Say hello to your new co-worker. You may have met them before!

The COVID-19 crisis has most of the UK working from home. Whilst some may have experience with this, working from home with your partner around is a brave new world. The two of you usually spend your free time together, but how will you find it when you're working side by side? Thankfully, having your partner as a proxy co-worker can be a whole load of fun, if you get it right. Yes, you can support each other through the troughs and peaks of the average nine-to-five. You can share your office woes and celebrate one another's wins. That doesn't mean there won't be struggles, though. Here are some handy tips to help you create a positive work environment for you and your partner.

Set up a workspace

If you think that working from the comfort of your duvet with your partner will be bliss, you're sorely mistaken. After the first day of bed or sofa working, the novelty is certain to wear off. In fact, having separate work and relaxation areas is an absolute must. The last thing you want is for your work to bleed into your free time ‒ and vice versa.

Start by setting up a workspace for the two of you. First, you will need to decide if you can work together and, crucially, if you want to. Everyone is different. Some people need total silence and isolation as they work, whilst others can be around people and make small talk. Figure out what works for you both.

Ideally, this area should be a separate room, such as a home study. However, if you live in a small space where that isn't feasible, it could just be an area in your living room. Try to make the space as conducive to work as possible. You may want to include a plant, a whiteboard or even a few motivational posters.

Create a separate 'phone booth'

There's nothing worse than hearing your partner on a work or conference call whilst you're trying to be productive. Since you're both working from home now, chances are that you'll be using Zoom, Skype and everything in between a lot more often. Dedicating a space to calls is life-saving.

For instance, you could mutually agree that all calls take place in the bedroom or spare room. That way, one person's loud, energetic meeting doesn't interrupt the other person's quiet, pensive workflow. Setting this boundary early on is a great way to avoid bickering further down the line.

Compare your daily schedules

Each morning, perhaps over breakfast, compare your schedules. Before now, you may not have delved into each others' working lives, but you're going to need to get involved now. Understanding what type of day your partner has ahead of them is key. That way, you will know how much space they will need, how stressed they are likely to be and when they have calls planned.

Sharing this information gives you both a heads up as to how the day might look. It means that you can work around each other and, importantly, that you will have compassion towards any struggles the other person has. It might sound dull, but having a quick chit-chat first thing makes the world of difference.

Keep 'office' morale high

You can't remember the last time you saw your co-workers. Instead, your partner has become the person you sit next to each day. It's an adjustment, to say the least. That's why you need to work hard to keep 'office' morale high. Small and simple gestures, such as making a brew for your partner or scheduling a break together, could have a big impact on how you both feel.

Don't be afraid to have a joke with your partner and play around, as well. For example, you could create an imaginary co-worker who keeps stealing the biscuits from the cupboard. Taking a quick moment to gossip about 'Brian' or 'Sandra' is a fun way to have a laugh and break up the monotony of working all day.

Arrange to meet for lunch

If possible, you may want to align lunchtimes. Of course, doing so will depend on your respective schedules and when you have to clock in and clock out. Having a 30-minute or hour-long break together is a good way to keep balance when working from home. You can take it in turns to make a meal for this break throughout the week. Doing so will mean that you have an activity to focus on as well as that you can treat each other.

Agree on a mutual 'home time'

When do you typically finish work? If you work for yourself, you may determine your own hours. Equally, you might be on a flexitime contract and choose when to start and finish. Or, you work traditional work hours. If you and your partner tend to work different hours, it could cause friction.

Picture the scenario: One of you has worked from nine to five and is just about ready to chill out and watch TV. The other got up at midday and is only now getting into the flow of their project. Unless you have a huge house and unlimited patience, there's an argument brewing.

Agreeing on a time at which you will both finish negates this issue. What's more, it also means that you can plan fun things to do once you're both done for the day. Whilst you won't always be able to work the exact same hours, you can at least set some ground rules. For instance, you could both commit to finishing by at least 6 p.m. every day. This guideline also means that you get some much-needed downtime together.

The takeaway

Working from home with your partner is no walk in the park, but you should try to make the best of it. Understanding each other's working style and what you need to be productive is a smart place to start. Take note of these tips and try them for yourself. This period will be an educational one; you will both learn what works best and how you can work alongside each other. Take things one step at a time.

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