Since working from home during lockdown, I've had a new co-worker. I've known him for over a decade now. He works in a different company from me, but we share the same work space. He works in tech, I work in learning and development. We also have two children together and we're married.
Working together at home has been strange. At first, it was highly stressful. At the height of lockdown in the U.K., the kids couldn't go to school. So we had to do draw up a plan together about who could work what days, and where in the house we could go where we wouldn't be distracted by the children. Nowhere, it turns out! Our children are loud, and unapologetic about it!
Since then, the schools and nurseries have reopened, but our offices haven't. So we are now co-workers of a kind. For the most part it's been all right. He works in the kitchen. I work in the living/dining room.
We make each other coffees and teas. We have lunch together and chat about how work's going, among other, less important things. And we sympathize with each other about how tired we are with the kids and work, work and the kids. And how stressed we are (but who isn't in 2020?).
It's strange hearing him talk to his colleagues... to see him in "work mode." It's very different from seeing him as "husband" and "dad." He's more confident, assertive... dare I say, professional!
The only thing that bothers me about working from home with my new co-worker is his incredibly loud "work voice."
It booms out of the kitchen, reverberating around my makeshift dining room office. It's so loud I've had to use the "mute" function during my remote meetings, and I pointedly close the living room door. On one particular day, when he was clearly having a very animated discussion, I took myself and my computer outside into the garden to escape the noise.
But it's OK. He makes me coffee (and vice versa), we talk (and laugh) about his loud voice and so we tick on, wondering when – if ever – we'll work alongside our old office colleagues again. In the meantime, we're enjoying each other's company (as long as said company keeps his voice down!).
We wanted to know how others have found working at home with their friends and family. So we took the conversation to social media.
Interestingly, according to our Twitter poll, nearly half (44.1 percent) of participants said that they found it hard to concentrate. Conversely, on LinkedIn, the largest single group of respondents (43 percent) said that they loved working at home with their family and friends.
Love it or hate it, working alongside these new "colleagues" is something that's likely to stay for a long time yet. So it's been great learning about how other people have adapted to this "new normal."
It's also been nice to discover that I'm not the only person struggling with a "noisy neighbor" problem...
"Enter meetings on mute," suggests Twitter follower, Kelly Bodycott. LinkedIn follower, Tracy Price, has an even more direct approach. She said, "We made sure to communicate when privacy and quiet were needed in advance. I actually had a chalk board I hung on the door that said, 'Shh, I'm on the phone.'"
Many of our more organized followers lauded the benefits of sharing schedules. Agne Vaiciulaityte, who works as a User Experience Designer at Emerald Works, explained, "Every morning we discuss any calls scheduled – timing, length and importance, and agree where we are going to take them. So we don't take them in the same room. We set up one desk with an ergonomic chair and desk. I usually do a "morning shift" at the desk and my partner uses it during afternoons/evenings as he works late hours."
Liz Career Coaching on Twitter has similar advice. She said, "We live in a 900 square ft [home]... so we communicate our schedules daily... work in separate rooms and try to have lunch together when possible."
It's particularly heartwarming to see so many positive comments about working from home with friends and family.
For many of us, one of the great things to come out of working from home has been the opportunity to rebalance work and home life. Gone is the commute and all that time spent in the office. Now I have more time to spend with those who really matter to me -- something that has been particularly important during this often scary and stressful year.
Perhaps, just perhaps, I'll remind myself of these facts the next time my noisy neighbor starts up with the shouting again.
Gent Ahmetaj, Senior Researcher at Emerald Works, explains how home working has helped given him some extra home time just when he needed it the most. He said, "Just had a baby so it's amazing seeing her grow, and supporting my wife."
But Gent also highlights that virtual working is not without its problems. He added, "In terms of what's difficult, you sometimes forget when to stop, especially as the ritual of commuting before COVID in a way delineated work from home. Now there is no commute, so in a way no boundary between home life and work life."
Another Emerald Works colleague, Ross Garner, Head of Learning Experience, echoes this problem. He said, "I was told early on, when my wife started working in the next room, that I'm not a good colleague.
"For five years I've worn noise-canceling headphones all day and forget to move from my desk. So I've made a point of wandering through to say 'hello' and have a coffee every now and then!"
For Charlotte Buckingham, Client Experience Partner at Emerald Works, working from home has presented new opportunities to strengthen family bonds.
She said, "I've been able to enjoy so many more moments with my other half, who is self-employed so is often home relatively early. I've also been able to re-establish a relationship with my dad, who I hadn't seen for several years. Working from home meant that I didn't have to put a brave face on in the office if I wasn't feeling great, and has really helped deal with those emotions."
For Marketing Executive, Abi Radford, the mix of home and work life was tough at first. She admitted, "I found it really difficult working from home when my sister was on furlough, because I knew that she was in the other room doing fun things! I allowed myself little breaks to go say 'hi' and make a cup of coffee, and that became my routine. She was also great for bouncing ideas off!"
Finally, Craig Dutton, Agile Coach at Emerald Works, echoed what a lot of parents felt during lockdown: that working from home with kids was tough, but also a saving grace from all the "bad" happening out there.
He said, "As hard as it was home schooling, being able to spend more time with family, all having lunch together and going out for a walk – or running around the houses playing 'tag' was lovely. But I'm sure our neighbors hate us for it!"
How have you found working from home with your friends and family? Has it brought you closer together? Or, has it driven you further apart? Share your thoughts, below.
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