Older men are so full of…wisdom. My first engineering assignment included working with men old enough to be my father. They had life experience and were willing to share at no cost. The tips I learned could fill a book.
I was warned to avoid intraoffice romances. Dating a co-worker clouds the work day, distracts from the tasks at hand, and generates extreme friction if the romance fizzles. Many companies will not hire both parties of a couple, or will mandate they work in different areas.
In my recent career change I became a full-time, work from home (WFH) employee.
My wife is a full-time mom, homemaker, clothing designer, artist, and administrator.
WFH means we now share the same space, 24×7, 365 days a year.
Scary, huh? Fearing that level of togetherness keeps many couples slogging at the away-from-home grindstone until they drop. I was excited about the change. I like my co-worker. Spending my days with her would be heaven on earth, an extended honeymoon.
In truth, two worlds collided.
Constant couple time necessitates adjustments. If you are pondering such an intraoffice romance, read on. Enter the unknown informed, and be prepared to polish your conflict resolution and negotiation skills.
One of my first initiatives was a realignment of areas of the house to make them more conducive to efficiency and productivity. I started with the kitchen. A couple of cabinets are overstuffed and dump their contents each time the door is opened. I proposed a load balancing arrangement and a purging of any item past its expiration date. Often-used dishes must be placed at the front, and never-used dishes should be discarded. I was summarily informed that I was rapidly approaching my own expiration date, and I should exit “her” kitchen forthwith.
Two worlds collided.
Getting along with obstinate co-workers can be difficult, but I have tons of experience. I offered a compromise. I promised to leave her kitchen alone.
Each of us has personal preferences. I use items then put them away, a single-threaded approach. My co-worker functions on multiple levels of creativity. She has a need for piles of detritus in several locations, allowing her to stop whenever creativity strikes and push a project forward. Give and take, acceptance, understanding that we approach productivity differently—these are the lubricants that reduce friction.
I’m an early-riser who loves to challenge the day. Mornings are designed for industrious activity. Reaching lunch hour with 5 or 6 items knocked off the list brings a feeling of satisfaction. My co-worker prefers a slower start with reading, coffee drinking, list-making, thinking about the coming day, and pondering the tasks she desires to complete. Her reasonable start time for physical endeavors is closer to 10.
My co-worker has enjoyed the freedom of a somewhat flexible schedule for years. If a Monday item is delayed till Friday, it’s no biggie. My world has been ruled by the “get it done now, don’t sleep until you finish, move faster, do more, stop wasting time, and we need it yesterday” mindset.
Two worlds collided.
I continue to rise early and enjoy a block of quiet time. My co-worker rises a little later, and we embark on a walk followed by a simple breakfast. We read Scripture and pray together. Some mornings we rock on the porch and watch the birds. We talk about topics that build our relationship. Then we tear into the day.
We’ve adopted a shared Google calendar instead of individual planners or scraps of paper to record appointments. It’s free, a tremendous help in reducing scheduling conflicts.
I am available for tech support whenever she has a need. She is available to be a sounding board for ideas as I need. We have given each other the right of interrupt.
I entered the WFH life intending to help with the household chores. My co-worker encouraged this practice when I mentioned my office was dusty and needed attention. She handed me a can of Pledge and a cloth, then returned to her tea. I did so well she promoted me to Floor Manager and gave me exclusive use of the vacuum. It is manly indeed to pull a massive dresser from the wall with one hand while running the vacuum nozzle with the other. Who needs a gym?
And then there’s laundry. How hard can that be? I timed the wash and dry cycles and worked out the math. Laundry should not require more than ½ day. Both machines are kind enough to ding when a cycle completes thereby allowing the user to multitask during runtime.
I had no idea someone could view laundry as an event to stretch and savor. How can making dirty clothes clean become an art form with unalterable rules of engagement? Why not get it done and move to something else? The friction increased when I dried certain items in the dryer that were supposed to be draped across the chairs and left to air dry. Who knew? I like her in the tighter fit with the good parts popping out.
Two worlds collided.
We’ve reduced laundry to ½ day. My co-worker performs the mechanics of sorting. I help with folding, listening for the machine dings, and keeping us focused to reduce downtime between cycles. My co-worker commented to someone how much she is getting done since I changed to WFH.
Getting along requires flexibility. Sometimes I am the helper and sometimes she is. The work has to be done. Discussing the how and the why can lead to workable solutions, if both of us are willing to yield right-of-way.
Our working spaces share a common wall. Writing requires solitude and blocks of thinking time. Silence. My co-worker’s creativity is enhanced by music/singing, social interaction, and sharing. Noise. Silence and noise. Opposites.
Two worlds collided.
The doors to my office and her studio remain open. We are learning to respect each other’s creativity time, only interrupting for emergency issues (such as, “Are we having supper soon?”).
A Bluetooth headset resolved the music issue. I employ a headset during online classes. Personal fans offer white noise. Should one of us have an extended phone call we take the handset or cell phone to another part of the house.
It’s all about respecting the other person’s value and considering her needs.
Building the Team
Lunchtime is mandatory downtime. No eating at my desk anymore. We leave our posts. We sit together. We eat. We rest. We talk. We nap. Why does corporate America not provide little mats and time for naps? I awaken recharged and ready to lunge into the afternoon. It’s as though I have two mornings every day.
We hold team meetings as required, and some have been productive resulting in outside-the-box solutions.
We’re getting better at isolating trouble and addressing friction.
We’re working through the conflicts.
We’re determined this intra-office romance will survive and thrive.