How to Make Working From Home Together Work

With employees being asked to work from home for at least the next few weeks, we’re all learning to get acquainted with a few new coworkers, including our significant other, our pets and our kids. Technology has made it easier than ever to connect with our employers, friends, and family, but how do we adjust to this new remote life together? These Orlando couples share how they’re working from home together, and how they make it work.

Couples working from home together humor
via @mollytolsky on Twitter

Janet & Jay

Key takeaways: Balance work time and together time, and prioritize small gestures

Janet and Jay met on Janet's third day on the job in the newsroom at the News & Record in Greensboro, NC in October 1998. “He asked me out that week and we got married in April 2000,” Janet said.

They moved to Florida in 2012 when Jay got a job with the Orlando Sentinel. He now works as the Sentinel’s Viewpoints Editor and combat sports reporter while Janet works as a project manager at AAA National and a freelance writer.

Janet and Jay both started working from home in mid-March at the request of their employers. She says they’ve transitioned well into working from home together so far. They already dedicated one room in their home for an office in which they each have their own desk. 

Janet and Jay's cats, Wally and Wilbur, are getting spoiled during this work from home phase and have taken up residence in the office, too.

Janet mentioned she and Jay are respectful of each other during conference calls and give each other space throughout the day. “We need to balance being social with getting work done. We need to not spend every minute of every day with each other.”

To keep the mood light, Janet texted Jay a few days ago while in the same room, asking him how his day was going. A sweet gesture like this can make a transition or uncertain time feel more comfortable. (Editor's note: my mom told me that a few days ago my stepdad woke her up to kiss her goodbye before going to work…in the living room! It's the little things that count in times like these.)

“During this scary time, it's really nice to know that we're safe together. And if one of us DOES get sick, the other one will be here to take care of the other one. We're lucky, because we had the experience of doing this for years, so it's not as hard. We also don't have kids. So, we know we're more fortunate than parents who have to balance working with entertaining and teaching their little ones!”

Derek & Emily

Key takeaways: Have separate workspaces and balance freedom and responsibility

Both working digital jobs, Derek and Emily started working from home together about a week ago. They shared it’s been an easy transition so far. Emily set up her work area in their bedroom while Derek set up his in the living room.

“She finishes work a little before I do, and she can get a bit bored,” Derek said. “Sometimes I just have to remind her I'm still working when she tries to show me something funny on Instagram or wants to start a conversation. Other than that, it's smooth sailing.”

Derek & Emily Orlando couples working from home together tips

Derek and Emily each live with health concerns, so staying at home during this time has helped them focus at home together instead of worrying about commuting and being around other people. Not having to commute to Downtown Orlando is another perk! But one of the most important aspects of working from home and making this transition is balance.

“Try to balance the freedom that comes with working from home with the responsibilities we have to get work done. Even though you're on your own turf, you're still on company time, so you should respect that,” Derek said. “For a lot of people, this is the first time they get to do this. So, it's a novelty and this may be a learning experience in terms of striking that balance.”

Stacey & Robert

Key takeaways: Be respectful and shut down at a decent hour to maximize quality time together as a family.

Stacey and her husband Robert have been working from home for quite some time now. Robert provides technical support for a telecommunications company and started working from home last August. With her job in digital product management, Stacey has always had the ability to work from home as needed.

One of the positives of everyone being at home together, Stacey says, is that Robert had been traveling a lot for work. “I am glad that he will be home and not far away so much,” she said.

As they adjust to working from home together, they're trying to be more aware when they're on conference calls. Something like headsets can go a long way to help them stay focused, and to be respectful of each other's work environment. “We are trying to be respectful of the fact that we are figuring it out as we go along.”

The couple also has a daughter, a senior in high school who is supposed to start college at UCF this summer. With teachers and students switching to online formats, it's a learning process for everyone.

As for their work setups, Stacey and Robert have a single office desk in the living room dedicated for work, which they recently gave to their daughter for her high school learning. Stacey works from the couch while Robert works from the bedroom. With everyone working and learning together, Stacey says it's important for everyone to shut down at the end of the night.

“I am trying to make sure we sign off at a decent hour at night so we can spend time together as a family,” she said.

Jessica & Max

Key takeaways: Make the most of the bonus family time

Jessica has worked from home for seven years for a digital marketing consulting firm, so she’s a pro at this. “There are so many great technology solutions these days that it’s much different working from home now than it was 8 years ago, when I was just starting to do it.”

Her husband Max, who works in the tech industry, worked from home occasionally in the past and is now transitioning back to working remotely. Jessica and Max work in separate spaces at home. 

“I have a small corner desk in our living room with just the essentials,” Jessica said. “My husband, on the other hand, decided to repurpose a playroom that my kids don’t ever use into an office space. Ironically, he made this decision about 6 months ago before he was even forced to work from home.”

Jessica's work from home setup

Jessica says she and Max work well together under regular circumstances. The main adjustment now is managing their kids’ schedules since they’re home from school.

“We don’t really even cross each other’s paths unless it’s an urgent matter, or we both happen to be grabbing food from the kitchen at the same time,” Jessica said. “The biggest challenge now with the Coronavirus situation is that we have a 4- and 7-year old home all day. By default, I’m the primary point person to manage their daily schedules, so I’ve had to get creative with my work schedule while ensuring that my husband’s day isn’t distracted too much.”

Having more family time is one of Jessica’s favorite aspects of working from home with her husband.

“We almost never used to eat dinner together as a family, because my husband would often get home beyond a time that was acceptable for my kids – and me! – to eat. We get hangry! But pretty much all this week, we’ve been able to eat dinner together and then play a board game or relax with a movie before the kids’ bedtime.”

Other tips for couples working from home

Take breaks throughout the day

Take at least two, 10-minute breaks during the day plus a longer lunch break. These breaks can give you the boost that you need to power through your days while working at home together. If you prefer some quiet time during these breaks, discuss it with your new at-home coworker to set respectful boundaries for each other.

Don't forget about your health!

Make sure to get up and move around rather than sitting at your desk all day. Aim to walk at least 250 steps per hour. You can easily track your steps with your phone – on iOS, use your Health app. On Android or iOS, you can download Walk with Map My Walk or Runkeeper. Or, you can always use a good old-fashioned pedometer. You could even plan walking breaks together to get some fresh air and share what's going on in your day. Also follow the 20/20/20 rule –  look away from your computer screen every 20 minutes at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. You can set up reminders on your phone, on your computer with the Tomato Timer.

Remember to shut down together

Working from home can cause us to forget that we have a start and end time in the office. Whether we’re working on the clock for an employer, freelancing, or running a business on our own time, it’s important to remember to shut down – physically and mentally – to unplug from work and wind down together at the end of the night.

Feature image credit: Arlene Laboy; all other images courtesy of respective couples