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When Both of Us Are Working From Home

When both of Us are Working from Home

Written by Scott Taylor, Family & Consumer Sciences Agent

You have finally adjusted to working from home, have your desk all set up the way you like, the pets have accepted you as part of the pack, and you are just beginning to experience a “normal.”

And suddenly, you feel that tear in the time/space continuum as your spouse announces that they too will now be working from home…

Stress management practices help you cope with stress. In the long run, reducing stress can prevent health problems. Coping is what you do to deal with the pressure of stressors and stay steady. Coping is a natural process we do throughout our lives. Some ways of coping are more helpful than others.1

One important step in managing stress is to be aware of how you look at the stressful situation. What do you believe will happen? Do you feel that you will be able to deal with the problem?1

Because you believe you can deal with this, you’re thinking, okay I am settled in and used to it, I can offer some tips on getting through the challenges of the distractions and loss of structure that comes with working from home.  There seems to be a self-fulfilling prophecy we have when working.  If you see a stressor as a problem or crisis it is likely to become a crisis. This is because you feel unable to cope.  When you see an event as something that can be managed, you are likely to act quickly to solve a problem before it exhausts your energy.1

The first two hours are taken by having to become the I.T. tech getting the remote connection to work, soon followed by the radio is too loud, I don’t have my “desk” right, to I don’t like the light in this room so I need you to help me move everything to another room.  Welcome to telecommuting with your spouse.  I am convinced this was NOT in the brochure!

Instead of throwing up your hands in despair, maybe if you can change your negative thoughts into positive ones, you will find it easier to manage stress. One easy way to do this is to reframe the situation. When you do this, you look at things in a different, more positive light. This technique, called reframing, often helps a person feel better.

King Solomon once said something to the effect of, it is better to live on a small corner of the rooftop, than in a big house with a mad woman.  No wonder he has such a reputation for wisdom.

Seriously though, it is a huge adjustment not just for you, but for your spouse, when something like this happens.  Everyone is already nervous because of the lethality of the virus, and then add the pressure of an unfamiliar work routine and the attempt to remain productive.  It is the perfect recipe for trouble, but it can be survived, if we just employ some simple coping tips and recognize the importance of everyone’s job duties and responsibilities.

First, try to treat the situation like it’s your spouse’s first day at a new job.  Everything is unfamiliar to the “new” employee, even though the surroundings may not be.  Offer them assistance, but don’t try to force them to listen.  Let them come to you.  Secondly, using King Solomon’s advice, try to set up each work area so that the temptation of casual conversation is avoided.  While your spouse may love your charming wit during Family Feud in the evening, during the designated workday not so much.

Also, follow the same rules of work.  No offensive stuff in the microwave for lunch and be courteous by limiting interruptions and distractions during work hours.  Treat them like a co-worker rather than a spouse, and you will find that the Universe welcomes you and your spouse into the world of alternative work areas.

  1. Managing Stress, FCS2078, one of a series of the Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date June 1989. Revised January 2003, May 2006, and March 2011. Reviewed September 2017. Visit the EDIS website at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu.