my husband and I are both working from our small apartment and it’s bad

It’s the Thursday “ask the readers” question. A reader writes:

My husband has been stuck at his job for a year or so, but it’s taking a while to find that next position. His boss is toxic and and oscillates between micromanaging and wanting the office to be like the Grandma’s Boy movie.

So, this is his problem and not mine, but quarantine has us sequestered to our small, one bedroom apartment. I can’t physically get far enough away to not hear his meetings, and sometimes his needy boss is interrupting my scheduled meetings with his constant calling/fighting (the noise conflict of two meetings at once is too much, generally). I’m hearing all the problems first hand and taking on his work stress. The stress is killing my productivity.

While he does ask me for advice occasionally, my husband is not purposefully/actively distracting me most of the time. Sometimes I can get away with headphones and blasting music, but before all this, I was working in silence for my high concentration tasks. It also doesn’t completely block it out, thin walls.

Do you have any advice? Somedays I look at the amount of grief his job is causing him and just want him to quit, but it’s not a great time for that. How to I compartmentalize this when I’m hearing every meeting he’s in, and juggling my own, completely separate work stress?

Readers, what advice can you offer?

{ 294 comments… read them below }

    1. Eve's Husband's Mustache*

      Yes, they should both be using headsets for their meetings and music. I cannot even imagine.

    2. Alston*

      People are in lock down. Even if stuff is open its not safe to go out to the library.

      Your husband needs some headphones for his meetings (especially improptu ones where they conflict with yours) and the. You only have his side to hear. He should also like go lock himself in the bathroom or kitchen, whichever is farthest or something to muffle the noise when it’s going to be super disruptive to you

    3. Datalie*

      I second headphones for both. Maybe noise canceling ones you can wear when you need silence to concentrate. Also, flexing any hours you can. My boyfriend works 24 hour shifts so when he’s home he’s often playing video games or watching tv next to my closet office. I get my quiet-need-to-concentrate work in from 7a – 10a before he’s home/awake. I’m then done early too! Good luck.

      1. Triumphant Fox*

        This might be something your company will pay for. I don’t know if I’d spring for really fancy ones, but there are plenty under $50 or under $100 that should work great. Mine were maybe $25 and have a built in microphone (I bought them for swimming because they work underwater, but they have been a godsend right now). Headphones are so common in open offices that I would hope employers wouldn’t bat an eye.

        1. TootsNYC*

          can you hear yourself through the microphone, to the speakers in the earpiece? Or does the microphone only send the sound to the computer?
          My son is SO LOUD when he’s using his gaming headphones, because he can’t hear himself through his ears (the ear pieces cancel noise coming in as well as going out), and I suspect the microphone doesn’t feed the sound to his ear pieces.
          If that feature is hard to find, her husband might actually get louder. Unless maybe he uses a single ear piece, or has a one-sided set.

          1. DataGirl*

            My husband has a set that has 3 layers of noise cancelling and 2 microphones. I have no idea how expensive they were, but they seem to work really well for meetings.

          2. Batty Twerp*

            I really think it might be specific to your son’s headset? Hubby and I both bought gaming headsets (because regular headsets could not be bought for love nor money 5 weeks ago!) and they’ve worked brilliantly for us – hubby is in IT support, so on the phone ALL the time.

          3. PollyQ*

            Yes, you can hear yourself fine on a regular phone call. I suspect the issue with your son is that the sound effects on the game, and perhaps the voices of the other players, are drowning out his own voice. Or maybe he’s shouting because the other players can’t hear him over the noise.

        2. Anonymous Educator*

          I have $7 headphones from Target that work fine just for meetings, so headphones don’t have to be a huge expense.

        3. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Could you come by the open forum tomorrow to talk swimming electronics? I don’t want to derail here.

    4. MA marketing assistant*

      Yes, this. It won’t block out his voice but I can’t imagine why he isn’t already doing this.

    5. Wheee!*

      Get noise cancelling headphones (over ear) and then use foam earplugs as well if you’re looking for serious quiet and focus.

      One of my coworker used to use the big over ear protectors, plus noise cancelling headphones. It really helped him stay focused in our loud open office. I don’t think it really matters which you do.

      1. Gatomon*

        Noise-canceling headphones are honestly worth every expensive penny. I brought my home when we went full time WFH and I’ve still found them useful even living alone, especially on lawn day. Usually you still have to be piping some noise in to get the full benefit, but there are free sound apps that will do various types of noise, from white noise to dishwasher sounds and babbling brooks.

        1. Steggy Saurus*

          Noise-cancelling headphones will not block out voices unless you are playing some other sound through the headphones too. I know because I bought two different, very expensive types (in ear and over ear). I wanted silence. I did not get silence. I bring this up because I don’t want the LW to spend a lot of money so they can return to doing high-concentration work in silence.

          1. AcademiaNut*

            It’s largely a software thing – it’s fairly straightforward to cancel more drone-y noises, like traffic outside, or humming machinery, but a lot harder to do it for sharp sudden noises, like someone yelling or a dog barking. So I suspect the LW will need the headphones, plus in-ear earplugs to mute other noise, and maybe some background noise on the headphones too.

    6. coldbrewraktajino*

      If he is and the background noise is still getting picked up, getting headphones with mics will help.

      My go-to for silence in noisy environments is earplugs + over-ear headphones + white noise machine or other soothing background like MyNoise.

    7. Chris*

      +1. Headphones for him (so the OP only has to hear one half of the conversation). Get some with a good mic so he doesn’t have to talk as loudly. Good noise cancelling headphones for the OP. Might also try white noise rather than music to see if that does a better job blocking out his conversation. Throw in as much physical distance as the apartment will allow.

    8. LizardOfOdds*

      Yes, and if it’s not possible for both OP and husband to wear headphones at the same time for some reason, the husband is the one who should be wearing them. When my spouse is at home during my workday, I use some very basic earbuds with a mic and work from a different room, and that works fine.

  1. Emily*

    Noise cancelling headphones.

    Also, cut yourself some slack. It’s OK for your productivity to take a hit right now.

    1. AndersonDarling*

      Seconded. I just ordered some on Amazon for $40, and they have glowing LEDs. I’m gonna look like a rockstar on my next meeting.

      1. Courtney*

        Thirded! It is an investment, but the over-the-ear Beats headphones will let absolutely no noise through and are comfortable to wear for extended periods of time.

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            I don’t get this comment. Assuming your ears work, bone conduction never stops. There will be less feedback so yes there may be cases where someone talks louder because they can’t hear themselves. My teen’s learning this — she’s getting very used to having us tap her, tap our ears, and mouth the word “volume” when she’s too loud.

          2. Mints*

            You can hear yourself through your skull like when you plug your ears, but that’s also a computer setting you can enable.

      2. Justme, the OG*

        I ordered myself some fancy bluetooth ones and my kid some ones that have light-up cat ears.

    2. Q without U*

      Absolutely. There’s a tremendous difference it quality, so if you can afford it, go for high-end ones. Before Covid I bought a pair of the Sony WH-1000XM3. Mine were ~ $250, but were a game changer in my noisy open office.

      1. Rose by another name*

        My Bose headphones were about the same price; they’ve held up well for about a year of steady use, and the battery/Bluetooth is still fine. They’ve helped my sanity through construction right outside the office as well as noise coming through the thin walls in my apartment. When noise cancellation isn’t enough for focused work, I go to a familiar album or playlist without lyrics. Repetitive + mildly pleasant + not distracting is key.

        If the LW’s spouse wears headphones as well, that should cut out the boss’s half of those conversations, which seems to be the frustrating and loud part. And I don’t know whether one of you can move work outside for a short time in pleasant weather (there’s a table and a couple chairs outside my own apartment), but even that small break can help.

        1. Ace in the hole*

          You can get the same sound and noise cancelling quality for about half price if you don’t mind cord-only headphones. I got some nice Bose headphones (over ear noise cancelling) for about $120 because they don’t have bluetooth. The noise cancelling works fine even when they’re not plugged in, so you only need to use the cord when you want sound.

