Side-by-side laptops aren’t part of every couple’s ideal work vision.

Coronavirus has already wreaked havoc on life in the U.S., impacting how and where we Americans work. The answer is increasingly, “At home.” But what happens when it’s not just you working at home but your spouse, too? Do sparks fly (and not necessarily the good kind)?

The Challenges of Working at Home Together

It can be hard to intermingle our work lives with our personal relationships, along with the unseen-but-real pressure to get things done. There are many potential pitfalls to navigate, including who takes the dog out, where you each take meetings and phone calls, what happens when you need absolute quiet, and what happens if you are mismatched in terms of your need for people contact. Is your partner imagining “Afternoon Delight” when you’re envisioning an afternoon conference call?

Set Expectations

A good way to defuse potential conflicts is to discuss each of the issues that are likely to come up against and to develop a plan together. This is the time to candidly discuss what you each need to get your work done — not to ruffle feathers — so stick to the facts. Include some nice considerations, too; can you meet for coffee at 10:30 or take a break for lunch at the same time? Making special time for one another can take the sting out of the times when you are in the house but just aren’t available.

If kids are another component of your togetherness (like how I phrased that?!), communication is that much more important. Come up with an agreement for how to handle the child care, chores, and other family responsibilities, given your new normal. It’s not sufficient to default to your old plan now that the context is totally different; using an outdated division of responsibilities is a surefire way to fuel new resentments. Even worse? There’s nowhere to go to cool off when tensions run high.

Need some more tips for working at home? Check out this site called Work at Home Happiness. Want support for your specific situation? Nova Terra Therapy offers online therapy for Virginia residents, whether they work at home or not.

Working at home during the coronavirus crisis doesn’t have to mean non-stop tension. With pre-planning, trouble-shooting, and good communication, you and your spouse can avoid some common pitfalls of working at home together.