Like many Aussies I am now – very fortunately – working from home. And so is my partner. We’ve gone from maybe messaging a couple of times during the work day and having our own social lives to spending every hour of the day with each other.
I’ve never really seen my partner in full work mode. There’s always been a bit of a mystery about what we both did at work. “What’s on today?” was always simply met with “Not much, just the usual”. And now everything is laid bare – including his headset. I’m living with a headset guy and it’s like he’s not even the same person.
Our commute is a few metres from the bedroom to the lounge room and our office manager is our rather large greyhound – Owen. He's been awarded Employee Of The Day four days in a row – even though he’s a bit creepy with his unsolicited licks and leg touches. He’s also good to blame for when work goes wrong. “Owen, what’s up with clients… amirite?”
I’ve gone from hearing bits and pieces about my partner’s colleagues to actually seeing them pop up in video chats in my kitchen whilst I’m having my 10am tea. I know as much about their phone issues as they do – “You’ve got to stop using that VPN – if you get off that you’ll have no disconnection issues.”
I can actually ask my partner very specific questions about his colleagues – “How’s Bianca’s dongle working out?” – because we dropped it around to her house last Sunday. “How’s Yunyin’s numbers – did she get through some calls yesterday or what?” The lines between work and home seemed to have completely blurred.
I’ve realised our working styles are very different. I’ve got quite “big open office plan energy”. Always up for a chat, maybe a funny clip to break up the day – what about some inappropriate gossip – yes ploise…! I mean, come on, have you seen this Corona meme? Hilarious.
What is usually well received in my own office is getting completely ignored at the home office. “Sorry I’m busy,” said in a deeper-than-usual work voice. Well I guess this incredible Corona parody will have to wait. Maybe I’ll have to schedule a “mid-morning huddle”. And that’s not a euphemism but rather a real event in his work calendar.
I’ve also come to the conclusion my partner might actually be quite good at his job.
I’ve also come to the conclusion my partner might actually be quite good at his job. Something I’d maybe suspected but never actually witnessed. If someone asked me what he’s like at work I’d now say he’s very serious. He seems to concentrate for the whole time he’s at work. Like, the whole time.
He’s very busy switching from one phone call to the other – which explains the headset. And he sounds encouraging to his colleagues and genuinely cares about how they’re adjusting to their WFH life and the challenges they’re facing. What a babe!
We’ve all got our work quirks. I’m the person who can’t work out a Zoom meeting and finally does when it’s finished. I also work at a place where our morning “catch ups” (we’re not at the “huddle” phase... yet) are themed and competitive. “Okay everyone tomorrow’s meeting challenge is who can be the most distracting?” And geez it was a tough decision between the life-size cutout of Hillary Clinton and dangly pink fluffy earrings guy.
I avoid calls and prefer to chat online. I’ve got music blaring and I’m lyp syncing everything terribly – today I’m dedicating my playlist to The Beatles, which I can’t have on too loudly because my partner is concentrating hard on lots of numbers that start with decimals (woah!) – if he gets a detail wrong about “basis points” (ask me what they are, I'm an expert now) the repercussions are much bigger than if I miss a typo.
Our biggest challenge is rationing the items in the fridge. Who is eating what? Do we start labelling our tupperware to lay claim to dinner leftovers. “Actually that’s my leftover fried rice because I cooked it.” And if I’m making lunch do I have to extend the offer to my new colleague? What if they just made you an omelette and delivered it to your desk but you’re not really hungry – do you have to eat it? Typed whilst omelette is sitting next to me getting colder by the second.
We’re trying to keep our distance and draw a line between what’s work and home but that’s kind of hard in a small apartment.
Overall the experience has been positive. We’re trying to keep our distance and draw a line between what’s work and home but that’s kind of hard in a small apartment. We’re so very lucky to still both be working in “these unprecedented times”. There are a lot of people who have or will be losing their jobs because of COVID-19 and we’re certainly not immune to that.
For now, I will try and get to know my new workmate. I might even try and spark an office romance and ask him out for a drink one night – on our balcony – for a glass of wine – from our fridge.
Lizzy Hoo is a Sydney-based stand-up comedian, writer and actor. She hails from Brisbane and is made from local and imported ingredients.
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