When your partner starts working from home.

This week Frankie Tortora and Steve Folland have a chat in response to a question from graphic artist and designer Rachel Brown. She says:

“I’ve worked from home in one form or another, in both employed and self- employed roles, for five years now. There’s been ups and downs, and I’ve learnt along the way how to manage the work/home balance and what I need to do to keep my wellbeing up (I don’t always follow my advice but at least know the theory by now!). My husband, however, came off furlough last month and is now navigating full time working from home for the first time. I can see him falling foul of many things that I did in the early days of working from home that didn’t create the best balance.

So how can we, as experienced work-from-homers, support our other halves/family members to get used to life outside the office?

ALSO, how on earth do I get used to having a home office buddy who slurps his tea SO LOUDLY and swears at his computer when the internet drops out, because I am NOT DEALING WELL WITH THAT!!!”

• • • • •

This episode is supported by Nutmeg.

Nutmeg offers customers a high-quality investment service at a reduced cost, whether they have £500 or £5 million to invest. Nutmeg now manages over £2bn on behalf of over 80,000 customers, making Nutmeg one of the UK’s fastest growing wealth managers and the fifth largest wealth manager in the UK by customer numbers (Source: PAM Asset Management, January 2019).

[Risk warning: Capital at risk. JISA rules apply]

Take note dear listener! We might swear a bit. This one’s for the parents. To be enjoyed at your desk or once the kiddos are in bed.

Here’s what was said in this episode:

Comments on the previous episode:

[00:01:23] – Frankie
You’re listening to the Doing It For The Kids podcast where we swear a bit too much and talk a bit too fast about freelance life with kids in the mix. I’m Frankie and this is Steve.

[00:01:42] – Steve
Hello! Yes, welcome to another one.

Each week we take a question from the Doing It For the Kids community. Do our best to answer it, but of course we also like your comments as well. Keep them coming in on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram. We haven’t got any comments to read about last week’s episode like we normally do, because we are recording this too soon after it’s gone out, if you see what I mean but that’s just because life is such at the moment that we have to record when we can…

[00:02:07] – Frankie
Also worth noting that we are moving to Tuesdays. We’re aiming for new episodes to go out on Tuesday rather than Thursday. So adjust your body clocks for that!

Our answer to this week's question:

[00:06:48] – Steve
Rachel Brown has been in touch for episode 50. She’s a graphic artist and designer. She is @RachelBrownlowbrown on Instagram and Brownlowbrown designs on Etsy.

Rachel says,

“I’ve worked from home in one form or another, in both employed and self-employed roles for five years now. There’s been ups and downs and I’ve learnt along the way how to manage the work home balance and what I need to do to keep my wellbeing up. I don’t always follow my advice, but at least I know the theory by now. My husband, however, came off furlough last month and is now navigating full-time working from home for the first time. I can see him falling foul of many things that I did in the early days of working from home that didn’t create the best balance. So how can we, as experienced work from homers, support our other halves/ family members to get used to life outside the office? Also, how on earth do I get used to having a home office buddy who slurps his tea so loudly and swears at his computer when the internet drops out? Because I am not dealing well with that.”

The thing is, okay, clearly we’re going to talk about communication and boundaries and stuff. But some people don’t want your advice!

[00:09:16] – Frankie
Yes, this is partly what I was going to say. The politics of this is quite interesting, isn’t it? You want to be helpful and obviously you’ve been doing it a hell of a lot longer than he has. So you do genuinely have ways and means and support and things you can tell him — but does he want to hear it?

[00:09:35] – Steve
Like you can say to somebody when they start working from home — “do you know, you might want to get a laptop stand, or your neck and your arms are really going to hurt? … No? Okay, fine, no that’s fine”. And then three months later, they’re going, “do you know my neck really hurts a lot. Wonder if I need a new pillow?”

