"Working From Home with My Spouse. What Could Go Wrong!" - 04/10/22 Edition
Stephen Says Column
I’ve been remote working for almost two years and it’s horrible. It didn’t start out that way, first I liked it because I could make trips to Trader Joes, keep an eye on the kids, and I was able to make a nice dinner almost every night. Now, two years later, I can’t stand working from home, the kids bug me all day, my husband talks too loud on the phone in the hallway outside my office, and there’s a minor crisis happening somewhere in the house every hour on the hour… let me just say, when my company invited us all back to the office once the pandemic was officially declared over, I didn’t walk, I ran!
Now I’m back in the office and it seems that all the people I liked working with the most are still working mostly from home. Our company is strongly persuading us all to come back, but they are allowing some to trickle back slowly in an attempt to respect everyone’s varying level of comfort as to being back in the “real world.” What’s bothering me is this; why was I so excited to get away from my husband and kids when some of my closest friends tell me that they loved working from home? I get you’re not a therapist but a workplace specialist, yet, since my home became my work during COVID, I’ll drag you into it; does everyone love working from home but me? Are all couples getting romantically closer because of working from home? What am I missing about the idea of not having any social interactions besides my husband and kids? Maybe the mailman on a good day… bottom line is I love my job and I also love my co-workers; I want to go back to normal. But the new normal is missing half of the people I care about the most at work, and the alternative is almost driving me to divorce. What do you hear from people? Is it just me and my marriage, or do other people feel this way. I almost feel too embarrassed to talk to my best friends from work about it, since most of them seem to be happier than ever working from home with their families every day. I don’t want them to judge me.
Dear Office Person,
There is some irony to your letter, which is this; I’ve received many, many letters from people in your identical situation, all expressed to me the frustration of having to work from home and getting sick and tired of being around their husband, wife, boyfriend, girlfriend, roommate, partner, dog, cat, landlord, whatever. The reason why I say it is ironic is because so many people don’t want to go back to work, just like you said. It’s a dichotomy I just can’t figure out myself. I write and work in the office furniture industry, about companies who manufacture and sell “stuff” that goes into an office space. As you’ve probably read in this space before, there’s no logic in making office furniture and yet refusing to go back to work in the office!
I can relate to your dilemma; it was difficult for me to work from home during the height of the pandemic with someone else around. So much so, that the alternative of risking contacting the virus on a New York City Subway did not seem as bad as staying at home all day. Every day. So, I chose to go to the office. I still hear from the vast majority of my friends who work in the office furniture industry that they are happy to be back in the office, especially since most of their clients, the architects and designers that they call on, are only too happy to get out and go to lunch with sales reps or come into the showroom for a presentation. As far as your guilt about wanting to get out of the house, you’re right, I’m not a psychiatrist, but I’ll go out on a limb and say you are a normal person. Familiarity breeds contempt.
So, there’s truth in what you say, people with all types of jobs and responsibilities are telling me how tired they are of working from home all day and being around their loved ones, and they say things like you, “I’m gonna kill him!” or “She’s driving me crazy!” So don’t feel bad when you go back to work and some of your co-workers are working from home, it’s simply a matter of what works for them, and there’s many factors at play. Some people have relatives who, for health reasons, cannot get the vaccine yet. Others have PTSD from the whole ordeal. There are many legitimate reasons for people still wanting to work from home. It doesn’t mean these people have a better marriage then you, just that they’re living under different circumstances. I say just give it time, in one year it will feel even less like the new normal and more like normal again! Things are coming back, before you know it, you’ll be coming home ready to kick your shoes off and complain to that same husband about going to the office every day.