Work-life Balance as You Both Work From Home – Quick Start

What follows is an excerpt from How to NOT Kill Each Other During Lockdown, which comes out tomorrow.

I’ve gotten feedback showing that in addition to offering a life-changing strategy for those of us enjoying an intimate relationship (as well as for those wanting one!) I should place a “Quick Start” feature at the front, big steps that you can take right now if you find you and your partner working from home during this pandemic, or another crisis situation. I’m happy to share with you, and if you have found something useful that you and your partner do, please share with the group! Just navigate to the “Contact” page and fill in the information. Just as with the Strategies of Intimacy project itself, if you prefer not to be named, I will leave you anonymous. Or if you do want credit, it’s all yours!

This book offers a complete strategy for developing your relationship skills. However, in keeping with the title, one reason for the strategy is to “not kill each other”. Meaning, the need is urgent.

With that in mind, here’s a “Quick Start”—items you can use immediately to ensure you make the best of this challenging situation.

  1. Respect the other’s work. This might seem obvious, but how often do you think to interrupt your spouse at work, when they’re at an office? If it’s important, sure, we might send them a text or even call. But we wouldn’t do it every moment. I was once in a relationship where I shared a workspace with my partner. I was frequently working on actual “work” and during her breaks, she might surf cat videos (which, truth be told, I enjoy) or videos or pictures of small children getting into mischief. It’s her break, so no harm. But she seemed to find it difficult to resist calling out to me, only feet away, saying, “Oh Chris, you have to see this! This is soooo cute!” And it was. But until I brought it up, with respect for her, I wasn’t getting too much of my actual work done.
  2. Set up separate workstations. If you are both employed though working from home, you need a workspace distinctly yours. As we delve into, further in the book, this doesn’t need to be a dedicated office space as many of us never needed a home office before. The key here is that when you need to concentrate, you don’t interfere with one another’s work. The spaces could be, “He takes the kitchen table or the breakfast bar, she takes the dining table,” or vice versa. I know one couple where one of them prefers to work outdoors and, weather permitting, uses the picnic table in their back yard. Obviously, if this is computer-based work, you will need a laptop and reliable wi-fi. If you lack the latter, this may be the time to buy a good wireless router. Message me on my site if you would like recommendations.
  3. Create as much structure and normalcy as possible. Clearly, if you each would otherwise drive to an office and work from there, you have an inherent structure that helps guide your schedule throughout the day. This may be challenging for someone who’s never telecommuted before. It can be doubly challenging to a couple in which one or both partners is in that situation. If work begins at 8, for instance, nothing changes but the length of your commute. If it takes you half an hour to get ready for work, get up at 7, do your morning routine, and give yourself as much time as you require to “get into state”. Additionally, contact me if you need any help with that. Any skilled NLP Trainer or Master Practitioner can assist. Though hardly the only one, I’m a good example of both. Likewise, take your breaks on a schedule, including lunch. If you both feel good about it, do lunch together. The key to this is to treat this no differently than being in a corporate office. The time is real, the work is real, the responsibilities, deliverables, and outcomes are real. This structure helps in many ways, not the least of which is that, when at the office, if something requires that you adjust, no problem, right? Though between couples, such abrupt shifts can lead to conflict and arguments.
  4. Closely related to the above, we tend to be more “at ease” with our partner than with our work colleagues. We might not snap at a coworker for a moment of inconsideration, but we often feel that comfortable with our spouse. Resist that by treating your time “at work” as just that. That isn’t the time to be ill-tempered or short with the one nearest you. That’s a time for taking a breath, asking yourself what it is you want to happen next—a fight? Some quiet? Receiving an opinion? Whatever it may be, make sure you respect that you yourself are at work, and this person beside you is a fellow professional like you, trying to complete a job. Treat them accordingly. And by all mean, behave professionally. You don’t want a run-in with HR, do you…?
  5. Keep sacred the Zoom call… Whether your spouse (or you) are on a call or a video meeting, whether Zoom, Teams, Webex, et al, understand that this is a professional meeting. Treat it with that same respect you would a meeting conducted from the corporate office. That again includes your spouse’s meetings just as much as your own.
  6. If you know that meeting they’re about to attend is a really big deal, maybe they’re doing a presentation of some kind, when they ace it, congratulate them. This is, after all, not just a fellow professional and you’re happy for their success—this person is on your team! Remember to celebrate one another’s successes. This is a bigger deal than it may sound. In the corporate office (or wherever you typically work), it’s easy to get kudos and encouragement from coworkers. They may have been in the same meeting, and afterwards, it’s high-fives and fist-bumps all around. When working from home, these are not as prevalent because most of us still do not think as telecommuters. This is foreign to us, so the etiquette may elude us. Support one another. Offer that support, encouragement, the fist-bumps when your partner has just enjoyed a success. Obviously, if the meeting didn’t go as well as they’d hoped, support them as you would a coworker. Sincerely listen, use what you’ll learn about in the book—sensory acuity—to make sure you really understand, and confirm for them that you’re interested.