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            Just a caveat — if you’re getting one for phone use, get one with a real mouthpiece. I love the noise-cancelling feature on my Cowin E7 but it’s not a usable microphone.
            (One warning – there are different models of Cowin E7 so read your vendor descriptions carefully or like me you might order the one without noise-cancellation. Coincidentally this worked in my benefit – I hadn’t returned the extra yet when my daughter’s school went all-remote. MUCH more comfortable than earbuds for the long haul — and both versions together are still cheaper than what some commenters say they paid for just one headset.)

      2. Gatomon*

        That’s the pair I have and I’m in love with them. I’ve seen sales around $270ish lately, which is about what I paid near Christmas. I wear glasses 24/7 and I was really hesitant to upgrade from the in-ear style because of the pressure, but I can wear these all day with zero discomfort. Sound and quality is great too, I’ve accidentally roamed all over my 1400 sq ft condo with them on and haven’t dropped Bluetooth. The ability to place your hand on the right cup and hear without taking them off is awesome too.

      3. YouGottaThrowtheWholeJobAway*

        Also endorsing the Sony WH-1000XM3 if budget allows, wearing them at this very moment and it was seriously the best money I have spent this year. Now I feel pretty good about it because there is no way we go back to my open plan, flexible office via the subway in the immediate future.

    3. ...*

      I keep seeing people posting this here but I’m not sure it will hold true for many people. Not everyone’s superiors are totally chill with them being significantly less productive. It may be “OK” in the sense of what should be but I don’t think its everyones reality that its fine to not be as productive. Especially with layoffs looming for many, they would not want to be seen as the least productive of the pack. I’m not making any proclamation about whether that is right or fair, just that I think its the truth for a lot of people.

      1. Senor Montoya*

        Yep. Even my super understanding supervisors expect certain key tasks and projects to be done as usual (= quickly and with a high degree of quality). Some stuff is off my plate but not everything. Plus some emergent tasks/projects that MUST be addressed.

      2. Rachel in NYC*

        That’s very true. Someone posted a concerned co-worker post on reddit’s legal advice yesterday that was basically their boss was talking about firing an employee for decreased productivity. The employee is their social media person and is WFH w/ 2 or 3 kids right now.

      3. Legal Beagle*

        Agreed. If your company is conducting layoffs, this is the worst possible time to have low productivity. If your boss is not understanding, you can’t just decide to cut yourself some slack. (AAM has published letters from people whose bosses expect them to be *more* productive now, or working at all hours.) Of course this isn’t how it should be, but for some people, it’s reality. Exhorting those people to calm down and not care if their productivity falls can add to the stress and frustration.

      4. Gatomon*

        Well sure, it’s not an excuse to spend 50% of your day doing nothing and expect to keep your job. But it’s okay to take a few extra pauses to collect yourself or to work a bit slower to prevent mistakes (which could cost time/money to fix). I know I’ve pushed myself too hard when not in the right space before and just created mess after mess for myself and my coworkers down the line that no one appreciated.

      5. Anon4This*

        Yep. My boss expects us to get more done, since we are home and have ‘nothing else to do’.

      6. CheeryO*

        Yeah, I keep seeing this sentiment being thrown around, and that’s just not the reality for some folks. I’m an environmental regulator. The public wouldn’t be happy if we weren’t getting our work done, and rightly so. Same goes for the facilities that we regulate. We’ve been allowed some flexibility, schedule-wise, but the work has to get done regardless of what your WFH setup is like.

      7. Emily*

        Yeah, I realize this is true for a lot of people (and … that sucks), but I thought that OP would have mentioned it if their job was in jeopardy.

      8. BRR*

        I’m glad someone said it. Managers should understand that employees are stressed and it might (will?) impact things but we know from AAM there is how things should be and how things actually are. My manager and grandboss are both old fashioned who value butt in chair time. They’re not dealing well with the entire staff working from home and are asking for weekly reports on what we’ve done. Only some things are quantifiable and it’s just incredibly stressful.

    4. LunaLena*

      Yeah, I was wondering if the OP just needs better headphones. My husband and I are also both working from a small home, and in fact both of our workspaces are in the same general area (he’s in the dining room, I’m in the adjoining living room). I don’t have noise-cancelling headphones, but I do have over-the-ear noise-reducing Bose headphones that I bought for $80 on Amazon. Even without music it muffles out a lot of sound (if someone is talking to me it sounds like the adults in Charlie Brown are somewhere in the distance); with music it would probably take a gunshot for me to notice something is happening around me.

      If the husband gets a headset with a microphone, like the kind gamers wear, it should not only eliminate her having to hear his boss, it would mean he could adjust the volume of his boss without having to turn it down too low to understand him, which might be good for his stress levels too. And he wouldn’t have to talk loudly to speak to the boss, since the microphone would be right there, so she wouldn’t hear much of him talking either.

      1. TootsNYC*

        my gamer son has a microphone right there too, and he is REALLY LOUD. I don’t think he can hear himself.

        1. LunaLena*

          Gamers tend to be loud in general, though, especially if they’re competitive and playing an exciting match. I know cuz I’m one myself. :) That’s actually one of many reasons I no longer wear a headset when playing and mute everyone at the beginning of a match if possible.

        2. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Give him feedback when he’s NOT in a game so he knows. There is definitely a learning curve. I’m in a family full of gamers and we’re all doing remote work/school this spring — we all agreed to tell each other when someone’s too loud on the phone, and it’s already happening much less than at the start of shelter-in-place.

        3. Lavender Menace*

          I’m guessing he can hear himself and he’s just loud. My husband and I are both gamers, so we have several sets of gaming and other headsets floating around, from the cheap ones that come with the console to expensive noise-canceling headphones. You can hear yourself in all of them.

          My guess is the game volume is probably too loud relative to party chat, so he’s feeling like he needs to yell over the game audio so his friends can hear him. (He may sound obnoxiously loud to his friends, too.) He probably needs to adjust his console audio settings – he can adjust these on his console in the sound/audio setting menu.

          Some headsets also allow you to adjust the balance between game audio and party chat audio. If your son is talking with friends online, and if it’s feasible for you, you may want to look into one of those.

          Or…maybe he’s just really loud. My husband is a naturally loud person; he’s loud even when he’s talking normally, but when he gets on party chat I can hear him clearly upstairs and clear on the other side of the house. He’s essentially shouting. Even I’m a bit louder when I’m on party chat.

      2. Anna*

        Yeah, I was wondering if the husband is trying to avoid having his boss yell right in his ear, but I’ve fond the headphones with the attached volume knob are so helpful for turning yellers way, way down.

    5. eshrai*

      YES! These have been a life saver for me. I have kids at home…so I use my noise canceling headphones to actually get some work done! I bought them right before this all happened so that I could concentrate on my own homework (night classes) while roommates watched TV and played video games. They have a microphone too so work for my conference calls and are pretty good at not picking up a bunch of ambient noise.

    6. Agnetha*

      Internet strangers saying “It’s OK for your productivity to take a hit right now” may not be as helpful as intended. Sometimes people have supervisors who don’t think it’s OK to not be productive.

  2. GeekBoi*

    Perhaps one of you can work in a different location occasionally , Like a library or Internet cafe? Maybe even the laundry room or storage area of their apartment building?

    1. EPLawyer*

      Most libraries and internet cafes are closed right now. A laundry room is probably full of people and ewww all those germs.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        And a lot of apartment laundry rooms are small and have no space for someone to camp out with work equipment all day.

      2. Deja vu*

        My library (while closed) increased their wifi signal, so people can park in the parking lot with their devices – while not comfortable, perhaps that could be a compromise where you at least get a few hours of quiet

        1. ...*

          Yeah, if you have a car, maybe taking some meetings or working there. My street is super loud though so that wouldn’t be a better option.

          1. triplehiccup*

            Yes, I have worked in a few parking lots since this all started. You may be able to get WiFi in your car outside a Starbucks or McDonalds, if you don’t have a hot spot.

    2. [insert witty user name here]*

      In normal times, these would be good suggestions, but most libraries and cafes are closed right now to COVID, and a lot of apartment buildings have closed their common areas. Setting up in the laundry room would be an inconvenience to both OP (probably) and to other tenants (almost definitely), plus it defeats the purpose of staying in a “clean” area; you don’t know who else in your building might be an asymptomatic carrier.

