It’s most often something minor — a running shower, a lively conversation or a ringing cell phone. These little interruptions go hand in hand with holiday visitors, as much a part of the season as indulgent food or tacky sweaters.
But, when you work from home, or are trying to get work done in someone else’s home, these seemingly trivial irritants can escalate quickly and become more serious nuisances.
At the heart of these conflicts is an invasion of what psychologists call primary territory, the environments over which we have the most control and where we feel the safest. Writing in Psychology Today, professor and therapist Shawn Meghan Burn says it’s natural to feel a tad defensive when guests make us feel restricted in our own homes.
“Houseguests … are stressful to the extent that they disrupt our routines and usurp the high amount of control we normally enjoy in this personal territory,” she wrote. “If their routines interfere with ours or if their presence restricts our normal uses of home spaces, stress is likely.”
So what’s a workshifter to do? Here’s how a few of Citrix’s veteran workshifters stay productive — and sane — while spending time with friends or family:
Trey Clark, senior copywriter/editor and full-time workshifter, suggested a series of day trips throughout the Bay Area for his future in-laws, who recently stayed at his and his then-fiancée’s one-bedroom apartment for 10 days. Now living in a larger place, Trey isn’t shy about telling guests to not take it personally when he closes the door to his home office.
“I haven’t always done it successfully, but it’s really all about closing the door,” Trey said, adding that he still makes time to take out-of-town guests for lunch. “I feel like you have to have that separation, or we’ll be chatting all day.”
Keri Robinson, customer reference marketing manager and full-time workshifter, learned while trying to make a conference call at her sister’s and brother-in-law’s dining room table just how challenging remote work can be when you’re the guest.
“You just have to have a sense of humor about it,” she said. “You can’t control the environment when you’re at other people’s places.”
Stacey Watkins, full-time content manager and part-time workshifter, has found that maintaining the balance between career and family obligations means admitting there are times when working from home simply isn’t the best option.
“You have to evaluate the way you work,” Stacey said. “If I were the type of person who could work from home 40 hours a week, that would be awesome. But I am not that person.”
The bottom line, she added, is “don’t (work from home) just because you can.”