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Working from home with spouse amid coronavirus: Tips from an expert


These days, Judy Herbst is still adapting to working at her Larchmont, New York, home, which often means motioning her attorney husband to be quiet while she’s on the phone, or moving her computer around so her colleagues on the other side of a Zoom call don’t see him  — sometimes in his bathrobe — in the background.

Before the coronavirus pandemic, the director of marketing for Worthy.com, an online auction house, was a regular on the 7:55 a.m. train to Manhattan. Now she’s at her kitchen table, usually with a cup of coffee, at 7 a.m. for conference calls with colleagues in Madrid, Tel Aviv and Chicago.

“On a normal day, he’d walk into the kitchen and start a conversation and all would be fine,” she said. “But now, I’ve taken over the kitchen table and he’ll think I’m rude for not answering him when he clearly doesn’t see I have my earbuds in and am in the middle of a conference call.”

Judy Herbst, director of marketing for Worthy.com, an online auction house, works from home in Larchmont, New York.

A week into this new work-at-home situation — complete with two phones and two computers — Herbst said they’re slowly getting the hang of it. It doesn’t help, she said, that she has a “needy dog” who barks a lot when she’s on the phone.

“Everyone else is running to the supermarket for groceries,” she said. “I, on the other hand, need to stock up on dog biscuits to keep him quiet.” 

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Dealing with ‘the little things’

For Kelsey DiCarlo of Thiells, New York, it’s the little things. Like the way her boyfriend doesn’t always knock before entering her home office (she purposely shuts the door to get work done) or the volume of the videos he’s watching that can get to her.

In life before coronavirus, she commuted to White Plains as an analyst at USI insurance services, while her partner, Michael Mancuso, was on the road as an appliance repair person. Now the two, both also part-time students, are home and struggling not to get in each other’s way.

It doesn’t help that they only have one desk to share for both work and school. 

Kelsey DiCarlo and her boyfriend Michael Mancuso work on their laptops at home during the coronavirus quarantine.

The fact that her sister, also a student, is staying at their place some of the time — on an air mattress in the office — doesn’t make it easier. “My main goal to let them entertain each other so they’d be out of my hair,” she said. “They can be loud.”

Indeed, says Kathryn Haydon, an author, speaker and innovation strategist, it can be challenging to suddenly be under the same roof 24/7 when you’re used to being apart. The key to harmony, she said, is choosing a designated space in your house or apartment that’s specifically yours, even if it’s just the kitchen table.



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