      1. Wherehouse Politics*

        In my neighborhood the wifi to the library is on even though the building is closed. Driving and parking nearby for the reception, working in the car is possible. Again, noise cancelling headphones for both, and if both need to take a video call at the same time, one could use the bathroom. If it’s obvious it’s the bathroom, perhaps have a fabric pinned up behind you.

        1. Jennifer*

          +1 I have done this. Xfinity is also making public wifi hotspots free and you can check their website for locations near you.

        2. coldbrewraktajino*

          This is where Zoom backgrounds really come in handy!

          I love the idea of wifi from the library parking lot.

        3. lemon*

          Good suggestion (I’m very jealous of people who have cars right now. It’s hard to work from the library parking lot on a bike lol). Also, McDonald’s parking lots could work, too.

          1. Jules the 3rd*

            My libraries have multiple external benches. You still have to worry about rain, glare and power, but it might be worth checking if you’re really in a bind.

            1. Furloughed Anon*

              While it seems like a good idea, you may be violating quarantine by-laws. Depending on how strict your city is in keeping people home except for exercise/grocery shopping/medical appointments, you may end up with a big fine for sitting on a bench too long. All it takes is some busybody watching you from an apartment balcony sitting there too long to call the pandemic snitch line.

        4. MusicWithRocksIn*

          This is super good to know – I need to check with my library. My wifi went down for 45 minutes the other day and I almost lost my mind with panic over getting my work done. I was just melting down with “What do I DO?” I can’t go to a library or café or even my parents house, which are all my normal back up places. My husband is essential, so I wouldn’t want to impose on any friends or family who are fully quarantined. Thank you for letting us know!

          1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

            If you’re in an area with Comcast, they’ve opened up most of their xfinity wifi hotspots for free to everyone right now (usually this is a perk that comes with their home internet service and they charge non-subscribers who want wifi access). This may give you options for places (mostly businesses) to park outside of to use their internet from your car. You can see a list at wifi[dot]xfinity[dot]com .

    3. AvonLady Barksdale*

      In addition to outside places being closed, my city has shut down all common spaces in apartment buildings–and I imagine that’s the case in a lot of places, either by government order or by building choice in the name of safety.

      I have to say, I’m actually surprised to see the cafe or library suggestion at all. Maybe because I don’t know of any cities where they’re open!

    4. Uranus Wars*

      I live alone in a tiny apartment and my plan was definitely go to library…and then the library closed. It’s hard to be in small, confined space alone. Can’t even imagine with another human trying to work,too!

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        I used to go to my building’s comfortable, large lobby. I work from home full time anyway, and it was so nice to have another space to go to. When my partner was first thinking about working from home, he was all, “Oh, I’ll just go to the lobby,” then the city required the lobby space to be shut down. Better for everyone, of course, especially since a run of people in the lobby with the same thoughts would be bad, but man, I miss my change of scenery!

        1. Em*

          I’ve been moving my desk and furniture around into different places. Even if its positions I can’t leave it in overnight, the small change in angles and arrangement while working has done wonders for my mood. I’ve considered swapping curtains around or throwing blankets over things to switch things up a bit too. Keeping printing out large landscapes to tape to my windows to change the “view” in my back pocket for a run of bad days in a row. . .

      2. thanks but no*

        As a librarian I’m so glad the government closed us down for this reason exactly. All love to our patrons in the best of times, but it was our lowest paid staff being asked to interact with the influx of people going to libraries because everywhere else was closed. Not a good social distancing situation.

      3. Jennifer*

        Yeah, I definitely get the reason for the closures but also feel for people who have no place to go now just to get a break. If you have limited means and a small space, no backyard or patio, public spaces like parks and libraries are so important.

        The park may be an option for the OP if she can use a hotspot on her phone to access the internet. Some city parks remain open as long as everyone has space.

    5. YouGottaThrowtheWholeJobAway*

      If this person is in NYC or another HCOL city like my one-bedroom dwelling husband and I are, they may not have any common spaces in their apartment building — in most cases you have to be quite wealthy to have those kinds of amenities. There is probably no onsite laundry, there is no lobby seating (or no big lobby/foyer), no storage for tenants, no private outdoor space, etc. For reference, many of us here in NY have seen our neighbors carried out on stretchers by people in hazmat suits from our peepholes and windows, there is nowhere to go that is not an infection risk beyond your own apartment — we cannot safely get mail or take out the trash every day, let alone sit on the stairs or in the hall and bother 6 floors worth of people even if it were safe. Everything external is closed and people are not allowed to be onsite at cafes, libraries, fedex/kinkos, etc.

      OP: we both have noise-cancelling headphones for focused work, no one is allowed take calls without a headset with built-in mic, and we ended up getting a very long ethernet cable so we can sit as far apart as possible without either person losing wifi strength in our 1-bed apt with weird walls (a booster was a no go, just get the cord and spool it up at night so no one trips if this is part of the issue). It still sucks and I miss my onsite set up (giant dual monitors, ergonomic chairs, phone rooms, sigh). I am lucky my husband and I have slightly different core hours and call patterns, and both of our bosses are at least realistic about the fact that in our market most people are crammed in together with no recourse.

      1. Rachel in NYC*

        Yeah, all I could think of in NYC is a park. They are the only places with seating. I’m admittedly not sure if you are allowed to sit down on the benched and can’t say I’d want to right now. But if you have an internet enabled device, it could work.

        1. Fieldpoppy*

          In Toronto you would get an $800 ticket for sitting on a bench in a park. This has to be an in-place solution.

      2. Charley*

        That’s so sad to read but thank you for sharing – it helps to understand why the lockdown is what it is. Stay safe

    6. wondHRland*

      If he gets a call from boss while you’re on a call, could he not tell the boss the he’ll call back later when his conversation won’t disrupt your scheduled meeting? I know you said the boss is toxic, but what has he got to lose at this point? Tell boss that, due to both being home, non-emergency calls/meetings need to be scheduled when the other isn’t also on a call/meeting.

      1. TPS reporter*

        agree, sounds a little risky but the partner should just ignore the boss. only pick up the phone during certain times that are good for the letter writer. In addition to headphones and you can try to pad the walls with tapestries for more noise cancelling.

    7. Beth*

      This might be an option in other times, but I’m betting it’s not right now. Libraries and cafes are closed. It would be pretty selfish to linger in common spaces like a building laundry room when people are trying to keep physically distant and may need the space for its actual intended purpose. Working from home usually needs internet access too, which may not be available or reliable in a storage space, outside, etc.

      For better or worse, people working from home right now are mostly stuck working from their actual homes.

  3. J9*

    Headphones! They have changed my WFH experience.
    You can’t change his boss (right now), but you can try to change the acoustics.
    Good luck!

    1. [insert witty user name here]*

      Yup! And if OP prefers silence/quiet to music (I do for most tasks, honestly), they could play white noise off youtube or a streaming service. That will help cancel out noises from their partner but not be a distraction to themselves.

      1. A*

        This! I prefer library-level silence when I’m concentrating on the task oriented portions of my job, and even though I live alone I unfortunately have the joy of listening to all of very, very young neighbors playing video games / still having friends over all day. I alternate between white noise, and rain noise on my headphones. It helps soooooo much!

        1. Blazer*

          Recommendations on noise canceling headphones that aren’t Bose? (Not in my budget atm) I’ve tried a couple of different brands but wasn’t impressed.

          1. Newbie*

            Sennheisers are great! They’re still not cheap but slightly better than Bose, and you might be able to pick up an older model for cheaper.

          2. AzaleaBertrand*

            Try Audio Technica, and if you get older corded models rather than Bluetooth they’ll be a lot cheaper. When I was a writer who somehow got sat in the middle of an open plan call centre, my Audio Technicas worked great. My husband splurged and upgraded me to Bose last year – yes they’re worth it as they’re more comfortable, cup the ear more, have more powerful noise cancelling, but my old ones still do the job when needed.

      2. OrigCassandra*

        Cat lovers may enjoy purr.li, but consider turning off the control that lets it meow at you.

        1. [insert witty user name here]*

          WHAT. THIS IS BRILLIANT.

          I love this so much, and by extension, YOU for letting me know this exists!!!!!!!

