Becca's guide to keeping the peace

“I don’t know how you do it, I’d kill my other half if we worked together”

Over the last 13 years, Andrew and I have had so many conversations with people who can’t understand how we can possibly work so closely all day, every day, and still maintain a healthy relationship.

Now that home working has become the new norm overnight, many of you are reaching out asking for help and advice. Common theme: how do we get through this without shoving the other persons face through their computer screen?!!

In the workplace, our inner dialogue is kept in check by the formality of the work setting and HR policies. But at home with our partner, this is not the case. Ever heard the term “over familiarity breeds contempt”?

So, as a woman who has worked with her other half for over 11 years (and mainly at the same desk) here is my guide to creating a harmonious environment when working closely with your partner. Feel free to substitute ‘partner’ for flatmate or friend if that’s more appropriate for your situation.

You gotta hold the frame

"this is my dance space, this is your dance space". We all know the famous line from Dirty Dancing, right?

We don’t all have the luxury of space in our homes but giving each other designated work areas really helps. I’d imagine most people will be working in the same room, or maybe sharing a desk. Mapping out the space you each need is really important – you might find that one person needs a lot less desk space but more freedom to make calls/video conference.

Getting that right from the start makes the whole process a lot easier. If you both have roles which require you to be on video/calls regularly, setting you work spaces apart can really help. Tensions tend to build if you’re both on calls at the same time…"HOW LOUD DOES HE NEED TO TALK??"

Having designated space also gives you the freedom to work uninterrupted, which is important for all of us. We all know how frustrating it is when you’re interrupted in the middle of an important task which requires your full concentration. And if you’re anything like me, your partner isn’t going to receive the same politically correct response that your co-worker does!

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Changing faces

As a recruiter, it’s in my nature to ask people what they do for a living. I know many couples who’ve been together for years and have no idea what their other half does for a living. When I ask, I often hear “erm…an Engineer of some sort”?!

You need to remember that your significant other has a life outside your little bubble; they might be a very different person in the workplace. I know many people who are more dominant at work, especially if they’re in senior or managerial positions. Whereas others are more passive in the workplace and tend to be more relaxed than they are at home.

This can be uncomfortable for you to witness, but it’s important to remember that most people wear several hats. Just think of it like the first time you met a teacher outside of school and realised that they were a real person too. Or the time you met that really scary and imposing client outside of work, in his jeans, at Hoodles, wooshing down the slide with his toddler.

The politics of the workplace thermostat

If you’ve ever worked in an office, you’ll know EXACTLY what I’m on about. Someone is always freezing, someone is always roasting. Someone wants the radio on, someone wants the radio off.

Again, if you’re working in separate areas of the house this is less of an issue, but if you like listening to loud music while you’re working, be mindful of your partner – the last thing you want is for your Partner's work colleagues to hear your thrash metal in the background during their Zoom call.

I’d imagine most people will be working in close proximity so my advice is to talk about it logically. If you like working with music in the background but your Partner has a call or an important task which requires full concentration, stick some earbuds in. When it comes to temperature, if like me you’re always freezing put on the kettle and whack a cardi on!

Think of the environment and your gas bill if you’re going to be in all day every day for the next goodness knows how long.

Remember what Elsa said


I cannot stress this one highly enough. Do NOT interfere.

Over the course of however long this lockdown takes, you absolutely will have an opinion on what your partner is doing, how they are doing it, and even how they’re communicating.

Take a deep breath and let it go. Even if they’re being an arse!

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You were born with two ears and one mouth for a reason

Like the point above, this is a biggy. Don’t invalidate your partner’s concerns.

If you know me you’ll know I’m a professional worrier, and Andrew is usually more level headed and calm.

During the last fortnight, we’ve completely switched; I’m remaining quite calm (which to be honest, is worrying me a wee bit) and Andrew is shouldering the brunt of the worry in our household.

Over the years I’m sure it’s been easy for Andrew to dismiss my natural state of constant concern, and that’s often led to frustration on both sides. Don’t worry, we always talk it out.

In these unprecedented times, it’s really important to listen to each others concerns, and address them together. Sometimes that’s as simple as just saying “I know this sucks and it’s hard right now. Is there anything I can do to help?”

Working as a unit

We’ve been thrown into this new norm overnight and many of us have conflicting commitments with children and/or elderly parents to consider.

It’s not going to be easy. In fact, I need to be honest and say it’s probably going to be really bloody hard for most people, at least for the first few weeks until they work out a new routine.

I’m very lucky; Andrew and I have always worked as a unit both in work and at home and I know that this isn’t the case for many of you reading this today. But in this challenging time, it’s more important than ever to really pull together and try to make the very best of the situation we’re in.

My advice – rather than dividing up work and home time as you normally would, put all your tasks together and make a plan from there. Try to think about making your life as efficient as possible. Look at all of the little ways that you could be using your time better.

From the conversations I’ve been having with many of you over the last week, lots of employers are open to people working split shifts. I’ll give you an example - friends of ours have both recently started new jobs and they have two young kids at home. He's full time, she's part time.

After speaking with their employers they’ve worked out a great routine which allows both of them to be 100% effective. It roughly works like this:

7:00 - 9:30 - Dad works and Mum has the kids

9:30 - 12:00 - Mum works, Dad has kids

12:00 - 1:00 - Lunch as a family

1:00 - 5:00 - Dad works, Mum has kids

5:00 - 7:30 - Family time

7:30 onwards - both work as needed, if not it's down time for them both

And do you know what; our friends are getting through more work and working less hours because they don’t have constant interruptions and have created dedicated work time. Splitting it up like this means that when they’re working, they can be fully dedicated to the task in hand, safe in the knowledge that their children are safe and looked after.

I know that not all employers are flexible, and many of us need to take calls during the day. But there are so many ways this can be split, it’s just about finding what works for you and your family.

Patience is a virtue...right?

There’s no getting away from it, we’re in this for the long haul.

Try to be patient with yourself and with your partner, because at the end of the day the most important thing is that we all make it through this.

Best of luck and stay safe!