Woman trying to work from home being bothered by two small kids and their kittens. One child is putting a kitten in her hair.
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Home is where the HR isn’t: How to work and cohabit

29 Oct 2021

Working from home can be tough on our personal lives and relationships. Here’s what to do when you can’t call HR to sort your domestics.

In theory, many of us would love to work from home. The benefits of not having an office include less commuting time, less stress, longer lie-ins in the morning and access to home comforts.

That’s what we’re told by proponents of remote working. While many of these benefits might be true, they don’t address the elephant in the room. And that elephant is your partner loudly crunching Coco Pops at their elevenses while you are trying to conduct a very serious video call.

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Oh dear. While WFH may be great in theory, how can we do it while cohabiting without losing our minds – and our jobs? If you don’t live alone and you’re working from home, read on. Especially if you’ve got a bit of a short fuse.

There’s quite a few things you (and your partner/housemate/family member) can do to make life easier.

Communicate calmly

Let’s start with the most obvious (and sometimes most difficult) thing: keeping calm. If you can resist the urge to scream a string of expletives at whoever is unfortunate enough to encounter you before your first coffee of the day, you’re doing ok.

Think about it this way. Would you speak to your colleagues in the workplace like you speak to the person or people you live with? Nobody’s suggesting you start emailing your housemates or talking to your children via Slack. Just modify your tone a bit if you’re tempted to tell them where to go when they inevitably start bothering you during the work day.

Chances are, they don’t even know they’re interrupting your work – and, if they are, all you’ve got to do is tell them. Hopefully, they’ll listen to you and appreciate your calmness. (Disclaimer: I don’t live with small children.)

Establish ground rules

If there’s more than one person working from home on any given day, it is necessary for there to be some pre-agreed boundaries in place.

I’m talking simple things like telling your cohabitants when you’ve got really important meetings on so they know not to disturb you or hog the internet for big downloads. Oh, and it’s always nice to make your home colleagues coffee or tea if you’re putting on the kettle for yourself.

Leave each other alone sometimes

It can get claustrophobic working from home at the best of times. Add another human or two into the mix and you could find yourself crawling up the walls.

It’s an absolute necessity that you get to take a bit of time for yourself away from the house and from your cohabitants every day. Get out for a walk or to the shops or even chat to a work colleague. It’s exactly like what you’d do when you’re decompressing after a long day at the office.

You’ll end up being more willing to spend quality time with your partner or family after a quick break between the working day and the evening.

Consider noise-cancelling headphones

If you’ve got a very noisy house, get yourself a pair of good quality noise-cancelling headphones. They can block out street noise, household noise and, most importantly, children whining. Tell everyone you’re tuning out, stick on your headphones and they’ll soon get the message and leave you alone to take care of business. With a bit of luck.

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Blathnaid O’Dea
By Blathnaid O’Dea

Blathnaid O’Dea joined Silicon Republic in 2021 as Careers reporter, coming from a background in the Humanities. She likes people, pranking, pictures of puffins – and apparently alliteration.

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