      3. YouGottaThrowtheWholeJobAway*

        I forgot in my comment above but in addition to noise cancelling headphones we also sometimes position our white noise machine between us somewhere strategic so it has the most effect without totally derailing the person on the phone. We have a cheap standalone model but apps could work in a pinch.

      4. SheLooksFamiliar*

        Second both of these suggestions! I live alone and have worked from home for much of the past 20 years, and don’t have the kind of distraction the OP does. But I wear headphones or run white noise, because I do have leafblowers and the neighborbood’s barking dogs to block.

      5. Rachel in NYC*

        I wonder if a fan might help? My boss uses one in the office sometimes if he’s having ‘sensitive’ or ‘private’ conversations b/c our offices are built with pressure walls.

        1. KAG*

          One of the problems I’ve had with white noise machines is that sometimes they work too well – so if you *do* need to be on a Zoom call, the person on the other end of the call can’t hear you! (Maybe that’s due to poor positioning on my end)

        1. Steggy Saurus*

          Just for the record, white noise isn’t silence. If you actually need silence and you have a car, I’d try the suggestion of parking your car in a lot with a nearby wifi hotspot.

  4. EPLawyer*

    Does he have to take the calls from his boss when you are on a call? Can he just “miss” the call then call back when you are done claiming he was in the bathroom or something?

    It’s not an overall solution but maybe it will help with that one small piece.

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      He probably could do that, but it sounds like his boss is an ass and more yelling would ensue later since OP’s partner didn’t pick up immediately.

      1. pancakes*

        Seems like even that wouldn’t necessarily be disruptive unless the husband is yelling back? The letter isn’t clear on exactly what is happening but it doesn’t sound like 100% of the fighting is coming from the boss: “his needy boss is interrupting my scheduled meetings with his constant calling/fighting.” The boss can’t possibly be fighting alone in this scenario. It sounds like he’s calling because he wants to fight with someone, and it sounds like the husband picks up and participates rather than letting these calls go to voicemail.

        1. TL -*

          Yeah if your husband is raising his voice back, he needs to stop. I know there are some industries where that’s normal, but he can’t be yelling at home when you’re trying to work as well. He needs to prioritize your ability to do your work equally with his and that means no raised voices.

  5. Leah K.*

    Noise canceling headphones for you, and good headphones for your husband that don’t “leak” noise.

  6. Nita*

    What if your husband uses a headset (headphones and a microphone)? Then you would only hear half the conversation, and would not hear the boss at all. No advice on the stress, just lots of sympathy!

  7. Budgie Buddy*

    Can the husband try headphones for meetings? That might help cut down on the noise element, and if he can angle his screen toward the wall OP won’t have to see the shouty boss either.

    Sucks that’s he’s stuck in this toxic job right now :(

  8. LDN Layabout*

    Headset for him, if they’re too expensive, a lot of earbuds have microphones now due to being used with phones.

    That’s non-negotiable if you’re more than one person working in a small space.

  9. Dr. Bom, M.Sc.*

    That is admittedly a tough one. If you have a room that you can spare, you could try hanging up blankets on the walls to help deaden the sound. Plus, if your husband can use a headset while speaking with his boss, that would help cut down on the amount of noise that you end up hearing.

    Also, it might be worth speaking to your manager & let them know that, due to the realities of working from home during quarantine, your productivity is going to be lower than usual, but you are taking steps to try and minimize the impact.

    One other idea – is it possible for the two of you to stagger your working hours somewhat? If you know that there are times when your husband’s boss tends to start fights, you could try and arrange it so that you’re not working during that time.

    Hope any of that helps.

    1. Alex*

      +1 for hanging blankets on the walls- that’s what I did in college, and it worked pretty well

      1. lemon*

        There’s also those foam acoustic tiles you can put on the wall. They’re not too expensive, and work OK at dampening sound (not completing blocking out).

    2. ThatGirl*

      Having a fan running (esp. outside a closed door) can also help as a substitute white noise machine. My husband is a therapist who’s doing Zoom sessions right now, and it helps. (He also does those sessions upstairs, as we have a 2-story house, but some sound would still leak through the vents.)

    3. Mrs_helm*

      +1 on staggered schedules
      I get more done in the time before the rest of the household is up than any other part of the day.

    4. JSPA*

      Why does her manager have to take up the slack for his?

      Opposite advice, from me: husband has a low – emotional – stakes yet powerful statement that he can make. In fact, that he MUST make. To wit: “This is my wife’s time to use our limited bandwidth. I’ve already used more than my share, she has had to bow out of meetings to accommodate us, and her meetings are just as essential as ours. I can check back with you at [time] or [time]. Which works better for you?”

  10. Temperance*

    Can one of you work in the bedroom and the other work in a different space? That, plus headphones, will help. Ask your husband to stop taking work calls on speaker while you’re in the room.

    1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      I don’t get the feeling that they’re in the same room, but rather that husband’s boss is really that bad and it’s leaking through the walls.

      Headphones with headset microphones are a first priority, as realistically there isn’t a quick fix for the underlying problem.

      Has LW tried actually sitting down with husband and saying “you said it was bad but holy moley this is unreal”? So often we need an outside perspective when we’ve normalised terrible behaviour.

      1. Amanda*

        That last paragraph is gold!

        And yes, headphones are a must, noise cancelling ones if you can afford them,

  11. Ms. Chanadalar Bong*

    I can relate.

    Before quarantine, my partner was struggling because his communication style is mismatched from his manager. Now that conflict exists in my house 24/7 – they’re both frustrated and it impacts my partner’s mood. Add to that the stress of fluctuating workloads and the looming possibility of layoffs, and it’s so hard.

    Two things that have worked for me: I walk my dogs at lunchtime everyday. The physical space apart helps me reset (I know this isn’t possible for everyone due the variance in rules by region, but if you can swing it, it’s a good tool). And at the end of the day, we shut it off. Where the time after 5 used to be the time to vent about workdays, we now get too much of that all day long. So evenings are a no work zone.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      YES to the no-work evenings! I am getting weary of all of the work talk during the day. My partner and I both have issues with our jobs, and to add another layer, he’s in his first office setting in over a decade and he’s having trouble navigating the politics so he comes to me for advice.

      Although, I should note that he and I have taken a different approach when it comes to walking the dog– we walk him together and have kind of naturally flowed into getting all of our venting out during our walks. That might be one option, if it helps the OP compartmentalize. (Also, we should note that she doesn’t need a dog to take a walk, though having one certainly helps!)

      I really, really feel for this OP. I am fortunate that even in our not-super-large apartment, I have a designated work space with a door I can close because I wfh full-time anyway. My partner has a desk in here too but it’s not set up properly so he camps out in the living room. While I miss having free access to my sofa, I’m glad we don’t have to listen to each other all day.

    2. Zett*

      This! I’ve added an AM walk by myself to my routine and that has helped. I have some time alone, and I have something that is separate that we do. It totally feels like we do everything together now – even work as we’re in the next room over – so having something that is separate is nice (even if it’s minor).

      Right when work is done we go for a walk together and I’ve tried implementing this: you can talk about work until this geographic point of our walk and I can talk for this stretch, then we change the topic to not work so by the time we get home we’re out of work mode.

      1. first time commentor*

        Hi! I appreciate these comments.

        Lots of posters are suggesting headphones/sound absorption strategies, and while it’s true that some logistical tweaks could be helpful, I think the bigger and tougher question is about the relationship and second-hand stress.

        I am in the same boat. My husband hating his job was stressful for me before, but now that we are both working remotely from the same 450-sq-ft apartment it’s impacting me much more. Yes, he wears headphones. But I can still feel the pressure he’s under, the negative tense energy all the time, and the despair that he’s probably stuck in this job for the foreseeable future because of the pandemic. Unfortunately he’s also working 12-14 hour days, so we can’t turn it off at 5pm.

        Sorry I don’t have any brilliant suggestions, just validating what I perceive to be OP’s real conundrum.

        1. Senor Montoya*

          I’m so sorry! for both you and your husband.

          Is it possible for you to work just outside your apt door? Don’t know what your set up is, but if your door opens into a hallway or foyer, can you safely use it? if it’s not being used much by the other residents of the building maybe that will work. Or even outdoors, if it;s not too noisy (and again, if it is safely away from other people)

        2. Guacamole Bob*

          I think the other commenters who’ve talked about compartmentalizing and mental walls are on the right track – as best you can, block it out, remind yourself that it’s his problem and not yours, and do not engage with him about it. His job is his problem.

