[Updated 17 June 2021]
One of the big changes since the COVID-19 situation began has been the switch to working from home. While it's been an adventure adjusting to the change in environment, another comical development has been getting used to working from home with our spouse. There have been a lot of memes and Twitter comments going around about the discoveries people have made about their spouses during this time. It's like uncovering a whole new person! I've been working from home with my husband Faizal since the circuit breaker started in Singapore, and I gotta say, I've had my fair share of discoveries too. Here are some of the main ones!
1.What he's like in work-mode
This is probably something I think most people with a partner can attest to! If you think about it, it makes sense: our partner (assuming he or she works in a different office) spends large chunks of time daily in a separate professional setting. We all know that our professional selves can often differ greatly to our regular selves. So it's not surprising that we may have no clue how our husband or wife behaves at the office! With the work from home situation and many con-calls happening, there have been a lot of people sharing online about how they never realised their partner was the type of colleague who says "let's circle back to that" or "I have a hard stop at 12pm" ?
While I've sometimes seen and heard glimpses of Professional Faizal whenever he took the odd work call at home in the evenings or over the weekend, since the circuit breaker we've been sharing a desk at home and working right next to each other all day. So I now get to see him from the minute he settles down to work, to his lunch breaks and afternoon meetings plus everything in between until he calls it day.
I've uncovered that he sounds super serious and no-nonsense when he's coordinating a con-call meeting (as far away from the tone he usually speaks with me than I ever thought possible), and often uses his hands to emphasize a point, even when his web camera's not on and no one's watching him. I've also discovered he often practices his touch typing skills whenever he's free or even just to occupy his hands while he's listening in on a call. I've heard him explain, question and talk about what sounds like complex things with other people in a way that makes me envious - I've always wished I had that casual, self-assured confidence in my work and capabilities on a constant basis. Professional Faizal is fun to watch and someone I'm still getting used to ?
2. He has an obsession with his (and therefore my) workspace set-up
So remember how I said Faizal and I share a desk now since working from home? For the longest time, Faizal had been proposing that we get a work desk for our house, which I've always vetoed since we didn't really have space for it. And so we had been using our dining table as our work desk all this while.
When the COVID-19 situation came about, Faizal started working from home well before the circuit breaker, and it was then that his campaign for a desk was re-ignited. After mulling it over, I had to agree that a proper work desk might be good (for the sake of our backs!) and soon enough, our dining table was dismantled and hidden in our storeroom while Faizal painstakingly put together the table he bought online. Not only was this a good reminder that he's super handy with tools (which I most certainly am not), but I also now know he has a deep obsession for setting up the perfect workspace.
I've always known he had an interest in this judging by some of the YouTubers he watches (MKBHD, Linus Tech Tips, Dave Lee), but this time I got to see it in full action. Not only did our dining area transform into an office corner practically overnight, but he also got me to revamp all my gear! I can honestly say that if not for Faizal, I would have never contemplated the idea of having a desktop monitor, a Bluetooth keyboard or an ergonomic mouse.
My idea of a workspace comprised of a flat surface, a laptop, mouse and that's it, but since working from home, my normal stance of saying no whenever he suggested I try these things changed. Or rather, he would force me to try it right there and then, and then once I did I would see that he's right ? In all my years of working I had never wanted these things, and now I find them indispensable - I love my colourful keyboard that I can position easily for comfortable typing ?
Our set-up isn't perfect yet by any means - Faizal has been contemplating a laptop stand, headphone hooks and better ways to make all the wires disappear ?♀️
3. Our stay at home routines are surprisingly different
So our work set-ups may have merged into a similar style, but one thing that hasn't changed is how different we prefer to structure our daily routines. And it's become a lot more apparent now that's we've started working from home together!
For one thing, Faizal wakes up a lot earlier than I do (like, 4.30am kinda early! ?). And while I can work for long stretches of time, Faizal prefers getting in quick breaks at regular intervals, whether it’s going for walk (even just around the house), taking breathers between con-calls, or prepping ingredients for dinner later. Psst, we also shared more ways to stay productive while working from home.
It’s also been an interesting logistical transition - our home is pretty cosy, so now we have to accommodate around each other more throughout the day. Staying at home with him now sometimes feels like a choreography of sorts - he gets up, does his morning activities, and usually ends up on the couch playing Animal Crossing by the time I get up. Then we swap, with me taking over the living room area to work out while he heads to the room to shower and get ready. We take turns to use the kitchen, whether to make our morning coffee or prepare lunch, and we’ve sort of marked out natural boundaries that we respect - the guestroom is his domain, but I get to take over the living area whenever I want to.
