Like many professional couples living through the coronavirus pandemic, Ronald Sayers and partner Janell Verdream have had to make adjustments to life working from home.
The couple, who live in New Albany, Ohio, bought TV trays to serve as desks. If either has a conference call, they retreat to their bedroom for privacy. When they need to get projects done, they plug in headphones and grind away.
But Sayers and Verdream – like many couples nationwide – are discovering some hilarious, interesting quirks about how they work, as well as their spouses.
“Apparently I say ‘actually’ a lot when I’m in work mode,” said Sayers, who works for the state’s high school athletic association. Another habit Sayers discovered? Singing songs from TV ads while on his computer. “One specifically is the Liberty Mutual theme,” he said.
Sayers said he notices Verdream, an academic librarian, “kind of yells” when monitoring a chat students use to ask about resources. “Nothing of substance – literally just a burst of noise before she responds,” he says.
The outbreak of COVID-19 has pushed many companies to require employees to work from home for an extended period of time, as public health officials try to curb the spread of the virus.
As a result, spouses and partners who haven’t worked much together are discovering new things about how they operate. Ever wonder if you’re the only household with the loud talker on conference calls, or the employee who loves dropping business jargon in most conversations? Turns out you are not alone.
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From loud typing to loud talking
When Alissa Kolarik of Wadsworth, Ohio, started working at home with her landscape architect husband, Stephen, she noticed he types loudly.
“His computer is a gaming computer because of the work he does, so he has a mechanical keyboard,” said Kolarik. “It’s so loud. The first day he was home, when he started typing, the first thing I said was “Do you type that loudly all day?!”
Kolarik, who works as a digital marketing and sales manager, said her husband noticed she sighs more than she realized. “He asks what’s wrong every time I do it, and I never have any idea,” she says.
Amy Hietter, director of a local nonprofit in Springfield, Missouri, said her husband, John, likes to joke about her cluttered email inbox and love of caffeine.
“He is a little concerned that I am drinking way too much coffee throughout out the day,” she jokes.
Hietter said a big key in this shift for herself and John, who works as an account manager for an IT company, is maintaining your sense of humor.
“After listening to him on his conference calls I joke with him, I never knew I was married to a ‘let’s circle back on that’ guy,” she says.
Christopher Chan and his wife, Yvonne Chaung, of San Jose, California, both work for tech company Cisco and juggle work while balancing home life with 6-year-old twins. He says he works better under quieter conditions while his wife has no trouble with extra noise.
“My wife … seems to operate with an almost permanent cone of silence around her and she is not fazed by all the noise around her,” said Chan. “The kids would be doing their learning online with lots of sound effects and narrators talking and she would be in the same room working away.”
Meanwhile, Chan says he can be a loud talker when taking calls. “She has had to move herself to a different part of the house whenever I’m on conference calls,” he says.
There are definite benefits
Despite the quirks, many couples find perks to their new professional arrangements. Kolarik says she and her husband communicate more and show small signs of affection like a random hug or kiss.
“I thought I’d be annoyed but it’s kind of calming to have someone in this with me,” she said.
Chan says the “silver lining” in this new environment is getting more time together as family. “We try to schedule breaks in our work schedules to have lunch together as a family and if possible, go for a walk together as a family to break up the day.”
Although Hietter and her husband work for different companies, she said they behave more like colleagues. “It very much feels like we have suddenly become co-workers sharing the break room, venting to each other, bouncing ideas off each other,” she said. “It’s kind of cool.”
Advice on how to cope
Sayers said it’s important to separate home life from work as much as possible. “You must find time for yourself to get away from the work part, even if it’s in a small way,” he said. “Go for a walk, sit on your patio, even take a drive. Just separate your living from your work.”
Kolarik agrees, noting their household keeps work stuff on the upstairs level of their home while downstairs is for home. “If you have to be in close quarters like we are, make sure you’re set up effectively and in an organized way,” she said.
Follow Brett Molina on Twitter: @brettmolina23.