  7. When they don’t manage to be perfect…(and hope that they read this as well, so they can apply it to you)…be patient with them. Understand that we are all working to become better together, but that few of us are “already there.” Look at the NLP Presuppositions in Chapter 2 and truly embrace them. They will make this much easier. The one I have in mind right now is “Everyone is doing the best they can with the resources they have at that time.” So true, because if they love you, they likely want to be good to you at all times, loving, patient, supportive, understanding. But in moments of high stress, maybe they’re not dealing with that work deadline as well as they’d hoped, the mental resources they have available for their partner may be strained. Understand this and rather than look for new ways to fight and things to fight about, consider new ways to play and love one another…perhaps erotic games you might enjoy later, after work…? Just a thought.
  8. Indulge in gratitude. This might sound overdone, cliched, something you might have initially overlooked. Don’t. The emotions we focus our attention on most frequently send regular messages to our unconscious minds. You’re going to learn quite a bit about that in the chapters that follow, but for now, understand that where you direct your focus, your mind goes. And where your mind goes, your results follow. Let that sink in. Your results, your outcomes, are directly related to where your mind is focused throughout the day. Obviously, we have the mundane, little things we must do, and while not particularly exciting or salient, they’re non-negotiable. Our unconscious minds can handle much of our feelings on those tasks. Though if you notice that you regularly feel frustrated, angry, hurt, anything related, you are going to program your mind to look for, recognize, truly seek out—as we all like to find a degree of predictability in our day—that which frustrates, angers or hurts us. What a way to live, huh? Instead, notice how an emotion like gratitude just soothes you, bathes you in happiness, contentment, fulfillment. Gratitude is especially powerful among the other positive emotions as it presupposes (yep, we’ll talk more about that, later) that your life is filled with good things. And that’s in general. When you direct gratitude toward your partner, letting them know how much you appreciate them, it can do wonders toward making you both feel good, heal some of those rough spots (like a tough meeting or a presentation that didn’t go so well), and help you both find your time more fulfilling and happy.
  9. This one came from a couple in the Strategies of Intimacy project directly, whereas most of these are distilled from the advice and survey results from that project. Create an imaginary “whipping boy”. One couple in the project was spending the last few years of work before retiring in the telecommuting environment many of us are right now experiencing. They chose it, due to the hassle of a commute downtown to their offices. So they both had home offices and they found that when one of them was distracted, they might become careless or inconsiderate. Tom mentioned leaving a plate of half-eaten food on the couch as he’d been having a snack when a call came in. He left it there, forgetting about it, until Cimmaran, his wife, nearly sat down in it. Imagine how that might go in your home. Instead, Cimmaran went to the refrigerator door and added a red line to a nearly full “Reinhart’s Screwups” sheet, affixed to the fridge with a magnet. When Tom came out after his call, he noticed her putting the pen away and asked, “What did he do now?” She shook her head, saying, “That intern is soooo slow! I’m thinking we need to send Reinhart back to where we got him. Sure, he works for free, but then he leaves food plates on the sofa!” Obviously, Tom recognized his error, collected the plate and corrected “Reinhart’s” mistake. They were able to laugh about it in that context, even though that situation initially irritated Cimmaran a great deal. Further, things like that make us more conscious of what we’re doing. Over time, Tom reported doing this sort of careless thing less frequently. His wife confirmed this. And “Reinhart” saved his internship!
  10. Use physical activity to regulate your energy. This doesn’t have to be rigorous exercise if that isn’t your thing. But being cooped up at home, trying to maintain your jobs as well as a household and a relationship is a lot. Going for a walk together can be very soothing and help you both regulate your energy. A favorite activity that many of the Strategies of Intimacy participants favored? Sex. Surprise! The physical rewards of sex with your partner are themselves wonderful. Though there is a biochemical/hormonal reward as well, and the healing effects of this magic elixir cannot be overstated. Even if you have some physical or health challenge preventing full intercourse, give one another the gift of sexual pleasure by other means.
  11. When conflict arises, take a breather. That’s not the moment to “hash it out”. After all, you’re in the workplace right now. Cool off for a bit, then agree to discuss the problem in dispassionate terms. You’ve come together then not to complain or to blame, certainly not to make your partner feel bad. But your relationship is always growing, and this is another opportunity to become even better together. Remember to use “I feel” at the beginning of statements that you otherwise might start with, “You” or “You always/never—.”

Obviously, this is not an exhaustive list. But one of the comments my test readers reported was “This is a great set of strategies, most of which you could just start doing today. But maybe you could do a ‘Quick Start’ upfront for people who are already at the end of their rope.” Great feedback! Most of these, as mentioned, are distilled directly from recommendations in the Strategies of Intimacy project. Some are more read between the lines from some of the participants. And at least one or two are based on observations I’ve made since.

Alright? Crisis averted? Let’s get to work! play!

Copyright © 2020 Chris Gingolph

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