Sharing Home Offices in the Time of COVID-19: How to Stay Connected

In ConnectALL by Soumya Menon

No! This is not a therapy blog post or how not to kill your spouse/partner or a family member while sharing home offices during the pandemic situation. 

ConnectALL has largely been a remote and globally distributed company and we have several team members who have practiced the art of working together with their spouses or other family members also working from home. Working from home itself is not an easy lifestyle to adapt to for many individuals across the world, especially if you have spent years in an office setting interacting with team members face to face, attending client meetings and working on-site.

So I thought it’d be great to share some of their suggestions on how to stay connected with work effectively while you may have your spouse or a family member watching over your shoulder or vice versa. It just takes a little prep and you are set without getting at each other’s throats. Here are a few suggestions that I put together from conversations with my colleagues:

Build a routine together:

Remember, even if you are working from home, those are your work hours. So follow the same routine TOGETHER — take a shower, get dressed (even if it is just jammies) grab breakfast, and get to work (without the stressful commute). This can be tough if your work timings are not similar or you are not someone who follows the exact schedule. Practice will get you there.

Create your own space:

No matter how small your home is, try and create a separate space for your work, even if it is just a few inches or centimeters away – building the distance is important. If you have the privilege to set up a desk in your home, which is closed and private from your spouse or a family member, then that is great. Space is required specifically so that you don’t listen to each other’s work calls or converse with each other instead of focusing on work, which is what you’d be doing if you were in an office setting. Also, you don’t want your spouse/partner/family member appearing in the background during a video call. So seating and setting really matters. Make sure you have all your necessary items in your own space so that you are not scrambling around looking for it instead of working. The same goes for the other person. Create a healthy boundary so that you don’t break each other’s concentration, especially when you have to meet deadlines.

Share work schedule or meeting timings:

It’s important to share your day’s schedule or even the week (if that’s available). Print it out and place it on the refrigerator or each other’s desk or somewhere where it is visible. Try and use headphones/earphones even when you are not attending a call or a meeting if you are in close quarters with the other person. If you can get hold of a noise cancellation headphone, then that’s even more advisable. It gives privacy to each other and you can focus on your calls just like you would while in an office or in a conference room. Try not to put the calls on speaker unless you are in a completely separate room.

Decide if you want to take breaks together prior:

Before you start your day (whatever time you need to login or be online), talk to each other and decide if you want to take one break together — maybe lunch or tea, depending on the work schedule. It helps as you still have conversations with each other with a set timing in mind to get back to work, and it also works as daily check-ins. If either of you want to take your individual breaks (even watching TV, which is definitely not advisable during work hours), make sure it is communicated appropriately and you don’t disturb each other. 

Sharing work essentials, Wi-fi, and stationeries:

If you are in a job that may require you to access work essentials, take prints or scan copies, and you have to share it with another family member, make sure you communicate this clearly beforehand so it does not lead to misunderstandings and confusion, delaying work or beating down the urgency. Understand each other’s urgency and make time accordingly. Sharing a good Wi-fi connection is an important part. Upgrade data plans prior so that everyone gets time online.

Spend some time in between the morning routine to decide how you’ll share all of these things or do it together. Let this not come in the way of you either delivering effectively at work or maintaining a healthy relationship with your family. It is advisable to talk openly and try and stick to a routine, set boundaries, and expectations.
I hope these help you. If you are following anything different or interesting, share it with us. #stayhome #staysafe #stayhealthy