          You say “we can’t turn it off at 5pm”, but can *you* turn it off even if he keeps working? Take walks, sit outside somewhere, watch zone-out movies with headphones, or whatever lets you recharge? And can you ban work talk during those times he’s not working?

          My spouse has had problems with anxiety off and on over the years, and I’ve had to create these kinds of boundaries at times. It feels really cold, at first – spouses are supposed to be supportive! And listen to each other! – but creating those boundaries helps so much when one person is locked into a miserable stress cycle about something that the other person can’t actually fix.

      2. Hydrangea McDuff*

        I try to walk the dog at the beginning and end of the day and I call it my “commute.”

        OP, I am so sorry both for you and the spouse. I’m wondering if you can declare some “quiet hours” where neither of you take calls and can really focus in on working. His boss doesn’t sound very reasonable, but it might work for him to say, “boss, I need to adjust my schedule to help out Sally so she can write/concentrate between 10-12 and 3-5 every day [or whatever] and I want to let you know I will return calls after that.” It also sounds like spouse could do some reading on AAM and see if any scripts on being bullied by boss on the phone might help.

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      With the fan on if possible/applicable to drown out the noise. Though he would only need to do this when his boss calls to yell.

      1. Jennifer Thneed*

        I think this is best if it’s an old, loud fan that makes too much noise to be heard over. “Sorry boss, can’t hear you!”

    2. Anonymous Educator*

      This is a really good suggestion. A one-bedroom apartment can be tough for separating out into different “rooms,” but if you have a bathroom with a door that closes (most bathrooms I’d hope have a door attached to them), and it’s not a video call, you can go into the bathroom for that call.

      Unless absolutely necessary, I try to take most “video” calls with my camera off, and I mute when I’m not speaking. That really helps with minimizing “Zoom fatigue,” but it also helps with your background… not being a toilet.

  12. Kimmybear*

    As others have said, good headphones. You don’t describe your set up but is one of you working in the bedroom and the other in the living room or are you sharing the same room? Can you adjust your work schedules a bit so one of you works 7-3 and the other 10-6? That might allow you some dedicated time for quiet work. Can you take calls in the closet? Sounds silly but my last apartment had a huge walk-in closet – big enough for a desk.

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      Can you take calls in the closet? Sounds silly but my last apartment had a huge walk-in closet – big enough for a desk.

      This actually isn’t a silly suggestion at all. Go on Pinterest and type in small space offices or closet offices, and you’ll see tons of pins of people’s home offices set in their walk-ins or extra closets. I was even considering putting some of my clothes in my storage unit and working out of one of mine since I work from home full-time outside of the pandemic – I have two medium-sized clothes closets, one of which is a walk-in, so it could work.

  13. Lady Heather*

    A white noise machine might help some – you don’t have to start by investing into a machine, an app or a youtube video can work as well, at least to try it out.

      1. SovereignSF*

        Or, if you’re like me, a noise machine AND a fan. I find it hard to concentrate without it. I also have an app on my phone that I sometimes use.

    1. BasicWitch*

      I really like MyNoise for this. I find it really hard to work on tasks requiring concentration in a bustling office – when I’m trying to write something I sometimes automatically include bits of conversations I overhear, gah! So I created a custom sound cloud that makes it sound like I’m in a rainy cafe. The rain sound cuts a lot of the background office noise, and, ironically, the pseudobabble sound of voices from the cafe track makes it impossible for me to make out nearby conversations. I pair that with some nice classical or lo-fi music to keep my mood up and cruise along nicely.

      1. juliebulie*

        Seconding mynoise. My only issue with it is that I can easily kill hours of unproductive time playing with all the different sounds and settings.

    2. Ms Fieryworth*

      Came here to say this too- white noise machine/fan, plus headset playing white noise, and a barrier between work spaces (even if it’s just a folding screen or sheet/blanket hanging from the ceiling with command hooks.

    3. Megan*

      Second the white noise machine. I worked in a small office with very thin walls and we turned these on right outside or inside a closed door when we needed to have private conversations. Didn’t seem to interfere with video conferencing and worked well. There are a million available online, ours was a small one about two inches high and 5 inches across.

    4. Green Goose*

      I was coming to make the same suggestion. At my office, we were open plan with four closet-sized “phone rooms” that had paper-thin walls so we had a noise machine in each room and it really does drown out what the other people are saying which helped so much for concentration.

    5. Fleezy*

      This would be my suggestion too, especially for when you really need to concentrate. I don’t have WFH issues, but my son the very loudly vocal Fortnite enthusiast is in the thin-walled bedroom next to my bedroom, and I barely hear him when my white noise machine is running with a static noise.

  14. Ama*

    I have been using a fairly noisy air filter in my office (we don’t have central HVAC so I need something to circulate the air), that I didn’t realize until I turned it off the other day was blocking 95% of the noise when my husband is on a conference call. Because I keep it on the floor it isn’t getting picked up by my laptop’s microphone so when I have a conference call it doesn’t bother anyone.

    For me personally, white noise machines (fans or actual white noise generators) tend to be a better blocker of distracting sounds than noise canceling headphones.

    1. LawLady*

      Yeah, if you’re not ready to invest quite a sum of money in noise canceling headphones, they work okay, but not amazingly. (But the $400+ pairs really are great.) But ambient noise can really cut down on distraction cheaply. I’m a big fan of ambient-mixer.com, which has all sorts of themed ambient soundtracks, but allows you to fine tune the elements of your background noise (i.e. do you want rain, thunder, wind, fireplace crackling, voices murmuring, etc.).

  15. Quinalla*

    Headphones for both of you if you can swing it. If not, then have him turn the volume down more? I know for some calls where my husband and I (also both working from home) are mostly listening, we can take those next to each other with headphones/earbuds and it is fine, but when one or both of us is talking a lot, we got to complete separate parts of the house. Sounds like he’s using speakers or speakerphone to take calls, if he can cut that, at least then you should only hear his part of the conversation.

    You also might add some more soft things to the spaces you are in to help absorb sound. Just that little extra sound absorption from an extra rug or wall hanging or blanket can really help too.

    And maybe some kind of noise machine (I just usually do a box fan because I’m cheap :) ) to drown out the sound a bit too. That can help a lot as well.

    Focus work right now is HARD anyway, so see what things you can add to make it at least a little better!

    1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      re: sound absorption, do we think husband would be better off in the bedroom which is likely to have more sound dampening in it already? They could bring in additional towels/blankets and leave closets open, anything to reduce sound leakage.

      If LW is in the bedroom and husband in the living space, this swap could help in the short term.

  16. AndersonDarling*

    My husband had a bad workplace and I was so drained every time he came home and told me about his day. Somehow, it would stress me out more than him. Because he worked in it everyday, he had developed a thicker skin and hearing about it second-hand made it more dramatic and amplified the drama for me.
    So you have to remember that it isn’t your world, you have your own work world. You can sympathize, but it doesn’t do you any good to consume the anger/drama/nastiness. If you have the ability to ignore it, then it’s okay to ignore it and focus on your work.

    1. Cobol*

      This! OP seems way more stressed than their husband. I used to work in tech where every conversation was straightforward and people didn’t hesitate to challenge. My wife couldn’t deal with it, and always thought it was the end of the world, but it was just a normal conversation.

  17. Mama Bear*

    I agree that he needs headphones. I use Microsoft Lifechat LX-3000s for meetings and they work pretty well. Are you able to be on a balcony or patio some of your day?

    Even in a house with us being on different floors, I can sometimes hear my spouse on work calls b/c he just talks loudly. I use headphones if I can’t concentrate.

  18. Professional yeller about civil rights*

    What about going on a walk for phone meetings? Sitting in a car? Your husband could try quickly dipping out of your apartment to take his boss’s calls.

    Also, he probably shouldn’t just quit, it’s true. But other places will still be hiring and probably having a hard time with recruitment in a crisis. He should definitely start applying for jobs! Think he’d make a good contact tracer?