4. He's become a much better cook than me (!)
Before I got married to Faizal, cooking was something far out of the realm for him - he tried to impress me by baking scones during one of our early dates, but beyond that, I was probably more comfortable in the kitchen than he was. After we got married and started living together though, his interest in cooking and baking started growing, and soon he was delving into things like bread-making, coffee and other culinary adventures. But work often meant we both didn't have the time to indulge in cooking and baking as much as we'd like and was more of a leisurely weekend activity.
As we started working from home though, Faizal has gotten back into an easy swing of cooking, and dang, when did he get so good? While I cook basically to avoid ordering in all the time (with various degrees of success), for Faizal it's not just about feeding himself but also a pursuit of passion and stress-relief. I dare say he's got a handle of the kitchen better than I do at this stage, and between the two of us, he was the one who was far more anxious when we started the circuit breaker and food items like flour and yeast were sold out at the supermarkets ?
Another thing I've been reminded of is that when he gets interested in something, he goes all-in. He made a sourdough starter (suggested names for the starter have been narrowed down to 'Junior', 'Boy' or 'Too Start Too Furious'), ordered a new cast-iron pan and pot, and watches cooking videos on YouTube in his spare time. His analytical zeal at work gets put to good use figuring out how his bread can be better. Between the bread, chicken stew, kimchi fried rice and more delicious meals he's cooked up since we've been staying in, I repeatedly get blown away by how far he's developed his skills in the kitchen, and am super proud! That's my man, yo! Also, I feel like I need to step up my game more too ?
5. Animal Crossing is his ideal game
Animal Crossing: New Horizons (a Nintendo Switch game) came out on 20 March 2020, and since then everyone has become smitten with this game where you can create your own island paradise. It’s a slow-paced game that you’re meant to devote as much time as you’d like, painstakingly building up your house, your collection of museum artefacts, your island infrastructure, and more - pretty much a perfect game for anyone stuck at home. Now I’m not much of a gamer so I’m not playing it. But guess who is?
That’s right, Faizal is! If there ever was a game made for him this seems to be it. He absolutely enjoys cultivating his island at his leisure, from building up his house (it has three rooms now, with an eclectic mix of furniture - there’s a woodfire oven but no sink, an espresso machine he can't actually drink from, plus a room where he keeps all his turnips), to going fishing and admiring all the dinosaur fossils he’s completed.
I generally get bored pretty quickly when I've watched him play other games before, but even I've gotten captivated by watching him leisurely watering his flowers or trying out new outfits at the Able Sisters' shop - I have quickly become THE trusted fashion consultant for his daily outfit changes.
6. That he's super thoughtful with chores and keeping the house in (relative) order
Faizal and I have long gotten in this groove when it comes to the household chores split - I usually do the laundry, while he takes care of anything related to technology and gadgetry in the house (TV stuff, coffee machine, the robot vacuum, etc). The cooking has become a lot more skewed on his side, though I probably wash the bathroom more often.
But since working from home, I've come to see and appreciate how much he helps out with the chores and keeps the house from looking like a disaster zone. It's in the small things, like emptying the dish rack and putting plates back where they belong, wiping the counter down, taking out the trash, re-filling the water bottles, things like that. And I get that in this day and age, everyone should be doing that anyway - we can all pull our weight in the house we live in. But I'm grateful when I see him voluntarily helping to fold laundry or helping me for the nth time with my webcam. He does it without being asked, without complaints or procrastination, and I truly love that about him ?
7. That he's my best friend
This sounds like an obvious point (and maybe a nausea-inducing one, apologies in advance! ?) but this is something I've thought about a lot since this whole situation came about. COVID-19 has honed in a few key realisations for a lot of us - that our health and freedom to move around shouldn't be taken for granted, that our medical workers and other front-liners are amazing people, and that our loved ones are people we should cherish closely.
I count my blessings that while staying at home, I get to do it with someone I genuinely love spending time with. Sure, we both get irritated by each other once in a while as that's just the nature of prolonged proximity, but for the most part, it's been really lovely getting to spend more time together. If I can spend this much time with someone and still find them so dang likeable, that must make him my best friend, right? ?It's made me so much more appreciative of our relationship.
Working from home together simultaneously for this amount of time is literally something many of us have never done before. As we navigate this temporary normal, it's no doubt an interesting adventure that's letting us discover more about the people close to us too ❤️Hug your loved ones and let them know you appreciate them and stay safe!