[00:09:51] – Frankie
Yeah, but there is an element of, like… Is it better for them to go on their own journey of discovery and come to their own conclusions, to make their own mistakes, rather than, like, us sitting down and going, “right, here are the things that I think you need to do. You need to buy this, you need to buy that. Maybe you should take a break at this time. Maybe you should go for a walk”.

I don’t know. It depends so much on personality, doesn’t it?

[00:10:12] – Steve
It really does. It depends on personality. Depends on your relationship. Like, maybe you have to do it in increments and maybe you have to wait until you spot something broken and then try to help them if they’re going, “oh, I just can’t sleep at night”. And then you’re like, “well, maybe you need to actually stop working at five? You’re still working at eight” or whatever.

[00:10:30] – Frankie
Yeah. Have you read all that advice about talking to your kids about school? So, when they get home from school, rather than being like, “how was your day, dear?” And then-,

*Loud noise*
Oh, shit, is that normal? What’s that?

[00:10:47] – Steve
I’m not going to tell the new people that it’s a fire drill because that way I’ll have to place myself very soon indeed.

[00:10:54] – Frankie
*Noise ends*

What was I talking about?

[00:11:00] – Frankie
Oh, yeah. So, yeah, there’s this advice about talking to your kids about school, right?

So when you pick them up, you don’t go, “how was your day?” Because they don’t know what to tell you because they’re tired and they’re hungry and it’s too broad a question for them to give you any useful response. So you say things like, “today Mummy did this and I had this for lunch”, blah, blah, blah. And you demonstrate how you want to talk about your day and then hopefully they would do the same to you.
They learn through how you communicate about it.

I’m not saying you want to do that with your husband, but what I mean is, like…

[00:11:30] – Steve
“Today Rachel had this for lunch”.

[00:11:32] – Frankie
But no, you could be more like, “oh, today I’m really struggling with this part of working from home. Do you know what? I really need to take a break. Do you want a cup of tea?”

Like, leading by example, I suppose?

[00:11:44] – Steve
Yes. You could go, “don’t you just find that you really need to take a break around 2pm?” and you can ask him, “have you done any good colouring in today?” I mean, to be fair for Rachel, she probably has.

So that’s one part of this question. The other part involves noisy tea slurping and swearing at the computer.

[00:12:06] – Frankie
I mean, I’m the one that swears at the computer in my house, but-,

[00:12:11] – Steve
Okay, well, as far as noisy tea slurping goes, maybe you just need to get some noise-canceling headphones?

[00:12:17] – Frankie
This is the first thing I was going to say. Whatever the scenario, noise-canceling headphones — just do it. Or if not, headphones with one of those white noise apps? Works for the babies, works for you. It genuinely blocks stuff out.

[00:12:31] – Steve
I remember quite early on in lockdown, there was this idea where you create a fictional coworker?

[00:12:38] – Frankie

[00:12:39] – Steve
So let’s say there’s you and your partner in the house, then you create a fictional coworker. Let’s call him Nigel. Right.

Nigel is the person who forgets to put their mug into the dishwasher…

[00:12:54.] – Frankie
Ooof, Nige mate, sort it out.

[00:12:56] – Steve
Nigel is the one who left his plate in the lounge. Nigel is the one who didn’t put paper back into the printer when the printer ran out…

[00:13:04] – Frankie
Oh, I like this plan. This is a great plan!

[00:13:07] – Steve
So the two of you can sort of air your frustration… “For God’s sake, Nigel didn’t put his cup in the dishwasher again!” And then your partner, knowing full well it was them, goes, “Nigel, he’s such a loser”. And so it becomes a thing where you can share it, but you’re not just nagging them.

[00:13:24] – Frankie
Yeah, nice.

[00:13:24] – Steve
And it becomes a bit of a joke, but equally, you’re still getting a point across. It’s a bit like having an alternative persona for your drunk self.

[00:13:32] – Frankie
Oh, my God, I need one of them.

[00:13:35] – Steve
What would be your one?

[00:13:36] – Frankie

[00:13:38] – Steve
Franque. Oh, I see. Yeah.

