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The realities of sharing a home office with your spouse

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There’s been a running joke between Mrs Adams for many years. We’ve both said we could never work together. We both mean it too, like seriously mean it, we just couldn’t do it. Yet this COVID-19 thing has put us in a rather odd position whereby we aren’t working together, but we are sharing a home office.

Lego couple sharing a home office.
Sharing a home office with my wife is bliss. Almost.

I had years of being at home with only my children as company when I was a stay at home dad. That changed three years ago when Izzy started school. At that point, I transitioned to becoming a work from home dad.

As a work from home dad, I’ve had years of being at home completely on my own during school hours. I was quite used to having windows open when I wanted, I would chat to people loudly using the speaker phone and swear at the computer scanner when it failed to work properly.

When doing housework I’d listen to podcasts and while doing the ironing I’d watch dreadful TV documentaries such as Air Crash Investigations. Sometimes I’d do housework wearing my underwear or completely naked (that’s totally normal behaviour, right?).

Of course COVID changed it all. Mrs Adams has been working from home since March and following yesterday’s announcement from the Government that people should work from home if they can, I somehow doubt the situation will change any time soon.

At first, Mrs Adams and I didn’t share a home office. When the schools closed, I decamped to the dining table as there was more space for me to oversee the kids’ as they did their schoolwork. I returned to the home office just before the summer holidays, but with it being the summer break, I was mostly entertaining the kids so only in the office for an hour or two a day. Even then it was often early in the morning so Mrs Adams and I weren’t really in each other’s close company that much.

The situation changed when Helen and Izzy returned to school. Since then, we’ve spent several hours a day in the same room. With the exception of when I am doing housework or doing a school run, Mrs Adams and I are sat two metres apart from each other from roughly 9.30am until 2.30pm every day.

Oh, I could grumble. I look at her desk and see discarded envelopes, junk mail and ever-increasing quantities of make-up spread around her work space. It’s not what you would call tidy.

To complain about this would be hypocrisy. On my desk I have similar quantities of junk mail, an old spanner, an immoral number of notebooks and, randomly, very randomly, a limited edition signed cassette tape of Ed Alleyne-Johnson’s Purple Violin Concerto (Ed Alleyne-Johnson having once been in post-punk band New Model Army. I did say this was “random!”).

Music is relevant to The Saga of the Shared Office. Left to my own devices, I would listen to all kinds of music when working. I’ve even been known to listen to the Purple Electric Violin Concerto. Mrs Adams, however, doesn’t appreciate me listening to Congo Natty / Judas Priest / Lana Del Rey or whoever takes my fancy on a particular day (I have a very broad lack of taste in music).

As a result, I must work in silence. I prefer background music so this is one of the things I struggle with most about sharing a workspace with Mrs Adams.

While I may not be able to listen to obscure post-punk music, I don’t work in complete silence, oh no. That’s because Mrs Adams is always there to talk to.

She’s very skilled at delivering interruptions exactly when I don’t need them. You know when you’re really deep in thought and someone interrupts you? Well this happens every now and then.

The problem with me is that I’m a writer and this involves having a very focused way of working. I get myself completely lost in my own world, exploring ideas and choosing the best words to describe them.  

At moments like that, I do not need my wife, who has been perusing her phone during her lunch break, interrupting me with the immortal phrase:

“What do you think about this thread on Mumsnet?”

Whether I like it or not, she will then proceed to tell me in great detail about the thread she has just read. It doesn’t matter whether it’s about a tale of “DH’s adulterous affair”, a parking dispute with neighbours that has got out of hand or a COVID denier asking the Mumsnet Mafia to write to every school in the land demanding that DCs shouldn’t have to wear face masks. I will hear every gory detail. If there are spelling and grammar mistakes, every single one will be pointed out to me and it can take several minutes for me to get back my train of thought.

Of course these things cut both ways. Mrs Adams has to tolerate my habit of talking to myself and quite how I haven’t accidentally wandered into the room topless (or worse) while she’s on a Zoom call with colleagues I do not know.

One further thing I’ve noticed. For some reason phone charging cables are impossible to find now we share an office. I’m unsure if this is down to the kids or if Mrs Adams is doing something odd with them, but I very often find myself having to go on a major seek and retrieve mission when I need to charge my phone.

In reality, I laugh at our behaviour. I even laugh at the small gripes I have at sharing a home office with my wife. I can also tell you I am amazed at how well we have made this office sharing work. All things considered it is going very well.

Then again, we have no choice. Mrs Adams will be working at home for goodness knows how long and I’m not going anywhere.

I am reminded of the wedding vows Mrs Adams and I took:

“All that I am I give to you all that I have I share with you.”

That definitely includes our wonderfully untidy home office! Untidy it may be, but it’s also efficient.

This is a very important point to make. We may be working at home. We have our eccentricities and the home office may not be all that tidy, but it works.

There’s a phrase an acquaintance once said to me:

“Offices are engines of inefficiency.”

I had been working from home for a few years before Mrs Adams joined me. I knew I could work more efficiently from home. It took Mrs Adams a while to get used to home working. She was never a fan of it but she’s now very used to this way of working. We might never run a business together, but it seems we can work in the same space and make it work. Oh sure it’s imperfect, but it works.

How is home working going with you? Are you sharing a home office with your spouse or partner? Maybe you’ve had to move to a different room or the garage? Let me know, it would be fun to hear how you’re all making it work.

2 thoughts on “The realities of sharing a home office with your spouse”

  1. I don’t envy you at all. I worked with my wife for years and now find it far easier to separate my work and home life. We still work in the same business but have to work separate shifts due to childcare, such a same!
    Sharing an office would be a step too far but I am glad to hear you are coping well. Good luck!

    1. Ah, so you work together-apart as it were. A sensible half-way. It also looks like we’ll be sharing the office for many months to come!

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