Deep Dive: My Girlfriend Is the Loudest Quarantine Coworker I Never Wanted
It’s a whole new world out there thanks to coronavirus. And by “out there,” we mean in your living space as well. If you’re like many of us, you find yourself working from home, possibly with your girlfriend. While at first, this seemed like it would be all fun and games (and sex on demand), several weeks in, you’ve realized that your girlfriend is the loudest quarantine coworker you never wanted. We feel you, but don’t freak and do something impulsive like break up with her just because her phone voice is the most annoying thing you’ve ever heard. Instead, figure out how to make this working at home situation, well, work for you. In this deep dive, we’ll walk you through how to work at home, together, step by step.
Cover Photo: Darren Robb (Getty Images)
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Designate separate working areas.
This is essential to surviving working from home without killing each other. No, you can’t share the dining room table. In an ideal situation, you’ll both have rooms you can retreat to where you can close the door. This is particularly important if either of you makes a lot of phone calls or does videoconferencing during the day.
Think outside the box.
And by “box,” we mean the four walls of your living space. Can one of you work from the picnic table in the backyard for a while? Set up shop in the garage? Take that call while on a walk around the block? Give each other as much space during the workday as possible.
Coordinate your schedules.
When working from home, it’s easy to slip into a lazy schedule, and it might be one that doesn’t coincide with your girlfriend’s. If you don’t set strict hours for yourself, you’ll feel like your workday never ends – and your girlfriend might expect your attention when you’re only halfway through your to-do list. Set an alarm each work day and stick to your schedule as you usually would if you had to show up at an office. Encourage your girlfriend to do the same. In a perfect world, you’ll both be working the same hours so that you can call it quits at the same time, too.
Invest in noise-canceling everything.
Even the quietest among us makes a lot of noise while working in a confined space. Farts, burps, sneezes, bathroom breaks, chewing, sipping, talking, fidgeting -- it's amazing we don’t all cut our ears off like Van Gogh when forced to work together at home. If your girlfriend’s noises are really disrupting your flow, throw some money at the problem and purchase ear plugs, noise-canceling headphones, earmuffs, or whatever other solution you can find to be blissfully unaware of her while you’re working.
Eat lunch together.
Alternate who makes (or orders) lunch so that you don’t have to debate daily about what to eat at midday. Then eat whatever you're provided without complaint. During your lunch, silence devices if you can (or at the very least, set them aside) and enjoy each other’s company.
Have a nooner now and then.
Who knows when you’ll ever be able to do this again. Indulge in a quickie, get rejuvenated, then return to work. No lounging around in your own juices or extended pillow talk.
Save chores for the end of the day.
If you’ve never worked from home before, you probably didn’t anticipate how much you’d be eating and drinking – and therefore soiling dishes – every day. It can be tempting to tackle that full sink of dishes so as to eliminate the evidence of your quarantine binges, but try to save that and any other household chore for the end of the day. Working from home requires a lot of discipline and mental focus; use your energy for work while you have it. Brainless stuff like laundry can be done at the end of the day. Make sure you pitch in just as much as your girlfriend does to avoid resentment. Even better, try to make chore time a bonding time for both of you.
Address issues immediately.
It doesn’t take long for bad will to fester when you’re together 24/7. If something’s really irking you, address it before it blossoms into something bigger. Initiate this conversation when you both have the time, attention, and emotional bandwidth to attend to it, like at the end of the day after a strong drink or a relaxing bath. Don’t introduce a hot topic right before she has to do a Zoom presentation for her boss. Use “I” statements and enlist her help in crafting a solution. “I find it hard to concentrate when you read your emails out loud. How can we remedy this?”
Working from home with your girlfriend can be the pits, but hopefully, this whole quarantine thing is temporary and soon you’ll be kissing each other goodbye in the morning and heading back to your respective workplaces. In the meantime, try to strategize more than you criticize. Remember that you’re seeing a new side of your girlfriend, the working version, and that this should give you tremendous pride, not make you seethe with anger. This, too, shall pass, and if you play your cards right, after quarantine ends, you’ll still have someone to share the new normal with.
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