Comment: 'My husband loves working from home – but I want him to go back to the office'
As lockdown slowly eases, people are gradually emerging from their houses for distanced socialising and in some cases - hallelujah - a return to work.
For me, however, there's no such freedom on offer because my husband, who has commuted to his office every day for the past 20 years, has now decided that he loves working from home.
His management consultancy company has successfully adopted Zoom meetings and remote-working collaborations, and he has the option of continuing to work from the spare room, even when life is back to some version of normal.Advertisement Advertise with NZME.
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I should be pleased that he's so happy. He's moaned about his lengthy tube commute for years, returning home tired and irritable, he hates face to face meetings, which he thinks are a "total waste of time", and during lockdown, he's finally relaxed.
The problem is, I've become increasingly tense as he reclaims the house, spreading his stuff and noise everywhere like Japanese knotweed. I have always worked from home as a freelance translator and I'm used to working in silence, or listening to quiet classical music – anything else breaks my concentration.
And there's nothing more likely to break it than my beloved's galumphing footsteps overhead, as he walks up and down the landing talking on the phone at top volume. He's incapable of sitting still at a desk; he has to be on the move all day, like Aslan. He says "it helps me concentrate". Ironically, it completely shreds my own ability to focus. When he's not stomping and shouting about crisis management, he's in the kitchen, where I work, making coffee with his fancy machine that sounds like a Spitfire landing. He's deeply untidy, and strews papers, keys and jumpers around the house in a Hansel and Gretel trail. Then he can't find anything, and yells "have you seen my phone?" just as I'm tackling a tricky bit of copy.
He also likes to launch into discussions about whatever he's just read on Twitter, without asking if I'm in the middle of anything. As for his working hours, he'll take the dog out for a walk, come back and make a leisurely cooked breakfast, watch a bit of news, then finally wander upstairs around 10. Normally, I like to get started before 9 so I can finish early. Not anymore. He breaks for an hour at lunchtime, updates me on his morning in minute detail, drifts back up, and then he's down again at 6, ready for a glass of wine and a de-brief.
I love him dearly and initially I thought, "well, it'll be nice having him around for a few weeks." Now he's announced that this is a permanent situation, I'm distraught.
Of course, I've asked if he can keep the noise down, give me a bit more space and respect the fact that I'm working too, and he agreed immediately. The problem is, he doesn't seem to recognise that he's doing it. "I was being quiet!" he said the other day, when I begged him to stop shouting on a Zoom call. He wears headphones, so he thinks he's talking at normal volume – from where I sit, he sounds like a fairground barker, rounding up punters.
I have tried wearing noise-blocking earbuds, but I don't always want to. I like the sound of birdsong outside, and I need to hear my phone if it rings.Advertisement Advertise with NZME.
Our life was a perfect balance when he worked at the office. I was pleased to see him, and because I'd spent the day alone, I was ready for a chat. Suddenly, it's the opposite- I'm fending off his sociable nature at every turn.
I'm now wondering if we should invest in a garden office. That way, I could disappear all day, and return to the house when he's finished work. On the other hand, I might find that I miss him.