How working from home in a shared bedroom/office affects your relationship

Our commute is three sleepy steps, bed to desk. How could we possibly irritate one another?

The housing squeeze merged with the work from home ‘revolution’ has led to shared bedroom/offices across the country. Sometimes it’s fantastic, other times it makes me want to scream.  Photograph: Getty Images

The housing squeeze merged with the work from home ‘revolution’ has led to shared bedroom/offices across the country. Sometimes it’s fantastic, other times it makes me want to scream. Photograph: Getty Images

 

Recently I’ve been working from home a bit. And by “recently” I mean for over two years; and by “a bit” I mean a lot. My small, rented, four-bed in Dublin 8 houses myself, three other lads and our girlfriends from time to time.

Working from home can be a challenge when you’re starting at the crack of dawn. My girlfriend has been spending more time at my place lately, which has made my life better, more fulfilling and easier in so many ways – except for mornings.

Mornings can be a bit of a disaster.

I’m a pretty heavy sleeper, meaning I’ll sleep through storms, 3am scraps on the streets outside and even the loudest of snoring. Thankfully she doesn’t snore – although sometimes she’ll wake herself up with a sleepy “hmmph!” – and she doesn’t sprawl out and grab the sheets like some manic bedtime thief.

She will, however, wake at the teeniest ruffle or squeak. Often, she’ll be up and down from bed during the night (planning my surprise birthday party or whatever she does during those small hours), and I’ll sleep pretty soundly. Usually, I’ll be the one getting up first, on account of an 8am start at work and her late-night shifts. I’m prone to waking her up with the slightest of movements while rising for the day.

Nobody likes being woken up early on weekdays, especially if you work late, so I’ve taken it upon myself to let her sleep in for as long as possible while getting to work on the other side of the room.

Many, many alarms

I should mention I’m not a morning person. Growing up, I was frequently dragged out of bed for school and since moving out five years ago – and being without my parental alarm clocks – I initially came up with a solution: many, many alarms.

Setting alarms on my phone at five-minute intervals between 7 and 8am really did the trick after I trained myself to turn them off during my sleep. However, that doesn’t fly anymore. Loud tones will no doubt wake my girlfriend. I try setting just one and hope to God I can wake up in time to slam that snooze button. To stay awake, usually the fear of there being no more alarms will scare me awake and keep me up.

Forgot to turn my phone on silent? Woh-ping! Rookie mistake. The morning news digest from the office just announced itself to the world and woke everybody up. I’m sorry but I don’t need to be reminded first thing in the morning that I’ll never buy a house in Dublin or that my savings are being slowly devalued by record inflation.

My side of the bed is against the window and wall, so it’s difficult to leave the bed undetected. There’s an art to the downward shuffle out the bottom end. It’s kind of a slow shimmy and a twist from under the covers. One wrong move and I’m busted.

Practising ninja skills aside, once I’m out of bed, having avoided the creaky floorboards, slipped past the laser beams and evaded detection, it’s time to get to work.

Downsides

Working from home in a small house has its downsides. For many students and young professionals, our commute is approximately three sleepy steps from the bed to the desk. If you can make it this far without detection, first you should consider a career in Mission Impossible stunt-doubling, but secondly congratulations.

Aside from morning shenanigans, my girlfriend and I tend to work from home together during the day. The housing squeeze merged with the work from home “revolution” has led to shared bedroom/offices across the country. Sometimes it’s fantastic, and other times it makes me want to scream anything but Viva la Revolución.

I tend to stay in my comfy dressing gown when working from home. Soaring energy prices compounded with my house’s Ber rating of somewhere between Y and Z means wrapping up is essential. Sometimes this means hurriedly changing into something Zoom-appropriate after forgetting about that 2:30 meeting until the last minute.

Once in the meeting, it’s a struggle for bystanders in the room to stay out of camera. Suddenly the roles are reversed and my girlfriend stealthily avoids all line of sight to my laptop’s camera.

Living with three students so I can vicariously prolong my college days through them can be great craic. They often work from home too, and certainly keep me on my toes. We’ve all done it over the past two years: storm into a room singing U2’s Beautiful Day only to be faced with a 40-person online lecture because your housemate is one of “those guys” who leaves their camera on. I can’t count how many times I’ve blindly strolled into a room fresh out of the shower, towel on, and am forced to dive hastily behind the couch.

Sometimes they’ll be out late and return in the early hours. As a heavy sleeper, the racket is no skin off my back, but then around mid-morning come the disruptions. Ding-dong!... No answer from the lads. I stroll down – looking rather comfy in my gown – and it’s a Deliveroo courier arriving with somebody’s hangover brunch.

Uninterrupted work

There’s also the occasional gathering downstairs while I’m working away upstairs. The Fomo is real. For the most part though, these guys are usually deep into dissertations and whatnot, and leave me and my girlfriend to quiet, uninterrupted work.

If this all seems like my girlfriend is some sort of troll under a bridge waiting to eat me, and my housemates are party animals raving about the place, that’s not the case at all. It’s been great working alongside them and learning to respect everyone’s work/life balance in this shared space we call home. Working in a small space on different body clocks and schedules is just another challenge for Generation Rent.

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