Working Side by Side
Working remotely and working side by side is a trend that has been growing in the last 5 years, but this year in 2020, it has become a reality for almost 75% of the population. Working remotely was preferred by some, but now forced upon many with the added challenge of working side by side with other family members and roommates. And predictions are that the percentages will stay up for at least awhile longer. How do you adjust? (see: Being Proactive vs. Reactive)
My husband Greg and I have offices right next to each other in our home. It’s been this way since Greg started his financial service business, which has been quite a few years ago. We have experienced times of adjustment, but our arrangement has ended up working very well for us. We will focus on 4 areas here that have helped us continue working side by side by respecting each other’s space and communicating often.
One: Respecting Space
This can be a hot spot for many, but as you adjust, it will be important to set some boundaries you can agree upon. The main issue I want to emphasize here is respect. When working remotely, you will have meetings to coordinate, both in person and virtually. In our case, I also scheduled music rehearsals and recording sessions in my office.
Both Greg and I respected each other, but that took a little different form when our work spaces coincided. We had to shift our priorities accordingly and it wasn’t always perfect. We learned to prioritize schedules, especially around the one who was paying more of the bills. When more of my time was taken shuffling kids around, Greg spent the priority of his time in his office and I gave him priority with the space and quiet he needed.
Communication became extremely important as we focused on coordinating and claiming what was ours. It’s easy to get into the habit of hurling at each other, especially working so closely with a spouse or significant other. An attitude of flexibility as well as starting conversations with, Can we talk about the issue of... was very helpful. Focus on the issue, not just your personal rights. (see: Different Communication Styles)
Two: Closed Door Policy
As Greg and I both kept assistants working in our offices, it became important to create a closed door policy. Our offices are separate from the house, but there’s one outside entrance and that door is through my office. We then have a door between our offices. Greg’s business required more privacy because of financial compliance so we had to communicate about this often.
If I was scheduling a rehearsal or session, I could schedule those later in the day if needed. Even with a closed door, it is difficult to have music going in the adjoining room when you are working on a project that takes intense concentration. If you have issues communicating schedules and flexing from time to time, you may want to stay away from working side by side!
However, it can work for most if you are committed to the process and focusing first on the issue of respect. I have been recording podcasts and other training on the Zoom platform in my office these past months so I give Greg a head’s up on my schedule. I also have a simple sign I tape on the outside door that I’m recording. This has worked well for us and saves misunderstanding and frustration!
Three: Taking Breaks
When you work, play and live in the same place, you have to take small breaks! I tend to put my head down and work through projects, but take small breaks, usually every 30 min. if concentrating intensely. Getting outside, taking a short bike ride, walking and trimming some our plants provides the needed diversion.
Since I’m very project-oriented, this works well for me. Greg is a bit different. He needs solid time alone to execute and think. This means he’s not going to break up his time as often as it’s not as concentrated on one single project. (see: When a Type A Personality Marries a Type B)
Understanding how we each work differently helped us communicate what we needed. Greg could close his door for hours and I wasn’t offended that he hadn’t spoken to me! One word of caution here. Some will be tempted to eat every time there’s a small break. This can be quite detrimental in the long-run! Schedule your eating and plan your snacks. I keep 100 calorie protein bars on hand as well as plenty of fruit and calorie-free drinks.
Four: Shut Down the Day
It’s easy for some to quit working if their office is easily accessible in a home. When our ancestors used lanterns and candles for their lights, it was not as difficult to close it down when darkness fell. If you worked on the farm, you started at daylight and ended at dusk. Most farmers still do this.
It’s different today with our options of electricity and internet that’s available 24 hours a day. Starting later and working later works, but when working side by side, learning how to shut off the brain to get a good night’s sleep can be a challenge!
Greg and I love the flexibility to go back to our offices after dinner, but if we do, we don’t spend time later in the day on problem solving. For me, that means I won’t be writing musical scores or composing before bed unless I want to dream about music all night. That may sound wonderful to you, but it creates a sleepless night! In the same way, Greg doesn’t work on financial principles or writing an opinion piece later in the day.
What Will Work for You?
As working side by side has been forced upon so many with the Coronavirus shutdown, a central focus on good communication and respect will go far in making the road smoother. And who knows? You may be one of the growing number of people who decide to make working remote, side by side, a permanent situation! (see: Enjoy the Journey)
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