Communications Tips If You Have Other Remote Workers in Your Household
Until the onset of the pandemic, it was much less likely for remote workers to work in proximity to family members or housemates. Now, people around the world find themselves working right alongside their partners, roommates, and other family members who are also WFH.
If you’re working remotely in isolation at home or in a coffee shop among strangers, it’s often much easier to focus than if you’re surrounded by family members or friends.
Working at the same table as your spouse, for example, can mean that your work time is frequently interrupted by conversations about lunch, the kids, your retirement account, lunch, whose turn it is to vacuum, lunch, what have you.
As I have written in previous posts, I am a fan of working intensively during work time in order to reserve more time for other activities. In my experience, it’s best to hold off on most non-work conversations for a time when I’m fully focused on them.
Too close for comfort over here?
Luckily, after five years of working remotely together, my husband and I have a tried-and-true method of communication that prevented us from interrupting each other during the day. Here’s the secret.
Whatever method of communication you would use if you were both at an office, at whatever frequency–maintain that while working remotely together.
In other words, if you would normally text your partner or roommate 10 times at day from your office, then text them 10 times a day while working from home with them. As in, literally pick up the phone and text them like you would at an office if you have something to say.
My husband and I send messages via Google Chat. We’re both usually logged into our Gmails, and we both have the option to ignore each other if necessary. We tend to send 10-15 messages during the day. So, that’s how we communicate during the day now that we work from home, and that’s how we’ve done if for years. Even if we’re sitting at the same table, we usually communicate via Google Chat.
Why would you text someone who is literally a few feet from you?
I swear by this practice for two reasons. First, as I said, this kind of communication really allows you to focus more completely on your work, which means you can work better and therefore reserve more time with your family and friends.
The second and perhaps less obvious reason for using this communication method has to do with maintaining healthy relationships. As many people are starting to realize, seeing your partner or roommate, dressed in sweats while noshing on snacks, for 24 hours a day for days on end can really do a number on your relationship. Space, in my experience, is good for fostering respect, reciprocal curiosity, and affection. Sweatpants? Not so much.
Communicating as if you were in an office really helps create a necessary illusion of space.
Now after telling you exactly why I think this remote work communication practice is a good one, let me offer two caveats.
This is much harder if you have children in your remote-work space. If you do, the best way to continue following this communication style is to establish rules for who is on kid duty, and make sure that you do not need to rehash these rules on a daily basis. Even then, there’s going to be more talking than if children weren’t around. Let it happen – but still strive to respect each other’s work space.
Last, if you and your fellow remote workers both have a lunch break, it’s worth trying to sync those breaks so that you can experience one of the great benefits of working from home: lunch with your housemates or family members on the reg.