As the UK is being encouraged to self-isolate and stay inside, we take a look at how to manage relationships when boundaries are tested in our new home offices, and when partners become new-found colleagues
Whether your new home office has plenty of stretching space or a little less square metre, self-isolation and social distancing can be tough, and with the Prime Minister’s announcement yesterday that schools in the UK will close as of Friday 20th March, families across the UK are suddenly urged to be together 24/7, under one roof.
So we’re faced with the stark irritants of our partners, in constant demand as parents plus an adaptation to a new way of working, all whilst trying to maintain as much normality as possible.
And no matter how much we love our families, as human beings, maintaining boundaries and expectations of one another can sometimes be tested. So how do we manage this?
Counselling Directory Member, Beverley Hills shared her thoughts on navigating self-isolation with a housefull. “The thought of being thrown together under uncertain situations for an unknown period of time can be quite daunting. You’re not only managing your own anxieties but feel you may well have to manage your partners too. The boundaries become blurred and if we’re not careful, resentment and misdirected anger may ensue.
“In order to avoid this I would recommend drawing up a pact, a new contract so that you are clear as to each other’s wants and needs in stressful times; one may need more cuddles, one may need less crowding for example, how will you navigate that?
“When living in a small space, this may be your bedroom, a corner of the living room, or even the car, the important thing is to renegotiate your boundaries to ensure both of you are heard in a healthy way.”
Here at Happiful, we’re lucky enough to be able to work from home so I chatted to the team (remotely!) about how they’re finding their new offices and colleagues, and gathered their advice for this new way of living:
Lucy Donoughue, Head of Partnerships and Contributing Writer
“If you have the space to work in separate areas, try to do that. Chat at the beginning of the day about what you have coming up and make a plan to get together for lunch. I like to end the day by both taking the dog out for a walk, and when we’ve done that and come home, there’s no more work.”
“Staying out of rooms like the lounge and bedroom, and keeping the TV off during the working day means that these spaces and activities are very much for rest.”
Many of us love our homes, but the need for fresh air and open space is often a given. If you’re purposely setting boundaries in your household, it’s important to spend some quality together time outside, alongside respecting social distancing measures. The National Trust is enticing us all out in the fresh air, with their announcement yesterday that as many parks as possible will remain open and free of charge.
And now that many of us are saving on commute time, that extra time opens up new possibilities to get outside and enjoy the natural world. Whether that’s prepping for the day, or taking a breath at the end.
Kat Nicholls, Senior Writer
“As our office is now our living room, my partner and I both work hard to respect each other’s space by wearing headphones and keeping quiet while working, stopping now and then to check in with each other and get coffees/teas. It’s easy to get so wired you forget to move, so it’s nice to have someone to check in with. We’re going out for walks at lunch together and I’m going to the bedroom after work to decompress alone for a while.”
The latest feel-good doing the rounds on Facebook was the creation of the ‘fake’ work colleague. If you find yourself struggling to keep harmony with your partner as a colleague and their work habits, invent yourself a Brenda or Colin… “That Brenda, leaving dirty mugs on the side again!”
Ellen Hoggard, Content Manager
“I’m lucky enough to have nabbed the spare room, so my partner and I are not really crossing paths! We’re making sure to have a little chat in the mornings and lunch – treating it the same as if we’re out at work. But also taking time to ourselves too – I did some yoga this morning and James listened to an audiobook. Benefits of no commute.”
Often something we take for granted, Beverley says that space is a key factor in harmony. “Space is more important than we think and when that is denied us, the haven that is our home can easily become our prison.
“I like to advise my clients to designate a safe space; somewhere you can go and be assured of a bit of ‘me time’. Somewhere where your partner knows not to interrupt you and ensure that they too have the same privilege.”
Bonnie Gifford, Senior Writer
“James and I have finally found a balance picking which one of us will be banished to the dining room while the other gets the office each day.”
And me? I currently live in a one-bedroom house with my beloved partner and our three cats. Even now our lovely cosy haven is closing in on me. So I dedicate my days to the small home-office we have, and I do not enter the room again after work, until the next morning. That space is then my partner’s when he comes home from work to enjoy working on his photography hobby. So far, it seems to be working…
And hey, if all else fails, there’s always Brenda to blame!