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At work together, sharing the home turf

With both spouses suddenly working at home, there is a new dynamic.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

In the not too distant future, most of us may be ensconced in our homes 24/7 because of COVID-19.

Having worked for two decades from a home office, I am comfortable with handling business, juggling my volunteer commitments and managing my relationships with family and friends from a home base.

Now, add my dear wife to the daily mix and there becomes a new “shared turf” dynamic.

Truth be told, when the woman in my life enters the home where we’ve lived for a quarter century after her 10- to 12-hour work day, she assumes leadership. While I believe I do my share of taking responsibility for household wellness, I feel like the second banana, sometimes reluctantly deferring to her judgment and asking permission to do one thing or another.

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In fairness, I don’t feel henpecked. I do the snow, ice and lawn jobs, pay the monthly bills, organize most of our social calendar and otherwise help as requested by the first banana. We avoid some potential conflict by each having our own car and multiple TV sets.

It is yet to be determined how a 24/7 week will change things, if at all.

More about men and women workers; one in four work at home

The American Time Use Survey (ATUS), released last year by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, found that full-time employed persons averaged 8.5 hours of work time on weekdays and 5.4 hours on weekend days.

People with more than one job — about 8 million or 5% of the workforce — were more likely to work on an average weekday than were single job holders — 90 percent, compared with 82 percent.

Eight in 10 of employed persons did some or all of their work at their workplace; one in four of us did some or all of our work at home. Employees who work from home have more than doubled in the past 15 years.

Among workers age 25 and over, those with an advanced degree were more likely to work at home than were persons with lower levels of education — 42 percent of those with an advanced degree performed some work at home on days worked, compared with 12 percent of those with a high school diploma and no college.

Employed men worked 34 minutes more than employed women. This difference partly reflects women’s greater likelihood of working part-time. However, even among full-time workers — those usually working 35 hours or more per week — men worked more per day than women — 8.2 hours, compared with 7.9 hours. Hey, that’s an 18-minute edge, guys.

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Mental health and well-being may be affected

Some who study such issues suggest that working together from home can make life easier at first but can actually be detrimental to mental health. All humans are social creatures and working without seeing anyone but your spouse can cause anxiety.

Chuck Slocum
Chuck Slocum
A recent Gallup study surveying more than 15 million employees indicated that those with a “best” on-site work buddy are “seven times as likely to be engaged in their jobs,” are better at engaging customers, produce higher quality work and have a higher degree of well-being.

Clearly, there is money to be saved by combining the costs for an offsite workplace with use of a home, though that is not an issue in our case as her workplace shutdown is expected to last no more than a few months.

There are possible productivity gains from working at home due to fewer interruptions. Motivation can be increased with each party having a more satisfying daily work experience.

Additionally, couples who work from home can, I believe, have an easier time eating healthy together. More time for family interaction can help both parties feel less stressed, resulting in a more productive workday.

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Many companies are certainly catching onto the trend of home-based work. Today, most employees have the flexibility to work from home, if not all the time, at least when needed. Even while it may not be for everybody, employers conclude that they can save money and increase productivity for some workers. For some employees, work-from-home benefits may be the difference between an enjoyable or a stressful work life.

One digital marketer interviewed by Monster.Com finds remote work suits him best. “I really hope employers start to realize this and offer more time to their employees to work from home. I think they don’t because they’re afraid of abuse and because it feels like there is no oversight. You can’t see what an employee is doing, and that feels like giving up some control. All that should matter, though, is that they’re getting the work done,” he told the electronic publication.

My hopes for a positive experience

I think, at the least, my wife and I will end up communicating better together. I do admire how she oversees what is a challenging professional assignment. I know I can easily relate to her issues, challenges and problems. And she can to mine.

It is very reassuring, too, having at least one person who is there for you.

Better overall understanding of the person you love and with whom one has created a satisfying life together is a plus.

Also, we can plan our post COVID-19 vacation together!

Chuck Slocum is president of the Williston Group, a management consulting firm; he can be reached at chuck@willistongroup.com.

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