You might be able to cope with working from home when it's just you, but if you need to share your workspace with someone else over the next few weeks, you need our survival tips.
Living with another person can be hard enough without having to be around them at all times throughout the day. Working from home brings a set of unique challenges you need to overcome if you and your partner or housemate want to avoid a Thunderdome situation.
If you’re currently working from home with another person or people, as well as being in the same house as them outside of work hours, you probably already know that things can get a bit tense. All of those habits that you can put up with when you only have to deal with them during evenings or weekends really start to grate on you, leaving you frustrated, annoyed and ready to snap.
While there’s no magic wand to wave that can make working from home with someone else totally bearable, there are a few things you can do to avoid killing each other. We’ve come up with a few ideas you might want to try so you aren’t left working in silence and plotting against each other:
Create a fictional colleague
You can’t lie, you’ve probably enjoyed moaning about a colleague at some point in your working life. This is hard to do when you’re stuck in a house with only that annoying colleague to talk to.
Rather than angrily typing your grievances to a friend or a family member - we all know that’s not quite the same as having a moan over coffee in the office kitchen - why not create a fictional colleague you can both moan about?
Lighten the mood and let them know what annoys you about their working from home habits in a light-hearted way by blaming everything on Karen or Keith. Fed up of finding water glasses all over the place? It’s Karen’s fault. Annoyed by the super loud typing in the office? Have a moan about Keith.
Whether you’re taking remote meetings or sending emails, there are bound to be some buzzwords you either use or encounter someone else using. Create a list or - better yet - write these on a board and cross them off throughout the day.
If there’s a prize to be won for a line or a full house, it will only add to the fun, especially as it will encourage you both to try and fit the buzzwords into your meetings and emails. Just remember to try and not get too competitive, as this could easily take you back to feeling tense.
Plan a break schedule
When you’re in the office, it’s unlikely that you’re always working flat out. You stop to talk to colleagues, make coffee and to pop out for lunch. Working from home tends to be a bit different and many people end up working for more straight hours due to the lack of distractions.
Although this means you get more work done, it can also increase stress levels. Create a schedule so you both get breaks throughout the day to chat too each other, make a drink and grab lunch. You don’t have to stick to a totally rigid structure - especially if one of you is in the middle of something - but it will remind you both to step away from your screen for a few minutes.
Don’t work in silence
You know what’s worse than fighting when you’re working from home with someone? Working in silence. Having no background noise can make you feel uncomfortable but also mean that the slightest sound interrupts you.
Put on some music or the TV on in the background so the sound of each other’s typing doesn’t drive you crazy. You could even have themed music days where you each choose a band, genre or year and play the music that matches. At least then you can talk about their rubbish taste in tunes.
Start and stop at the right time
It can be tempting to pick up your laptop early or carry on working even though your workday has ended. You might also find yourself checking emails on your phone in the evening when you wouldn’t normally do that. When the lines between work and home start to blur, it’s far too easy to work more than you should.
This is why it’s important to start and finish as you would normally when you’re in the office. You and your partner or housemate need time together that doesn’t revolve around work. Finish dead on the time you should and step away from your screens. Have the end-of-the-day catch up you usually would (don’t forget to blame Karen or Keith for anything annoying) and get on with your usual evening.
Set up your work areas
Yes, it might be easy to roll out of bed five minutes before your workday starts, grab your laptop and start your day on the sofa in your PJs, but if you’re both doing this, you’ll end up working on top of each other and annoying each other even more. You both need your own workspaces to help you focus and stay productive.
Have a look at how both of you can set up a desk, whether it’s in the same room or not. This will allow you both to have your own space that is designed purely for work, meaning you can step away from it at the end of the day knowing that everything will be right where you left it when your day starts again tomorrow.
You don’t need a lot of space for a desk either, as there are compact office furniture options available, such as our Home Work range, which is designed to make working from home easier. The smaller-than-average desks still give you enough room to work, provide a variety of storage options and start from as little as £89 with free Next Day Delivery.
If you’re used to the odd email or group chat message telling you that there is birthday cake or leftover treats somewhere in the office, why not carry this on when you’re working from home?
Every now and then, send them a message that there are treats for the office somewhere in your house. Maybe save it for when they’re having a particularly bad day or seem a bit stressed in order to lighten the mood - they’re sure to appreciate the thought.
Used to going to the pub after work on a Friday? Set up your own bar at home ready for post-work drinks to celebrate the end of the week in style. If the weather’s good and you’ve got an outdoor space to make the most of, you could even create a beer garden of your own to really get away from your computers and make sure you’re ready for a relaxing weekend.
Hopefully, one or more of these tips will mean you're both still talking to each other at the end of your work week!