How to share space in quarantine: setting the rules

I was discussing this with colleagues and realised that the negotiations I’ve been engaged in with my wife might be useful for other people. Now we’re both working from home, we need to find ways of not getting underfoot for each other, and I realised the lessons I’ve learned from our communication might be useful.

If you’re all suddenly working from home, you’re going to need to share the space unexpectedly, which might be a challenge. This is my advice for how to get through this:

Set ground rules for sharing the space and write them down so they’re agreed

  • What does it mean to be “working” – how are you going to differentiate work and non-work time?
  • What are the rules on disturbing each other when working? Do you just approach each other? Do you stick to texting?
  • What are the rules on taking calls when working? What spaces can you make noise? Where should you be quiet?
  • Can you create spaces in which you’re silent vs noisy?
  • How are you going to negotiate if your job involves making noise (e.g. musical teaching)?

Decide how to manage conflict

Arguments will happen, and being compressed together will only make that worse. How are you going to de-escalate when these happen. Which methods of communication work well for you, and which don’t?

  • Does texting or emailing help you have a bit of distance and think through what to say, or does the distance make you more likely to be irritated?
  • In face to face conversations how can you have them on an equal level, e.g. in a shared space in the house, and at a time that suit both of you?
  • How can you make sure arguments aren’t the only time you talk to each other?

Spend quality time together

Just because you’re around each other lots doesn’t mean you’re spending quality time together. You might just be ships passing in the night, or exchanging tense words. You’re going to be in the house a lot, so book in some time to enjoy yourselves

  • Play a board game
  • Have a cuddle
  • Cook together
  • Decide to reorganise a room
  • Watch a film
  • Dance to silly music

Have a regular house meeting

Conflict will come up, however hard you try to manage without it. People are tense and stressed, and this increases the risk of flare ups. Organise regular meetings to discuss how everything’s going in a friendly and calm environment. When issues arise, unless they need approaching, postpone them for a time when you’re all calm and prepared – maybe share an agenda in advance so nobody feels startled. Discuss everything, then wind up doing something you all enjoy

Good luck in the quarantine – and feel free to get in touch if I can help you

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