Franque really should learn when to stop and know better.

[00:13:43] – Frankie
She really needs to flush the toilet when she comes home pissed.

[00:13:47] – Steve
And where the hell did drunk Franque hide the electric toothbrush? Because I can’t find it.

[00:13:53] – Frankie
And yeah, good point about, like, recognising your own annoying habits and whatever else.

Also, we are the ones that are used to working from home on our own without anybody having to put up with us! So we’ve probably fallen into some stuff that is highly irritating to our new home based coworkers who happen to be our partners. Like I definitely — I’m sure we’ve had a chat about this — but I type really aggressively. I like to tap tap tap tap which, when you’re sat next to somebody else for, you know, 6 to 8 hours a day, is really irritating! But when it’s just me, it’s fine.

There’s also now the option that lockdown isn’t as extreme, you can go to, like, a cafe or go somewhere and go to a different place.

[00:14:40] – Steve
I was going to say that would be my thing. Being able to go into a cowork space — if you can get to one near you, particularly without going on public transport — is a winner. And it might be that you spend two days in the cowork space and then they spend two days in the cowork space. And maybe you only have one day where you’re both at home.

[00:14:59] – Frankie
But even like… there’s a cafe downstairs from us that would normally be full of families and kids during the day eating pancakes or whatever, but she’s decided not to do that and it’s only doing takeaway food instead. But the cafe is now open to people who want to cowork, so they come in with their laptops and pay for a session.

[00:15:17] – Steve
That is clever.

[00:15:17] – Frankie
Yeah. So while there might not be an official coworking space near you, there might be that kind of ad hoc set up that you don’t know about because people are having to pivot frankly. She’s making a bit of income and it gives people space away from their — particularly in London — away from their cramped living environments to do some work.

[00:15:33] – Steve
Yeah. Like our house. We don’t even have a room in which to have a desk. Like, you know, our desk is the kitchen table or the dining table in the dining room. The dining room is literally next to the kitchen and the lounge, you’re right in the middle of it. So it’s erm-,

[00:15:51] – Frankie

[00:15:52] – Steve
Yeah, it is. And especially if you feel like they have a ‘proper’ job and deserve to have that space, and because of what you do is slightly different, you kind of feel like, “oh, well, I can kind of do this on my lap or somewhere else”.

[00:16:05] – Frankie
That’s a really good point, though. The ‘proper job’ in inverted commas. I definitely see it in Rob. I imagine it’s the same with lots of other people. They’re working from home, but they feel so under pressure to be seen to be working by their employer all the time that they just burn out, like, hard.

[00:16:22] – Steve
Yeah. And especially when people are just feeling lucky to have a job.

[00:16:26] – Frankie
Yes, absolutely. I think the… I mean, we’re all at risk of burnout, I said it last week. But I do think when you have that added pressure of the all seeing eyes watching you and you’re feeling like your job is at risk at any level, that’s really stressful. And therefore you might push on through. And I imagine it’s quite easy to fall into really bad habits if you have this feeling that you’ve got to be seen. You don’t want to be the next person at risk of redundancy. You don’t want to be criticised for not getting as much done from home, blah, blah, blah.

Maybe it’s worth having a conversation about that and just being like, “it’s okay to sit down and not to work for ten minutes a day”.

[00:17:04] – Steve
Maybe turn the WiFi off.

[00:17:05] – Frankie
Oh, that’s a good shout. If he’s really running himself into the ground and he doesn’t want to listen, that’s one way, isn’t it?

But little things like, again, I see it in Rob… He just doesn’t drink any water!!

[00:17:17] – Steve
Oh, good God. What?

[00:17:18] – Frankie
And then he gets to, like, 4pm and he’s got a headache, and I’m like, “well, maybe you need to consume some liquid? It’s time for a break, Rob”. Yeah, he’s literally walked in now…!

Steve says you need to drink some water!

What would your advice be?

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