Of all the random things that I know a lot about, it’s probably how to successfully work with your spouse. And yet it’s been the hardest post to write. Not sure why but the words have not been flowing in the old command center. Can I blame this lack of focus on the pandemic? I think from now on we can just blame everything on corona.
Focus, Kendi. Okay so B and I (or BUH-RYAN for those who watch my IG stories. If you know, you know.) have worked together in business for 9 years. The first 5 were at our retail store, the last 4 years have been strictly at home and then with a baby thrown in the mix about 2 years ago. Now we’ve been married 12 years, so the majority of our marriage has been working together. So what I’m saying is I am an expert at how to annoy my husband at all hours of the day. I’ve got a masters degree in pushing buttons. But what I’m really saying is that we’ve figured out how to not kill each other, get shit done, and still find peace in our home at the end of the day. And I want to say it IS possible. You’ve just got to figure it out a bit.
*I want to to take this time to say if you are finding yourself working from home with your spouse, kids, pets, piles, mess, stress and everything else, GIVE YOURSELF SOME GRACE. It took us years to figure out our work from home stride and I’m not saying it will take you as long, but it does take some time to rearrange your brain and find new habits. Be gracious and give yourself, your spouse, your kids some patience. You can do this!*
The first two in this list are some of the most important according to me and since this is MY list, I stand by that statement. I don’t care how much you love people, your spouse, your family — you’re going to need personal space at some point or another. Think about it — you and your spouse leave the house in the mornings and most likely drive or commute separately. During this time you’re listening to a podcast, music, etc. You are probably in your own thoughts or you’re still a zombie brain from waking up until you get to work. THIS IS PERSONAL SPACE. Then you get to your desk and it takes a bit for your brain to log on, right? Maybe you read through emails first or grab another cup of coffee, whatever your routine is — THIS IS PERSONAL SPACE. Lunch comes around and maybe you go out with coworkers or you stay in your office and listen to a podcast and eat at your desk. THIS IS PERSONAL SPACE. The commute home is personal space, too. You’re most likely able to process your day in the quiet of the commute and then you are able to be home again. This routine is absolutely needed. But now you are with your spouse 24/7 behind locked doors and it’s hard to find that personal space. But you, both of you , need personal space throughout the day and it has absolutely nothing to do with your love for your spouse. It has to do with that fact that your brain needs it’s own little routine that it likes in order to work and focus. (This idea of personal space is thrown out the door if you have kids. See this post and GODSPEED.)
So how do you do this? Well that’s up to you and your spouse to figure out. You probably have a pretty good idea of what your personal space looks like, but if not try to pay attention to what irks you about your new day or routine. That’s probably where you need a bit more space for yourself. For me, it takes me a minute to get warmed up in general so I don’t jump head first into work. If we need to shoot that day, I take a shower and get ready by myself in the bathroom because this is my personal space. I’ll watch YouTube tutorials or listen to music while getting ready and just generally get lost in my own head; this helps me not be a grumpy garbage person in the morning. And I have to remind B a lot that this is my personal space. And it’s really simple you guys all I have to say is “hey, do you mind if I have some alone time this morning?” It’s nice, it’s to the point and it’s true. We both know what this means and it’s not even code. But if it were a code it would mean this: I like you, I love you and I need some space. We both understand that request and we both respect it.
For Bryan, I know that he needs to drink his whole cup of coffee before he even begins to talk business or work. That’s his personal space. If we both do this, we are better off for the day. We can talk to each other without losing our shit because we were able to take some personal time to get our brains up to speed. Those are just quick examples but as you can tell — it’s simple. Just pay attention to when you start feeling like you want some room or when you are starting to really think or zone in on something and it is interrupted by your spouse just being ‘weekend’ with you. (I’ll get to this later.) Again it doesn’t have to be rude, but it does need to be clear and you both need to understand the need for a normal routine that involves personal space throughout the day.
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
WFH Law #2: COMMUNICATE. I definitely hit on this point above but I will say this like any good marriage therapist: COMMUNICATE, YOU IDIOTS. (I’m yelling at past, present and future versions of Bryan and Kendi, not you.) Now this is hard because you need to first understand what you yourself needs. That can be kinda tricky to figure out and then you need to figure out how to communicate this. I have found that the best way for me to communicate something to Bryan is to be kind, direct and simple. Not because he is simple, but because working together can create a lot of stress and being simple with your communication or requests can alleviate that complexity of the situation. Quick example that is completely random and made up and does not hit home AT ALL: If you need him to stop tapping on the desk because apparently he is a desk drummer, don’t throw your shoe at his head. Don’t go over and ugly glare at him till he stops although this DOES work. Just simply say ‘hey I don’t know if you know that you do this, but it’s hard for me to concentrate when you tap your fingers on the desk.’ Most of the time the person drumming doesn’t know they are doing this and probably don’t mind stopping. Annoying habits are hard to see, so be nice about it but direct. Again this was a silly example, but a legitimate one if you are married to a hardcore drummer boy.
