I asked my husband, Gary, who has worked with me for about 20 years, what he thought a good topic for my next blog would be and he mulled it over for a bit and then said, "How to survive working with your spouse." I was not sure if he was joking but decided that it may be a topic worth exploring, especially since we can be considered "somewhat experts" in this topic while many couples may be recently thrown into this situation.
I recently started working from home, along with millions of other Americans, due to the deadly virus that is currently traveling throughout the states. After 32 years of working in a physical therapy setting, this has been all new territory for me. One of my new roles is now director of social media which entails writing blogs. Truth be told, it has always been my role but due to the demand of working on patients for most of the day, I was lucky if I got out two blogs a year. These days I am shooting for two blogs a month.
My hope is to give you a few tips on not only surviving but thriving, while working with your spouse. I will also give you some healthy advice on how to improve your workstation set up and, finally, what exercises I do at home throughout the day to prevent injuries from forming.
Top 5 Spouse Tips:
- When your spouse is on a call, leave the room. I do this for my own sanity as I cannot focus on my work when another conversation is going on (which he must do throughout the day talking to patients and insurance companies). Luckily, I work on a laptop and use this as my cue to head into the family room or the kitchen. It is good to intermittently stand throughout the day, so I place the computer on a higher counter or shelf to work. Just let you spouse know the reason you are leaving, as Gary thought he did something wrong at first when I kept leaving him alone.
- Vary your lunch breaks as it is nice to have some quiet time alone on the patio or porch, weather permitting. Occasionally have lunch together or go out and have a picnic after picking up something at the drive through. We did this on Gary's birthday, and almost nothing makes him happier than a Portillo's beef and cheddar croissant with fries.
- Encourage each other to get up every 20-30 minutes. I set an alarm on my phone to remind me. Gary can sit for hours and not get up, so I do bug him often to move. He has an adjustable standing desk at the clinic but not as home. I started doing one minute videos that you can view on our Instagram and Facebook pages. Each one gives you two new stretches that you can do at your desk throughout the day, appropriately titled Work Space Work Outs. Check out this link for a sample: https://www.facebook.com/220231406132/videos/237439227539171/
- When the day is done, stop talking about work or limit it to 15 minutes. We put this rule in place years ago so the kids would not get sick of us talking about the clinic.
- Find something new that you can both enjoy together. We never binge watched anything before as life was always too busy, however, now that we have a lot of downtime in the evening (especially with the horrible Chicago weather we were experiencing through most of April) we highly recommend the quirky yet funny "Schitt's Creek" on Netflix. Only a few episodes are left in the final season and we will need a new series soon so please leave a comment below if you have a suggestion.
I asked a local couple, Rick and Michele, what advice they would give other couples that started working from home together since early March. Their response, "We each work from different floors in our home so we do not get in each other's way. I bring him his daily vitamin every morning and check in on his day, and he gets the mail and checks in with me. Sometimes we eat lunch together, but we try to keep our 'work-day' similar to what it was prior to us both working from home. Working this way, we both keep our sanity!"
After viewing their photos, I did provide Michele with some tips to improve her arm posture and her screen height. Rick also needed better positioning with his pillow and laptop height but the hat is perfectly situated.
On the flipside, there have been reports out of China that the divorce rates have significantly increased since the lockdown was put in place and some areas reported an increase of 3x the usual amount of domestic violence. Please use some of the advice above and do not become a part of a United States statistical survey like China's!
My partner, Dina, is an Occupational Therapist and one of the best in the business, so I would highly recommend this quick video she did with Mitch, one of our awesome physical therapists.
They go through some helpful tips to reduce possible aches and pains that may come along with a homemade workstation.
- Hips and knees should be at approximately 90 degrees with feet flat on the floor. If they do not touch the floor place a small binder or box underneath to elevate the feet.
- A small towel or lumbar roll can be used throughout the day to help improve your lower back curve and posture.
- Elbows should also be about 90 degrees, may be slightly greater but should not be less as this can cause strain on the muscles. Wrists should be neutral and float while you type. Keep the elbows close to the body as you type with the shoulders relaxed, not hunched up.
- Your monitor should be about an arm's length (20-40 inches) away with the top of the screen at or slightly below eye level when you are sitting up straight. See this link for more details on screen adjustments,
There is a nice check list at this link that will go through every aspect of your workstation if you want to take a deep dive into proper ergonomics.
Injury Prevention Exercises While Working from Home
According to an article by the American Physical Therapy Association, among all occupations, office workers are at the highest risk for neck pain, with approximately half experiencing neck pain each year. The good news is neck and shoulder strengthening exercises can help to reduce this pain. See this link for details on their findings:
For a list of specific neck and shoulder strengthening exercises that may be best for preventing neck pain, contact me at email@example.com and I will email them directly to you.
Please try to incorporate some of my suggestions into your daily routine, at the very least get up and move around every 20-30 minutes and hug each other occasionally. We are lucky we have someone to touch as so many are sheltering in place alone and are missing that important connection to other humans. In the words of Randi G. Fine, "No other form of communication is as universally understood as touch. The compassionate touch of a hand or a reassuring hug can take away our fears, soothe our anxieties, and fill the emptiness of being lonely."
Love Your Life (LYL),