  19. Guy*

    You both needs headphones/microphones so you can take your meetings without hearing each other’s. Noise-canceling headphones playing music during normal work if someone else has a meeting helps a lot too!

  20. The Cosmic Avenger*

    As far as music to work by, my favorite genres are dubstep/techno and rap, but they are only conducive to repetitive tasks that I can do to some extent on autopilot. Since you mentioned high concentration tasks, I find for detailed work that requires a lot of concentration, classical music is much more helpful and appropriate for me. And while some of it can be a little too relaxing for some people, like maybe Brahms, Chopin, or Debussy, much of Mozart and Beethoven’s work is actually very fast, with a more foot-tapping tempo, but no lyrics to distract that portion of your brain. (If any true classical music fans care to correct me, that would be great. I just barely know the names of a few composers, and don’t really know that much about even them.) However, if you’re not feeling like you need a nap, the slower tempo music might be appropriate!

    1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      I am always here to recommend video game soundtracks (available on streaming subscriptions and YouTube if you search that term) because they tend to be just a bit urgent, wordless, and classical-familiar without being earworms.

      1. Libervermis*

        Same! I also like movie soundtracks, but I do find it takes a couple days of using one (presuming I know the movie) before I stop “seeing” the scenes as I’m working. But LoTR, Pirates of the Caribbean, How to Train Your Dragon, etc. soundtracks are now absolute gold for when I really need to concentrate. Assassin’s Creed soundtracks have also been good of late.

      2. Amy Sly*

        I have a Pandora station of Romantic/20th Century classical music, movie soundtracks, and video game soundtracks. (John Williams and Ralph Vaughn Williams — two great tastes that taste great together!)

        Just … be careful if it’s a video game you play. I was listening one day and trying to figure out why my anxiety had suddenly shot through the roof, until I realized I was listening to the ambient music in a zone where I have died a lot. (Duskwood in WoW)

    2. Lainey Lake*

      Try searching YouTube for “Binaural beats”. It will give you a variety of vaguely meditative sound tracks(reminiscent of something you might hear in a spa treatment room or slow yoga session) that are great for there being noise without any words or even a particular speed of beat/emotional tone to it. There are various woo-ish claims associated with it that you can happily ignore if that’s not your thing, it’s just a useful noise generator (although if develop any psychic powers or super-human intelligence as a result bonus ;-))

    3. BasicWitch*

      I like movie (especially studio Ghibli) and video game soundtracks, or lo-fi when I’m working.

    4. Kiwiii*

      lofi or soundtracks work best for me (Frostpunk in particular is Excellent for more drudging tasks), or chill albums I’ve heard 100x before like Mac Miller’s Swimming or DEAN’s 130 Mood: TRBL. sometimes my boyfriend and i can share the space okay, but if we’re trading off meetings all day or if either of us is particularly stressed, on the music goes.

    5. lemon*

      Weirdly enough, I’ve found that I’m really productive when listening to upbeat pop music in another language that I don’t speak (Spanish is good). Classical music tends to make me sleepy, but music in English can be distracting, because I listen to the lyrics. Can’t listen to the lyrics if you can’t understand them. :)

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        Abba in Spanish is my guilty work pleasure – I don’t speak enough Spanish to follow them, and I don’t know the English lyrics well enough to sing along.

    6. Lunchy*

      I recommend ChilledCow’s “Lo-Fi Hip Hop/Chill Hop” stream on YouTube and playlist on Spotify. It actually just melts into the background when I’m working (as in, I don’t notice when the song changes or subconsciously keep track of what songs have played), which music doesn’t usually do for me. Most tracks are instrumental, too.

  21. Spreadsheets and Books*

    I feel your pain. My husband and I live in a 425 square foot studio. He’s a doctor so he does leave every now and then but since elective surgeries are canceled, he’s only had to go in one to two days a week for the last three weeks. When he’s here he has like a million Zoom calls for a reason neither one of us can figure out and every one lasts like an hour and a half. On the day he spent five hours on Zoom and then took a social call to gossip for an hour with someone who had been on all five hours of Zoom calls, I completely lost it at him. He’s now taking calls at the hospital when it’s convenient (ex: he has a shift later in the day and can just stay there) and isn’t taking social calls to chitchat anymore. Where possible, I’m taking time off from working while he’s on calls because I can’t focus on anything while he’s screaming into the phone four feet away and just watching TV or listening to music while reading a book with headphones on.

    Make sure headphones are required for both of you. One side of a call is better than two sides. Also, is there a way you can get outside for a quick walk while he’s on the phone when it becomes too much to bear? Just getting out and not having to listen to it could be a benefit.

    1. TimeTravlR*

      Not sure I could survive living with anyone in 425sf and certainly couldn’t work like that! Good luck with all of it!!!

      1. Alli525*

        I live alone in a 330 square foot apartment that is somehow still a real one-bedroom. The rooms are SO tiny. I’ve never been glad to be single and childless until coronavirus hit – I used to date a guy long-distance and when he would spend weekends at my place it felt soooo much smaller. And that was vacationy, loved-up time – not a stressful WFH situation in a pandemic.

      2. Diahann Carroll*

        Yeah, my last place was 415 sf, and before this pandemic hit and right before I accepted a permanent full-time remote position, I said to myself that there was no possible way I could have accepted the job living in my old place – and I live alone. I ate from my bed and/or my couch because I didn’t even have room for a small dining room table, so working at home with my laptop, docking station, external monitor, and conference speakerphone would have been a nightmare to try to navigate.

        You have my sympathies.

      3. Spreadsheets and Books*

        Luckily, we are moving to a two bed, two bath in two weeks! Excited doesn’t even begin to cover it. We’ve been in this studio for 4 years so we’re pretty used to it, but we both haven’t had to live with being home all day, every day before.

        I live in NYC so I will most likely be working from home for a very, very long time. The space will be highly appreciated.

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          Congratulations! I know you are just going to love all that new, extra space. I gained 177 sf when I moved into my current studio, and it was like I had moved into a mansion, lol.

      4. AVP*

        Heh, my husband and I are also working from a similar sized apartment, and I have a solid amount of calls that I take every day (and used to love speakerphone for them!) It’s only working because I was remote before this and am used to it, and he really doesn’t have a lot of working hours this time of year. If we’re both here in the fall someone is going out the window.

  22. Junior Dev*

    If you have a closet that is big enough to sit in and you don’t get claustrophobic in it, you or your husband could sit in there. It’s an old trick people use when making audio recordings at home, the clothes muffle sounds.

    He should definitely wear headphones for meetings. You should not have to hear his boss ever.

  23. Andrea*

    Ugh. That sounds so awful! Do you have a car? I think that’s where I’d escape to, just to get some work done. Maybe you can take turns?

  24. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

    I can’t offer advice cause I’m in a similar situation (living with an aging parent who has the tv on and at maximum volume). You’re not alone.

    1. Kimmybear*

      Can you get headphones for the TV? I say this as someone who stayed with my elderly inlaws for a while and thought I was going to lose my mind with the constant loud TV.

  25. KHB*

    Can you carve out some quiet time/space for yourself outside of the work day? (E.g., go for a walk or drive by yourself, or even just spend some time in separate rooms.) It doesn’t directly help with distractions and stress during the work day, but I find that having some time outside of work to just clear my head does wonders for helping me focus on my high-concentration work tasks. (And the little I know about cognitive science is consistent with that – your brain needs time to process information “in the background” between periods of intense concentration.)

  26. KEG*

    I’m in a similar situation in my apartment with my partner. He takes a lot of calls, we went from both being at our kitchen table, to him being at a separate fold up table ten feet away, to me asking him to take any calls that don’t require video to be taken in the bedroom. We definitely both wear headphones. But, I think the biggest thing was me telling him that I found hearing about his dysfunctional office in real time was creating stress for me. He’s now making a bigger effort to shield me from the negativity and it’s helped a lot.

  27. Mannheim Steamroller*

    As long as your apartment isn’t as ridiculously tiny as the one in the Credit Karma commercials, you should be able to find a way to physically separate your work spaces.

    1. A*

      this is…really unhelpful lol. She describes the set up pretty well. One bed room apartment, thin walls. No matter what separation there is, it’s a small space and you really cant fully create your own work oasis this way. Headphones for both sound like something that will create marginal improvement if they aren’t already doing it.