Most likely what is bothering right now isn’t the finger drumming, but the same rules apply even to the bigger issues. Be kind and direct. Talk to your spouse in the same way you would a co-worker, if you wouldn’t drag personal shit into a simple request then don’t do it now. (Looking at you, Karen.)
On the flip side, if you are feeling feels and need to talk to your spouse, let them know. Talk to them about how you are feeling and ask them as well. You are now with your spouse at all times so you can’t really escape from any issues you guys are having. Trust me — ignoring it makes it louder. Communication includes it all — needs, wants, feelings, the hot goss from your Facebook feed. It also includes listening, not just talking. Just be sure you and your spouse are on the same page each day at the end of the day, I promise you it makes the next day easier to get things done.
Want to know a fun fact? B and I miscommunicate on the daily. We run the same businesses, we know the same people, have worked together for a decade AND WE STILL CROSS THE WRONG WIRES. It could be not giving enough detail or information or maybe we are just not seeing eye to eye. But one day in one of our miscommunications, B said to me: we are on the same team. That cleared up a lot of things for me. Miscommunication aside, we were on the same team and want the same result. And so are you and your spouse. Remember at the end of the day, you are on the same team and you want the same thing and you both want each other to succeed, so you are both probably willing to rearrange or help the other if they need help. If you approach your day and the way you communicate with this in mind it makes the harder issues a lot more peaceful when you have to has them out.
Also: miscommunication happens a lot more when you are in the house together constantly. It’s okay if you feel more stressed out in this time, that’s very normal. It’s also very normal when you are feeling stressed to have more riffs with those around you. This is all new to you and you most likely didn’t choose to WFH. Give it all time and patience and the same to those around you.
If at all possible, try to have specific office spaces or places for you and for your husband. This could even mean he takes one end of the table and you take the other. Separate if you need to work at the same time, and make sure that your desk / table is left to the assigned person only. Meaning don’t go rummaging through each others stuff. Is there anything worse than when someone goes through the stuff on your desk? Nope there isn’t. If you are able to designate specific rooms or areas that you can leave as an office area, that is great for this temporary working at home situation. If you have kids and you are taking ‘shifts’ in your work day, you could even share your office if you’re lucky enough to have one! But even so, leave your stuff and his stuff alone. As much as you may want to organize his stuff, don’t. Let the office be the office for now, even if it once was your lovely dining room table. (Everything can go back to it’s original space once this time is over!) Also if you are missing your desk setup or want some organization, I’ve linked a few things I’ve found that I love! I love this wooden desk organizer or this new acrylic line at Target!
One note: unless the only space in your house that you have is the bed or couch, I would suggest keeping these two things as separated from work as possible. Not that I don’t want you to be comfy, I do! But for a few reasons. One reason is that if you two are both on the couch….and the remote is right there…then a binged season of your favorite show isn’t far behind. It’s VERY hard to focus with your spouse on the couch and I do not mean that in a funny way. I just mean it’s hard because it feels like Friday night, it feels like holiday, it feels fun! It doesn’t feel like work and your brain knows that. If you can, try to sit up at a desk or table and get your work done, THEN get to that couch. Which leads me to my next point, let your couch be your break. Your couch is a sacred place, my friends. Let it be the place you go AFTER work. We don’t have many options right now, right? If you used to go out to dinner or happy hour or to the gym after work and you can’t right now, well then let me tell you— that couch starts to look real inviting after working all day. Let that be your happy hour. 🙂
As well as having specific office spaces for you and your spouse, have working hours! And guess what — they don’t have to be the same! Maybe you get up early and get shit done and maybe he is a bit slower, great! Just make sure that you communicate your schedule to each other and you both can ‘meet up’ after work for dinner and some couch time. There needs to be a definite stopping each day of work or your whole house will start to feel like the office and you can’t get away from it. Also, I said this in another work from home post but remember — you spend a lot of your day community, going to meetings, talking to coworkers, etc. You can probably get a lot of work done in fewer hours, so if you are finding you are done by 3, then that’s your day! Enjoy some down time on that oasis that is your couch now. We’ve named ours Tulum. We love going to Tulum for happy hour. So international, so Posh.
Headphones = Personal Island
This is probably a no brainer but I’l throw it in there. Get you some headphones and same for your partner. If you can get noise cancelling even better. Bryan is a loud typer and I’m easily annoyed. Guess what helps? Noise cancelling headphones. Sometimes the neighborhood kids are loud, sometimes B is on the phone, sometimes he talks to himself, sometimes our dog barks for no reason. Etcetera etcetera etcetera. But you can block all that out with sweet, sweet headphones. And if you close your eyes, it’s almost like you are at a sticky Starbucks again. Ahhh, the good ol’ days. (I use regular AirPods most days but I have a pair of Bose Noise Cancelling on the heavy days. I *Want* the new AirPods but a gal can dream, right?)
