I’ve always marvelled at couples who work together, particularly those in offices. How they seem to be able to halt whatever mundane argument is currently at the top of the agenda for the duration they’re at their desks; how they’re able to overcome the cringe of hearing each other use their fancy phone voice; how they can keep a straight face when one of them is so clearly bluffing their way through a meeting.
I’m sure there are upsides to working with your beloved (there’s always someone to buy you lunch if you forget your wallet?), but I would struggle with the idea that they’re always just… there. A teacher friend who, for a time, worked in the same school as her teacher boyfriend (now husband) once told me that the only time they were apart from each other was when they were asleep. I remember looking at her boyfriend in disbelief as he slowly, wordlessly, nodded. His face has haunted me ever since.
And so I’m grateful that not only do my boyfriend and I work apart, but in different industries too. Every day, for at least eight, blissful hours we have nothing to do with each other. In the evening, we might politely enquire about each other’s jobs, maybe dropping in the odd name we can remember to prove that, yes, actually, we are listening and we do take an interest. But now, suddenly, we are workmates. As the coronavirus pandemic forces offices around the world to move to remote working, many of us are finding ourselves peering over the top of our laptops at our boyfriend/girlfriend/partner/spouse. And the question is: Are we prepared?
What do you do when the person you thought you were closest to in the world turns out to be someone who listens to “atmospheric music” when they’re working? Or is an angry typer? Or says the phrase “going forward” without a second thought?
If there’s one thing we can be certain of during these hideously unsettled days, it’s that we’re about to learn a lot about each other – as well as ourselves. If you want to emerge from this together (and not like one of the 88 Chinese couples who reportedly came out of quarantine and immediately filed for divorce) then here are some guidelines for co-working with your co-habitee.
Offer regular refreshments
Remember: everyone likes being made a cup of tea, even if they don’t actually want one. And while you wait for the kettle to boil, you can silently scream into the fridge.
Get dressed. Properly
Shower, get dressed, make an inch more effort than you would if you were working from home completely alone. Nobody wants to see (or smell) the same T-shirt three days on the trot.
Now you’re in the confines of your own home with someone you are in a consensual relationship with: go forth! And who knows, lunchtimes might be more exciting because of it.
Veto conference call high jinks
You have one, repeat one, go at mimicking the kid who walked in during her dad’s interview about South Korea on BBC News while your other half’s on a Zoom call. Get it out of the way now and make it count. After that, no silliness should be tolerated. Trying to distract your boyfriend with a one-person hokey cokey while they are on an important call with their boss will age very quickly. Don’t ask me how I know.
Insist on after-work drinks
We might be in self-isolation, but that doesn’t mean the sacred ritual of the after-work drink should suffer. Indeed, what better way to mark the end of ‘work’ and the beginning of ‘fun’ than a poorly mixed G&T at 6pm? Be the first to offer to “get a round in” and if things get out of hand, be safe in the knowledge that you’ve only embarrassed yourself in front of your partner. And when you sit back down at your computer the following morning, full of regret, they’ll just give you a loving look that lets you know they’ve seen it all before.
Just because you’re now both at home during the day does not mean that 11am on a Wednesday is an appropriate time to suggest you start laying a patio.
Respect each other’s working hours
If you’re lucky enough to clock off at 4pm, maybe refrain from putting on Cash in the Attic while your partner’s still working in the same room. It’s just not fair.
From British Vogue