      1. Pescadero*

        Hanging blankets/comforters/clothes along the thin wall or otherwise in between can make a huge difference.

    2. BB*

      The ability to move into different corners of a room / separate by one thin wall doesn’t address the noise issues, and OP specifically went out of their way to call this out and explain their set up. I don’t see the value add in this comment.

      1. londonedit*

        Yeah…I live in a studio flat, thankfully on my own so it’s just me trying to work here at the moment. I’m fortunate enough that my flat has a separate kitchen with a small table, but even so, if someone was working in there and I was working at my little desk in the main room, there would only be a thin wall separating us and I’d still be able to hear all their calls. Headphones for both parties would be the only thing that would possibly help a bit.

    3. Senor Montoya*

      I’m so sorry! for both you and your husband.

      Is it possible for you to work just outside your apt door? Don’t know what your set up is, but if your door opens into a hallway or foyer, can you safely use it? if it’s not being used much by the other residents of the building maybe that will work. Or even outdoors, if it;s not too noisy (and again, if it is safely away from other people)

  28. Deja vu*

    First: is your husband wearing headphones? Because you describe how distracting his meetings/calls are, but I hope you’re just hearing one half of it. If he’s not, that’s step one. Ultimately, there seem to be two issues: distraction and anxiety. For the distraction, it’s time to have a brainstorming session with him: is there a visual cue you can give him when he’s elevating his voice? Could he step outside for calls? Can technology help (e.g. massive white noise machine that sounds like an airplane taking off)? etc. For the anxiety, that’s something I’ve struggled with for years – and in a way it’s worse when the source of your anxiety is that you want to spare someone you love from stress because there’s not much you can do. So a couple of strategies: 1) detach. Every time you feel overhear a discussion with [husband’s boss] and you feel your blood pressure rising, say to yourself a mantra like “It’s not my battle”. 2) meditation. There’s some apps that can guide you through a short breathing exercise (just a few minutes) that can get you re-focused. 3) make up an alternative story in your head. e.g. We have a noisy toddler next door, and the family blares kids music every day at 7pm. My husband was quite annoyed till I said that the kid needed to dance and “get the wiggles out”. Now he just laughs every day at 7.

  29. Dr Useless*

    This may not be possible depending on the work culture, but is it not possible for your husband to block the times where you have scheduled meetings in his calendar and establish that he won’t answer calls in those times? Unless that covers too much of the day, you’d think it would make sense to his boss and coworkers that while sharing a small space you can’t have overlapping meetings.

  30. Bibliovore*

    First, are you able to do anything to compartmentalize the sound? That might mean anything from a noise-blocking/canceling headset for you (or both of you) so you can’t hear anything else while they’re on, or sticking something noise-absorbing (foam? blankets?) on the walls/door between you to reduce or muffle the sound, or simply closing the door and stuffing a towel against the bottom of it. Even running a white-noise generator between your workspaces might help a bit.

    Second, have you talked with him about what you’re hearing and how you’re reacting to it? This has been going on for him for a lot longer than you’ve been an audience to it. It might be that your fresh view will help him recognize anew how toxic it is and prompt him to kick up his job search (even in these times), or perhaps he has a different perspective or coping techniques that could be helpful for you to at least know that he’s using.

    Talking with him could also help the two of you to brainstorm other options. Maybe he could set some boundaries with his boss due to the constraints of working from home with another person in a small space, or perhaps you could each negotiate timing (staggered hours? one tries for mostly morning meetings and the other for mostly afternoon?). Maybe he’ll be driven to intensify the job hunt or accept something he might otherwise pass on. Maybe knowing more directly what his workday is like means you’re driven to make it work on one salary for a while. If either of you have some vacation time available, even a few days off might give you some mental/emotional space to consider other possibilities. Either way, some fun decompression time together could make other things more tolerable.

    Finally, is he in any sort of counseling? A miserable job with an abusive boss coupled with a gigantic increase in world stress might make that a really good idea to help him through this rut and to help you be less stressed about his well-being.

  31. TimeTravlR*

    This may not be helpful for everyone but perhaps someone… we have a local inn that is offering rooms in 4-hour increments for a pretty decent price. They clean and sanitize thoroughly between users and have set them up as workspaces rather than hotel rooms. Maybe look into whether that is available and affordable, at least occasionally??

    I also like it dead quiet when I am trying to focus, which is a lot of the time. But we are fortunate that I have a home office upstairs and we have been able to set up husband two floors below in the basement. I could not work with him in the same room. We just have such different styles.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I saw an ad for a local La Quinta that was doing the same thing, which makes me think it might be offered in other cities with the franchise. Only works if you can drive there, of course, and it’s an expense– but for a day or two it might be very appealing.

    2. lemon*

      I looked into this option when my state first issued it’s lockdown order because my roommate turned our living room into her own dance studio (she teaches dance) without consulting with me. A lot of Airbnb folks were also offering deals because they’re in dire straights right now. Deals could have gotten even better now? Worth looking into.

  32. McThrill*

    While it may not be possible to avoid EVERY fight, o you have any flexibility to schedule your own working hours to non-standard times? Or at lest, put your high-concentration tasks into a time later in the evening, after your husband’s workday is done? Obviously he could alter his schedule too but given what you’ve told us about his boss I’m not hopeful he can change his hours at all.

    Failing that, noise-cancelling headphones for him and her sound like a good investment if you can afford them, along with buying (or making from blankets) a lot of wall hangings around your work areas.

    1. Kira*

      I was going to suggest a headset for the husband (and saw everyone had it covered). My second idea was this! My boss has been balancing working in the same building as her family and has been experimenting with shifting her working hours so there’s minimal overlap with her spouse. i.e. she works 6-10 and late afternoons. It doesn’t sound awesome, but could help separate time when you need to be productive from time when your husband is on the phone.

    2. Grass really IS greener over here*

      I second this. Can one or both of you shift some of your work hours so you’re working at different times? Is his boss reasonable enough to limit calls to a certain time of day so that “my spouse (you) can have work conference calls at a different time of day”?

  33. Purt's Peas*

    I’m also working in a tiny one-bedroom with my husband and we hear each other’s meetings, for sure.

    1. Warn each other when we have meetings, and the other person can be quiet / plan ahead for other meetings or quiet time. If one of us has a planned meeting, and the other needs to get on a call or to do something noisy-ish–the unplanned one either pushes back the noisy thing or goes into the bedroom.

    2. Both of us use headphones for meetings, and usually have headphones on during the other’s meetings.

    3. If we have meetings at the same time, one of us takes the meeting in the bedroom.

    4. Compartmentalize. While we’re working, we pretty much completely ignore each other except for the above warnings and quiet-time negotiations. That means for you, you *do not hear* his work stress–you need to put an ultra-strong mental wall around that, and he needs to stop having his meetings on speakerphone.

    So far we haven’t needed to schedule for or warn for necessary quiet time. But that’s as valid and important as needing quiet for meetings.

    The number one thing here is that you have a really serious talk with him about how you’re scheduling quiet and noisy work time. By holding loud, stressful meetings on speakerphone with his boss, he is prioritizing his work over yours, and jeopardizing your ability to work. It’s possible that asking him to miss some calls with his boss, you’d be jeopardizing *his* ability to work–ok, so that’s part of the serious conversation you’re having, so now you can understand where he’s coming from and recommend headphones and alternating use of the bedroom.

    Also it’s honestly important to accept that these are NOT optimal working conditions for either of you, and give yourself some grace. Good luck!

    1. YouGottaThrowtheWholeJobAway*

      Right on Purl’s Peas.

      Yes to number 1 especially, you can text it or chat if you are using the wall for separation. Even if it’s last minute, announcing “I am going on a call” electronically helps, as it’s less disruptive than waving or yelling it out.

      Also yes to mostly ignoring each other as much as physically possible during work hours. We have eaten lunch together some days to combine dishes efforts and keep on a relatively similar eating schedule as possible, but otherwise it’s a normal day in that we would text if we have something random to communicate that isn’t “call me, urgent”. We can still ask each other how was work, but it’s not a 24/7 specter.

