When any couple moves in together, it is an intense experience. Combining all your stuff and learning to live in a small environment is difficult and takes work. One relief is that each day, you get an extended break from each other. This break is called work. Each morning, you drink your coffee, say goodbye and toddle off to your place of work to get on with your many important tasks. While you're at work, you might text your partner about dinner plans and feel safe in the knowledge that someone will be waiting for you when you get home. But what if they were always there? And, what if you never left the house at all?
My boyfriend and I are two of the four million Britons now working from home. I am a writer, whilst he is a graphic designer. We both work freelance and so have irregular hours. We live together in a one-bedroom flat in Sheffield. Oh, and we have a cat.
Ten years ago our living and working arrangements might have seemed a little strange. Back then working from home was unpopular and considered a last resort for people. Now, there are more people than ever using their homes as a base for their work. According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), this year has seen the highest number of people working from home since their records began.
When my boyfriend and I moved in together, I was actually working in an office, but the job didn't suit me. He'd always worked as a freelancer and a shortly after we moved in together I decided to do the same. At first, things were a little odd. By nature I enjoy working during the day rather than at night. I like to get up in the morning and start my work for the day. My boyfriend is quite the opposite. He would rather start at 6pm and finish at 2am, than work during the same hours as me. In fairness, many of the clients with whom he works are Australian or American, so his system seems to work. The time difference presents us with something of a problem, though, as it means that while I'm working he's generally asleep and vise versa. Despite the fact that we live in the same flat, we are often like ships in the night.
Adjusting to being in the same place all the time was tricky at first. I'm a clingy girlfriend, but our situation seemed too intense even by my standards. I think it made us both realise that we need our own space. We each have different friendship groups. Thankfully, those groups have yet to merge. We spend a lot of time seeing other people, but that means that sometimes it can feel as though we never socialise together. Living together is not the same as going out together. We have to make a genuine effort to go out together as well. That means arranging date nights, even though we see each other all the time. Taking the time to 'date' (to see a film or go for a drink together) means that we appreciate each other. In the first few weeks, we neglected this part of our relationship. That left both of us feeling resentful and angry. Things were bad. When your entire world revolves around just three rooms, it can be hard to see beyond the front door. We took the time to address the issue, though, and now we spend quality time together outside of the flat.
When people imagine our situation, they are often mistaken and think that we sit around watching TV day long. Whilst I am partial to a quick Jeremy Kyle break on occasion, most of the time nothing could be further from the truth. We spend just as much time working as everybody else with a job. It's just that we do it from home. Many people who have never thought of working from home, have misconceptions about it. Sometimes when I tell people what I do, they look at me as though I'm lying. I see something flash across their face that says "So, you mean you're both unemployed?" At first I tried to defend myself and tell people, that I did have a real job regardless of what they thought, but I soon realised it was useless. Despite the growing number of people working from home, a huge part of society is dubious about what 'working from home' really entails. I'm going to solve that aching mystery for your right now, though. 'Working from home' means working from your home. It really is that simple.
Once I got over people's reactions, I soon settled into a routine. What surprises me most about our living situation is that it works. Sure, we argue, but all couples argue. I don't think we're any worse than other couples. We respect each other's space and we don't live in each other's pocket (I promise). Instead, we've found our own pattern to live by that seems to be going quite well. I adore working from home. It's not that I don't like working in an office, because that has it's benefits too, most of which are social, but working from home means I have freedom. That is the freedom to use my time how I want to. I spend zero hours getting ready for work and about thirty seconds commuting from my bed to my desk. When I'm done, I have the time to pursue other passions and write things like this. My boyfriend has always worked for himself and may never change. Far from putting extra strain on our relationship, I think the fact that we both work from home has brought us closer together as we've found a mutual love of this modern lifestyle.