Roses, a clean house and a home cooked meal of steak, shrimp, broccoli and potatoes awaited Melissa Haley after her long day at work. With the luxury of working from home, Sam Porter, Account Manager for Berry Global in California, was able to take the time to prepare a nice evening for his fiancé.
In 2016, 22 percent of employed persons did some or all of their work at home, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported.
Working from home can give you more flexibility but can also cause strain in couples that live together. There are no excuses for not emptying the washer because it is three feet away from your office. The expectations can be higher even if you are working just as hard as before.
“Now when I work from home, she knows that I work and knows that I’m really busy,” Porter said. “but she expects me to do the dishes more and the laundry more.”
Four steps to maintain your relationship from home include setting boundaries, having weekly meetings, discussions about the other members of the household and having a screen free zone,
according to Dr. Sara Schwarzbaum, founder and director of Couples Counseling Associates in Illinois.
Set Time Boundaries
When you work from home it becomes challenging to not let your job creep into every other moment of your life. It’s easy to look at the files you were working on earlier or check your email when you hear the familiar ping. Try not to do this and set specific times for work and certain times for home.
One expectation some couples have is a time every night to connect with one another. Dr. Robert Isett, work at home couples counselor and therapist, said for him, dinner time is sacred for his relationship.
“The time to meet with your partner everyday, or close to, is so important as a way of maintaining a connection,” Isett said.
It does not have to always be dinner, but just a little time to appreciate each other without work. Try starting each morning sharing a coffee or maybe saving your favorite television show till they arrive home.
Have Weekly Meetings
Schwarzbaum recommends couples have weekly meetings to establish what is expected of each other while one partner is working from home.
While this may sound formal, it is important to have an atmosphere where each person feels they can be heard without being undermined. The meetings create a habit to listen with an open mind.
Being new to the stay-at-home work life, Porter said he has not had weekly meetings with his fiancé but is open to trying it when issues arise. For now, he does not mind the added household responsibility he has been given since beginning work at home.
Discuss the Presence of Others
When you live with other people, your work schedule affects their life as well. Before jumping into this new life style discuss what could possibly happen to the children or animals that live with you.
Sara Helmerich, Indiana University junior, said having her father work at home was beneficial to her sister and her growing up.
Recalling many memories, Helmerich remembers one where the three of them were playing tag in the house. They were sliding around in socks when she rounded a corner too fast and her dad
slammed into her. At that same moment her mom walked through the door, and was not pleased with what she saw.
Despite her mom’s reaction, Helmerich still laughs about the memory to this day. She said she would never have had the same experiences if she had gone to a daycare.
According to Porter, rearranging his work schedule benefitted their dog’s life as well. Tiger, a miniature dachshund, had a change once Porter began working from home. “It’s like he’s a different dog,” Porter said. “So much more calm, he behaves so much better all the time now.”
When deciding if the children or animals would benefit from you working from home, analyze how much time you think you could give them every day without being distracted by your job. Think if you could eat lunch with them, play outside or go for a walk.
Make a Screen Free Zone
It is so easy to get sucked into the blue light of our devices after getting home from work and school. It has been a whole nine hours since you last checked what new videos are up on Facebook.
For those who work at home though, devices are always at your side. One minute you could be working on a spreadsheet and the next you could be playing Candy Crush.
Jaya Saxena, New York freelance writer, and her husband both work from home. She said when it is after work hours they both try to be up front about what they are doing on their cell phones so they do not slip back into work.
Harmony is Possible Working from Home
Putting the devices down, setting time aside and simply enjoying each other’s company is important for all relationships, but especially when the terms home and work coincide. Knowing when work begins and when work ends can help make your partner still feel you are a member of the relationship and there to participate.
Every couple has issues of their own and working from home should not add to it. Porter has only worked at home for six months and has yet to try all of the advice given by Schwarzbaum but agreed that he would give them a shot as time goes on.