I’ve Worked at Home with My Husband for Nine Years: Nuggets from the Front Lines
You’ve likely been working at home for a while now. The novelty may have worn thin; you may still be buoyed by it. I’ve worked from home with my husband (and in previous years, kids) for nine years. I've handled significant conflict, emergencies, legislative issues, hurricanes and more from my home office (a converted bedroom).
My husband is a journalist for the agricultural/farm trades, and his office space is in our living room. We’re lucky to have separate spaces in our home. And yes, we’ve worked from home via the dining room table, too.
For those of you with less "working from home" time under your belts, here's what I have learned: It's hard for spouses and family members to understand what's going on in your head even though they may overhear most of your calls...
1. They may be sympathetic, but they likely aren't as vested as you, the PR pro who has followed every up, every down, every nuance of a client's journey -- possibly for years. This doesn't mean they don't love you or don't care. It's simply a difference in his/her/other reality and yours.
2. I've found that talking through some of this stress with a colleague can sometimes be more effective than trying to drag your spouse or significant other through the whole story. Keep your loved one posted -- you are still charged with keeping your relationship intact and communicating appropriately. However, working out of the same space doesn't imply that your partner is suddenly equipped to carry the stress of their work situation (or lack of work) plus all the ongoing adrenalin of your crisis PR world. A quick, personal assessment of what kind of support we need and where we can get it can ease the strain of working in close quarters during this stressful time.
3. Remember that every personality type handles stress differently. I always see the bright headlights of the oncoming train just a little ahead of most team members. I know from Myers Briggs personality work that many PR and marketing pros have this built into your wiring, too. So, be careful about lashing out at those you work with if they haven't caught up to the same warning/assessment level that you have. Our ability to show patience and to state things clearly and assertively BASED ON FACT -- what we do in our media pitching all the time -- is also the key to us winning in our virtual conference rooms and on phone calls with clients, colleagues, bosses, and loved ones.
4. If you're working at home surrounded by children, expect their stress and needs to mirror what is happening at work. Almost every crisis situation I've had seemed to coincide with illness, scheduling issues, childcare dilemmas, depression and/or intense needs from my growing children. (Let’s add pets in, too, while we’re at it.) I think the clamoring of the world somehow vibrates in their little bodies. Recognize this for what it is and ASK FOR HELP in coping. Take care of yourself enough in advance that you can handle the distressed cries of your child with compassion. (I would usually go freak out in the shower after the worst of it was under control.) It might help to accept that you aren't going to be perfect all the time. This isn't awful: My kids are quick to apologize now as young adults because they heard their parents apologize to them on many occasions. We're all humans under construction, doing the best we can.
Take care out there... find a colleague that might vent with you. Ask if it’s okay before you dish it all -- people have good and bad days. Return the favor. It’s better than taking it out on your house or apartment-mates. After all, that person may be helping you make dinner tonight. Sending all of you much wisdom and care. Replenish yourself as much as you can as you work from home. Give this extended life your best shot. And mind those cords around your electronics--keep them plugged in on the side you DO NOT use to exit your work space. :-)
By Susan Dosier, President of DK Communications Group
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