Weekday vs Weekend
One thing that B and I had to figure out was who we were on the weekend vs who we are in the weekdays. Even this new schedule has thrown us for a loop, even though we work from home already. What I mean by this is that you probably have a very different schedule and attitude on the weekends vs the weekdays. For instance, on weekdays I try to be up and going by 8. On the weekends, it’s doesn’t really matter. We could lay in bed all morning and it really doesn’t matter. But during the week it does. Same with attitudes, I need a bit of a stricter attitude with myself and work during the weekdays, so I make sure to get up, get ready as I do for work. But on the weekends I look like a goblin queen and no one cares. I’m also very very unproductive and lazy. There IS a correlation there and I do not want to hear otherwise. Goblin queens are NOT known for productivity. But they are really fun at parties.
So figure out your ‘weekend approach’ to each other vs your weekday. I’m a bit more direct and to the point during the workday’s working hours vs Saturday morning with nothing to do. It’s okay to feel that difference because it will be the most helpful in making sure you and your husband on are on the same page. Unless you guys don’t need to be productive at work right now then let me tell you — every day can be Saturday if you want it to be lol.
Ignore the Big House Projects
Seriously. This is actually not slob kabob Kendi talking, this is smart, type-A Kendi telling you this. Unless you’ve figure out you can get your work done quickly and you have a lot of extra time, try not to start house projects that will last longer than an hour or so during the week. You will end up making a bigger mess that will distract you from work until you finish it. If you want to be focused and productive, keep those house projects at bay until the weekend.
Keep Your House Clean
I hate to say it but it’s true: order creates order. If our house is picked up, I feel 100% less stressed. It is magical. The only thing about it is that you have to pick it up to feel this way. Womp-womp. But the good news is you have a lot of helpers now at home that can help! If you need help doing something, ask! But try to keep your space as clean as possible and it really, really helps keep the stress down for everyone. Lately I’ve been cleaning up after Gemma goes to bed OR B will do the bath and I can do a quick pickup / sweep. And by quick I mean like 30 minutes. Slob kabob’s don’t notice time until it comes to cleaning and then minutes feel like hours. BUT it feels a million times better when we wake in the morning. And not stepping on tiny toys is always a win.
Switch off Work Mode, Activate Home Mode
Once you finish your work day, try as best to turn it off. Or switch onto Home Mode as we call it. That doesn’t mean you can’t decompress the day with your spouse, that just means that you don’t want to continue to work. Seriously. CLOSE YOUR COMPUTER. You will quickly discover that work could be endless. You *can* answer emails at all times of the day and night but why would you if it just drains you and throws your work-life balance out of whack? Draw your boundaries and stick to them. I’m serious, close your computer.
What’s Your Number?
This may seem left field and you know what? It is. BUT it’s relevant. I’m talking about the Enneagram. If you haven’t read up on Enneagram numbers, then this is a great time to start. Basically it’s 9 different numbers of the Enneagram that are essentially personality types but go a bit further into what motivates you, where you go in stress and in health and it is SO helpful in figuring out yourself and your spouse. I am a 3 (the achiever) and B is a 7 (the enthusiast) and it felt a door open when I read on both of these numbers. It wasn’t that I learned more about myself or B, it was that it made everything become a lot more clear. The best book on assessment I’ve found on it is the Road Back to You ( I suggest the actual book over the audiobook only because it has a really great testing / quiz section and that’s hard to do with an audio book). I also love Enneagram and Coffee and NineTypesCo instagram feeds. Of course the Enneagram Institute is the holy grail of resources but I find their site a bit hard to navigate.
The other thing to figure out is if you are an extrovert or introvert, if you haven’t yet. You probably have but just in case, figure out how you are re-energized. It’s simple — are you energized or drained by being around people? If you are energized, you are most likely an extrovert. If you are drained, you are most likely an introvert. I am an introvert and B is an extrovert. Both are struggling right now because B wants to be with all the people and I want to be completely alone — neither of us can have our way. So we try to make the best of the situation. For me, I HAVE to have some type of alone time in the day. For me it’s usually when Gemma naps. I can work during this time and just being quiet and to myself energizes me. For B, I know he needs interaction a lot more than me and I try to make it fun. I can’t quite emulate to energy of a crowd, but I can try. I’ve also noticed that we feed off each other’s vibes and energy a lot more lately. If I’m grumpy, it carries over to B and Gems. So if I’m feeling grumpy because I’ve been around everyone for a long time I don’t mask it; instead I try my best to isolate for a bit, reenergize and come back with a better attitude. It’s basically what we tell toddlers to do — take a time out, get your feelings out and come back with a better way. If B is feeling sad because he HASN’T been with enough people, I try to turn music on, open the windows and get the sunshine in and make it feel like a party. A beer doesn’t hurt either. 😉
As I said before, you’re on the same team. Help your team mate out if you see they aren’t their best selves, there is always a reason why.
Surely you’ve seen that tweet by now that says to blame your made up co-worker when things go wrong in the house. E.g. Carole is SUCH a slob and left all of her clean laundry everywhere without folding it. UGH CAROLE. 😉
Those are my best tips for working at home with your spouse! Basically: keep and give personal space, communicate clearly, make space for your work, leave his shit alone, use headphones and ignore that project you’ve been wanting to tackle for months now. Oh and Carole is the worst, amirite?
Feel free to leave your WFH tips below, too! Long-form preferable 😉