Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Working At Home Part IV

photo by Erica Marshall of Muddyboots.org
I'm not a Doctor, I just play one on my blog.

Yes, this whole topic makes me feel like a shrink, and if you'd ask my clients, they'd say that's pretty much right on. A lot of business issues have an emotional component, but the way our relationships revolve around our work lives is especially touchy. It comes up nearly every day for folks. I, personally have been on both sides of this one. For now, I'm going to keep out the third element which would be kids.

I'm going to take this from two sides of this equation:
The issues of the person working at home:
  • I get interrupted all the time by my Partner (Significant other).
  • I experience most noise as a distraction.
  • I need more flexibility to attend to so many tasks.
  • I need a room of my own.
And now we have the Partner's issues:
  • NO time is a good time for questions.
  • I don't know when they're working or "playing" on the computer.
  • When we are due to be somewhere, I feel like I'm "nagging" to bring it up when we're running late.
  • Partner talks loudly on the phone and walks from room to room.
And then we have both people working at home: Take list A and B and mash them together willy-nilly. Yeah. Pretty.

There is no way around a kind of "couple therapy"approach. Sorry. Both people need to find "rules of engagement" and stick to them. The interruption one is rough for both people. No matter which side you're on, this is going to drive you nuts and create problems elsewhere in your relationship.

The question: "Are you working now?" is not a threat, not a nag, it is simply a way to determine if you can be communicated with at any given moment. Take a breath and say either "Yes" or "No" and then whether it's an okay time to take a question. Just saying: "What??" doesn't work very well. It does not answer the initial question. Neither does muttering under your breath.

Find a language that works for both of you and triggers neither. There are no shortcuts on that one. If you create these channels and rules, you are much less likely to feel nagged and interrupted. That is not to say that big stuff doesn't happen and you'll just have to deal with it. Just like in an office, a call will come in that you really need to deal with and it won't be in the schedule. Your kid or dog needs medical care or the plumbing blows up....life.

If things do come up during the day that are not working for either of you, wait until the work day is over and have a special talk to figure them out. Do not attempt to discuss in the middle of it. Cool down.

That brings me to: Does the work day ever end???

For some people that answer is no. They work with multiple time zones and who knows when it's going to be done for the day. That said, that person also needs how impossible it can be to maintain a relationship in that environment. It's going to require even MORE communication. It's going to mean going to your Partner and saying something like:

Hon, I know we were going to watch this movie together, but I have an urgent call with London. It will take less than an hour. I'd like you to wait for me because I'd still like to spend that time with you. If you don't want to wait, I'll get back to you as soon as this call is over.

Less effective would be:
Hey, I've got this call suddenly, don't know when it'll be over. Sorry.

Less is not more. MORE is more.

It's completely possible to have a great life working at home. It just means that if you don't live alone, you've got to consider the other person or neither of you will be happy. I know I didn't touch on space considerations, but it also comes down to trying different things out. Move around for a while to figure out what will work.

Last word: Just don't remodel your home in the middle of this. Seriously.

1 comment:

  1. ha! As I read this, my husband is walking back and forth in the hallway between our offices talking loudly with his boss on his cell phone! Then he came over and peered into my room through the crack in my door but didn't say anything and then went away.


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