions about the level of cleanliness you'd like during the workday, and the best times to actually do the cleaning. Divide up chores based on these conversations. You can also take cleanliness into account when creating your working zones. For example, if one person really hates seeing clutter when they're trying to work, they may need to have a more sequestered work space. You may also want to consider hiring someone to do the cleaning for you. This is a prime example of an instance when money really can buy happiness.
Create Alone Time at Home
Having two people working under one roof is rough because it severely cuts down on the amount of alone time you each have in your home. Even though you're spending the vast majority of your day in your house, it's still nice to have the whole place to yourself every once in a while. Sometimes you just want to sit in your underwear and clip your toenails while singing along to Al Green, or be able to let your farts and burps rip without worrying about your partner's protests. Try to support each other in having 30-60 minutes of alone time in your home per day. Give each other permission to ask for some alone time when you need it. One person can go run errands or work in a different location for a bit.
Don't Forget to Get Out of the House
If you work from home, you have to be proactive about finding ways to get out of the house. When you work from home, it's far too easy to spend all of your time at home. You start feeling like two animals in a cage, staring at the same four walls (and each other) all day, every day, and it becomes difficult to remember the last time you left the house. If you're feeling cooped up, you're less likely to be productive, and more likely to lash out at each other.
Fresh air and a change of scenery are necessities for your sanity and the health of your relationship. It's good to get out of the house together and alone. Try breaking up your workday by having lunch together at a cafe or in a park a few days a week, or by doing solo coffee runs. Or make it your end-of-day ritual to walk the dog together. Get out of the house for hikes or road trips on the weekends, so you don't feel like you're "at the office" seven days a week.
Keep It Sexy
When you work from home, you may find it shockingly easy to start slacking on personal hygiene. Showering might become less frequent. You might catch yourself wearing the same ratty old sweats several days in a row, or no sweats at all (I mean, who wants to put on pants if you don't really have to?). Unfortunately, it's hard to get excited about having sex with your partner if you've been around them all day and you both look like a hot mess.
Try to make an effort to take care of yourselves. Even if being a slob is one of your favourite parts of working from home, there are still some easy things you can do. Try putting on a nice outfit at least one day a week (maybe even turn it into "Sexy Friday" instead of "Casual Friday"). Your closing-time ritual could be taking a shower with your partner, or it could be tidying up the house, lighting candles, and putting on some good music. You'll feel better about yourself, your partner will appreciate it, and you'll feel a world of difference when it comes to your sex life.
And speaking of sex: try to keep work outside of the bedroom, and preserve that as your sacred space for intimacy. This can be particularly helpful if you decide to take advantage of the work-from-home flexibility for a little afternoon delight. Provided it isn't interrupting anything important, it can be an incredibly fun way to occasionally break up the day (as long as you communicate when you are and aren't available to take a break).
Different arrangements will work for different couples, so try playing around with these rules and finding the things that work best for your relationship!