Working at Home With Your Partner
Healthy relationships are great. They stand to teach us about ourselves and tend to bring us joy. But what happens when couples are cooped up together for weeks with seemingly no clear sign of a return to normal? That’s not the premise for a television show; it’s a reality facing people who are in quarantine together.
Although the thought of being stuck indoors with your beloved might not have sounded so bad a few months ago, COVID-19 presents new stressors: Couples are worried about job security as the unemployment rate continues to soar, whether they’ll be able to afford expenses, and if they have children, how they’ll get any work done with little ones needing attention around the clock. Still, a recent Gallup survey found that 62% of employed Americans work from home due to the crisis.
To get a behind the scenes look at how millions are making it possible, we surveyed 510 employed people with live-in partners. Our findings explore the ease of transition from working away from home to working at home, how couples are faring, and whether romance can survive working remotely in tandem.
In Love and Working Side by Side
No matter how much you adore someone, spending every day in the same space for weeks has to be challenging, right? According to the majority of our survey participants, transitioning to a remote work lifestyle with their partner was difficult, with 5.1% expressing it was extremely tough.
However, 33.5% of people said transitioning to at-home work alongside their partner was not at all difficult. Perhaps timing had something to do with the ease: Participants transitioning to remote work after their partner had already done so reported the most ease. Conversely, couples who changed over at the same time were most likely to find it extremely difficult (7.8%).
People who went through the transition together may have experienced more tension because boundaries had to be discovered simultaneously, akin to the building a boat while navigating rough waters trope.
Bound Together With Boundaries
According to relationship experts, to weather the pandemic, couples may have to set and respect each other’s boundaries. For example, if your partner’s habit of blaring music makes it difficult to hear yourself think, try letting them know you’d prefer they wear headphones. But are people instituting such rules?
Our findings show that 52.4% of participants with live-in partners instituted rules to help them effectively work remotely together, and doing so helped. Nearly two-fifths reported increased productivity as a result. Only 29.6% of couples forgoing rules when working together reported experiencing more productivity and were more likely to report experiencing a decline in their efficacy.
People who kept the peace with their rules didn’t enact anything outrageous. For starters, the most common rule was to communicate about schedules, which 35.7% of survey participants said they instituted. The runner-up was the earbud mandate: 30.6% of couples agreed to wear headphones when on a work-related call or meeting. Although this rule was among the least popular, 9% of lovers imposed a no-chores-during-the-workday law.
It’s This One Thing
According to Stanford University professor Nicholas Bloom, an advocate for remote work, the work-from-home movement could be heading for disaster due to lack of productivity during COVID-19. However, working from home could be the way of the future, so couples may need to air out their concerns for the sake of efficacy in the long term. As a married father of four, Bloom is most struggling with distractions, like his 4-year-old daughter; he’s not alone in this.
When we asked the participants in our study to report on the single hardest part about working remotely with their partner, the No. 1 answer was distracting each other (20.2%), followed by noise from coinciding virtual meetings (13.5%). The third most common hardship, but most popular among parents, was splitting child care responsibilities, which may prove to be difficult when both partners are working remotely, and the children require attention.
Among the least popular hardships was not having separate workspaces, which, according to Bloom, affects productivity. His research suggests that when employees don’t have a private designated office that is not a bedroom, productivity could suffer.
Does Hardship Strengthen Relationships?
Experts predict there will be a surge in divorces once courthouses begin regularly operating again. While some believe broken unions will come as a result of unresolved tensions under quarantine, others think it’ll have to do with people coming to terms with their mortality and priorities. However, our findings painted a more positive picture.
Although 17.1% of people said they are experiencing a less satisfying relationship since the COVID-19 pandemic, most couples are more satisfied (41.6%). They’re also fighting less and having more sex. According to our analysis, 42.7% of participants reported experiencing a higher frequency of action between the sheets. But therapists suggest having intimacy-checks because both partners may not be experiencing the same level of excitement about the possibility of more sex.
More communication during quarantine may also help live-in couples strengthen their overall relationship, though it seems many are already doing well in that area: The majority of romantic partners expressed working remotely together strengthened their relationship. People who were together for three years or less were most likely to report having a stronger relationship due to working remotely together. Those who were together for four to seven years were most likely to say it’s made their partnership weaker.
Love After the Crisis
There’s dissonance among authorities about the impact disasters, such as COVID-19, may have on romantic relationships. Some evidence suggests that love strengthens after a crisis, but other studies indicate the opposite.
Although we can’t be sure where our participants’ romantic relationships are headed once everyone heads back to their respective offices, we asked them whether they’d want to work with their partner after the pandemic. Overall, 51.2% of people said they would want to continue working remotely together with their partner post-pandemic. Those with the shortest and longest relationships said no. This was likely the case because people value keeping their work lives separate from home life: Only 7.5% of survey participants expressed not finding that sort of compartmentalizing important.
Give Yourself Some Grace
No matter how wonderful your relationship is, you likely didn’t predict that you’d be spending every second of the day with your beloved. If you’re having a tough time adjusting to the remote lifestyle, be patient with yourself because most couples experienced some level of difficulty. However, our findings showed coming up with a set of rules could help ease the pain of the transition and increases work productivity. The rules that participants in our study adopted were practical: They shared schedules, found ways to reduce noise, and set expectations for household responsibilities.
If working alongside your partner during the pandemic has illuminated new career possibilities for you, SimplyHired is ready to help. Visit us at SimplyHired.com to search and apply for jobs in your area. But if you want a change of scenery, search in your dream locations, then browse our resources to help prepare for the initial application through the final interview.
We surveyed 510 people currently working remotely with their partner due to the COVID-19 pandemic. People had to report living with their partner in order to qualify.
Respondents were 55.3% men and 44.7% women. The average age of respondents was 35.9 with a standard deviation of 9.7.
When asking what rules they’d established with their partner for working remotely together, respondents were instructed to check all options that applied to them. Therefore, percentages for this data won’t add to 100.
Respondents were asked how their relationship satisfaction had been impacted by the pandemic. They were given the following scale of options:
- Much less satisfied
- Less satisfied
- Somewhat less satisfied
- Neither less nor more satisfied
- Somewhat more satisfied
- More satisfied
- Much more satisfied
In our final visualization of the data, these were combined into the following groups: less satisfied, neither less nor more satisfied, and more satisfied.
When asked about how both their sex frequency and fight frequency compared to before working remotely together, respondents were given the following options:
- Much less frequent
- Less frequent
- Slightly less frequent
- Neither less nor more frequent
- Slightly more frequent
- More frequent
- Much more frequent
In our final visualization of the data, these were combined into three broad groups: less frequent, neither less nor more frequent, and more frequent.
The data we are presenting rely on self-report. There are many issues with self-reported data. These issues include, but are not limited to, the following: selective memory, telescoping, attribution, and exaggeration.
Fair Use Statement
If you’re working remotely with your live-in partner during the pandemic, we hope our findings help ease any tensions. If someone you know could also stand to benefit from the information in this project, you are free to share for any noncommercial reuse. Our only request is that you link back here so people can view the entire project and review the methodology. This also gives credit to our hardworking contributors for their efforts.