From the onset of the coronavirus outbreak, later declared a pandemic, the effects it would have on the world of business have been on my mind. The sudden onset of a global crisis took many of us by surprise, businesses included. As businesses worldwide began to encourage their employees to work from home last week for an extended period, I started to consider how these changes would impact me. The shortage of toilet paper, lack of inventory available at grocery stores, and risk of catching COVID-19 itself have been less worrisome to me than preparing to work from home in a small space for an undefined period. The need to continue work productively and the underlying fears of the financial impacts (or lack of job security) of COVID-19 have troubled me the most.

My spouse and I both live within walking distance of our offices. It is, without a doubt, one of the best decisions we’ve ever made and are thankful we have such short commutes. We are also fortunate to have corporate jobs that have been able to adapt quickly to our new reality and have encouraged and extended the opportunity to work from home for the time being.

As part of the luxury of living in the city, our apartment is small and cozy. We rent a one-bedroom apartment that is just over 700 square feet. We share a small desk placed next to our TV in our living room and refer to it as our “office.” We don’t use our “office” often, but it’s available in case we need it. Needless to say, we live in close quarters, and never thought we would be coworking at home with one another for an extended period.

We’re learning to adapt to our new normal. Our daily routines have changed significantly, and together we are navigating environmental changes at home as we practice social distancing over the next few weeks. Our biggest challenge working from home in close quarters right now is that it’s not a slow time of year for either of us. Our work requires both of us to attend virtual meetings, take phone calls, stay connected to our coworkers, and keep up with current demands. Simultaneously, we’ll be hoping our WiFi can support us both and praying we both don’t need to use the restroom at the same time.

Here’s how we are navigating working at home together in our 700+ square feet apartment for the unforeseeable future:

We’re setting boundaries and sticking to them.

Neither of us is allowed to work from our bed. We will work our regularly scheduled hours as usual, but we will hold each other accountable to end our workdays when it’s time. Work will be “put away” physically and metaphorically in the evenings to allow for some time to unwind and rest.

We are thinking creatively and learning to make the most out of what we have.

We share a small desk in what we call our “office,” in our living room. My spouse is working from our shared desk and using our desktop computer. I work primarily on a laptop with an additional monitor set up. I worried about not having space to set up the tools I need to work effectively. After some brainstorming, we decided that I should put our mini ping pong table to use. The mini ping pong provides me with all of the desk space I need to work comfortably.

We’re doing our best to accommodate one another’s work environment preferences.

We are setting ourselves up for success by acknowledging that we each have our preferences based on our office environments, and we are doing our best to accommodate one another. I prefer an abundance of natural light, whereas my spouse prefers less lighting, especially if it’s causing screen glare. He plays music while he works, and while I occasionally listen to a podcast or acoustic playlist while working, I prefer silence. One solution we’ve implemented to accommodate these differences is to work in different rooms for various hours throughout the day.

We’re constantly communicating with one another.

We recognize that for us to get through this together, we have to communicate with each other.  We’re checking in with one another to ensure we aren’t disrupting the other person’s work or annoying them unnecessarily. It’s crucial to address issues as they arise now more than ever as the amount of time spent together in a small space increases in the coming weeks.

We’re prioritizing spending time together, not just spending time around each other.

We’ll be spending a large portion of time around each other, so we are placing increased importance on ensuring that we are also spending quality time together. In place of social outings, we’ll be prioritizing going on walks, watching movies together, and cooking meals together.

Together we will navigate the uncertain times ahead, adjust accordingly, and support each other along the way.

Working From Home in the New Normal is a data-driven storytelling initiative from SAP and Thrive Global, bringing together insights powered by the Qualtrics Remote Work Pulse with actionable Microsteps and stories from Thrive to help you navigate working from home. Visit daily for the latest data and stories to help improve your focus, prioritization, and well-being.

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