  34. revueller*

    Well, today I learned what the movie Grandma’s Boy is. Still trying to visualize how that applies to an office, and I look forward to spending my afternoon figuring it out!

      1. annakarina1*

        Yeah, similar. The company in the movie is a video game company, and it mostly focuses on game testers who have their own community environment and can act too immature for their age, like being overgrown kids in their thirties. The title refers to the lead guy having to live with his grandma and her old lady roommates.

    1. annakarina1*

      I’m guessing it’s because the boss of the video game company in that (who in retrospect now looks and sounds like a Kylo Ren wannabe) talks in an affected robot voice all the time, has contempt for his employees, and is too socially inept to know how to make better connections with people.

  35. Jennifer*

    Do any of you have any say in when meetings are scheduled? If you know he has a meeting on a certain time, can you block that on your calendar so that no one will schedule a meeting with you during that time. It sounds like your employer may be a bit more reasonable than his so maybe you can talk to your boss about your situation and see if some sort of arrangement can be worked out.

  36. Jessica B*

    I live in 600 sq ft with my husband who is on the phone for six hours a day so I feel your pain.

    My input is to invest in high quality noise reducing headphones—I bought a $90 version and if I had the money would go top notch because they don’t help much.

    I also run a white noise machine, the bathroom fan, and installed soundproofing foam. It noticeably helped to install the foam panels on the door all the way to the ground, so there’s no gap beneath the door. I also check his calendar and schedule focus time around his calls, if that’s a possibility, and I’ve asked him to go for a walk a couple times when I just needed to be alone to focus. Last tip is I tell my boss and everyone I work with about this and that it’s affecting my productivity, and that helps with expectations a tiny bit.

    I’m sorry, I feel for you! This is certainly not a scenario I ever imagined when we chose this apartment.

  37. SWFgoesketo*

    I am also in camp headset for him and noise-canceling headphones for you (play a white noise or focus music—check YouTube for options).

    Would your husband be able to use you as an excuse to not take his boss’ calls? Answer in a hushed voice and say, “Just a second… (unlock deadbolt and open and close door)… sorry, Angel’s on a conference call and her boss/client can’t hear well when I’m on a call, too, so I had to step out of the apartment. What’s up?”

    He can head off concerns (real or imagined) about his availability by saying that you two have been staggering scheduled meetings and calls but have agreed to take unexpected ones outside of the unit. If it makes sense in the moment, he can ask (as a favor) for his boss to email/Slack whenever possible.

  38. Rhythm of the Night*

    Not just headphones, but a headset that limits the external audio away from your mouth. A white noise machine should help too. Good luck!

  39. Suibnhe*

    A great alternative to headphones is a pair of silicone earplugs. You warm them in your hands like wax and they create a perfect seal in your ear. I recently started wearing them to sleep — I live on a busy street and the 4am garbage trucks that take a solid hour to unload the huge apartment buildings’ dumpsters are murder — and I can’t hear them *at all* now. The plugs cost like $7 for a pack. That way you can have silence for your high concentration work instead of adapting to music AND someone else’s dysfunctional workplace.

  40. Claire*

    If your boss is generally reasonable, I would say something to her—you don’t need to get into details about your husband’s work situation or anything, but you could give her a heads up along the lines of, “My home situation is not really ideal for working remotely, so unfortunately my productivity may be lower over this period, though I’m doing my best.” You’re definitely not the only one in that boat, so a reasonable workplace will understand. If there are specific tasks that are being especially impacted, you could also try telling your boss about those and asking how she’d like you to handle that.

  41. Lies, damn lies and...*

    Oof. You both need headphones and need to use them at any point multiple calls are going on. I’m doubting your husband can set boundaries with his boss to be able for the two of you to split timing on calls, but that’s one option. Also, you said 1 bedroom, so I’m assuming that means you have a bedroom with a door that closes. Can someone work in there for some of the day? It may require cleaning and dragging a small table and chair in (not ideal) but would help to have separate spaces. We have a house with office but also a three year old and sound carries so it’s hard to have it quiet enough for calls at any time of day, let alone when both of us need to be on calls.

  42. Dimmie*

    My boyfriend and I are in the same situation.

    What worked for us was rearranging the bedroom and putting a folding table in there to be his desk. I work from home all the time, so the dining room is just my office until we can get out of this apartment. He also has his personal desk in the dining room, but he needed clearly defined work space and I only use my dining room desk for work as well.

    Now we have a door between us while working. That helps a lot. We generally keep it open, but we have an understanding that it can be closed as needed. He also has one of those mechanical keyboards so I would have thrown that out the window ASAP if we shared work space.

    In addition we use headphones for all of our zoom meetings so that even when we leave the door open, all we can hear is the other persons contributions to the meeting.

    We both use our ear buds and cell phones for calls as well.

    Also, instead of blasting music look for binaural beats and concentration tones on youtube. Spotify has some as well, but the algorithm of Spotify highlights short songs, so for 1 hour plus of nothing but concentration specific sounds, youtube is best. Playing these on noise cancelling headphones works best.

    Really, if you can find a way to give him work space in the bedroom, I think that will help the most. A door makes all the difference.

  43. Gypsy, Acid Queen*

    While headphones are good, I think the issue is still that LW is going to be hearing the husband’s end of the convo. It may not work because he is in a toxic workplace, but maybe he can ask to have phone times that are scheduled or do not conflict with LW’s times? “Boss, feel free to call and yell at me from 9-10, 1-2, and 3-4 but leave the other times quiet so my spouse can work?”

    Alternatively, start a pretend yelling match with your boss/coworker during his meetings?

  44. Ranon*

    If you really need some real quiet, I have gotten desperate enough to try earplugs under over the ear noise cancelling headphones and it was honestly pretty fantastic.

    I have no real advice for doing anything about the root cause but I’m incredibly sorry you’re both dealing with it.

  45. A*

    Not that this is ideal by any means, but my friends that are in a similar boat in regards to both WFH in a one bedroom apt and running into noise issues ended up clearing out their closet and using it as their phone booth. Not great for longer calls, but works well when one of them is on a scheduled call and the other one gets an unexpected call.

  46. WorkingWithCats*

    This is so me. My parents fought all the time when I was a kid and now I stress whenever I hear angry or raised voices, even through the walls. Both my boyfriend and I are working from home right now, just across the hall from each other. His meetings can get a bit loud and heated at times and they trigger my anxieties. What I find works is 1. Noise-canceling headphones. 2. A white noise machine (best placed in the hallway between us). 3. He also wears a headset with a mic during his calls.

    We are lucky to have a larger house, so I am able to plan my day around when I know his meetings will be. For instance, I know he has a meeting at 8am every day that can get heated, So I stay upstairs with my laptop and headphones on until its over, then go downstairs to where our offices are to work.

  47. M*

    Headset for him, noise-cancelling headphones for you, second all that obviously.

    But also, when his boss calls when you’re already on the call, oh goodness! Turns out your home internet is just *terrible* when two calls are running, he can’t hear a word his boss is saying! Best to call back in 20 minutes.

    I get that the boss is a nightmare, and it’s hard to say “no, just no” to calls from a micromanager. But you *can* train them that unscheduled calls are just too frustrating for *them*. It probably won’t reduce the *number* of calls, but it’ll make it easier to carve out some times when *you* can focus.

  48. Data Analyst*

    Lots of great equipment/physical suggestions here. For behavior – could he try, if it turns out a “meeting” is more of a rant, saying something like “ope, my spouse is about to get on a zoom meeting [with a client/with her team/something that communicates ‘important’] and I need to give her some quiet, so I’ll hop off now but please email me if there’s anything else I need to know”? That might not be the ideal wording, I’m no Alison. Maybe first, a heads up like “my spouse and I are sharing a small space and it’s hard to find time for heads-down work where neither of us is on the phone. So I won’t be able to commit to as many meetings as usual. Can we agree to one daily meeting about task X and a longer check in once a week about overall progress?” and if they balk, “I can’t do more than two calls a day [or whatever number is reasonable but fewer than they do now]. When should we schedule them for/what should we use the time to cover?”
    I know it’s not usually advisable to give your spouse detailed “please say X to your boss” requests, but now when your work more directly impacts the other person, I feel like it’s more reasonable to make a one time suggestion for how there could be less tension in the house? Because even if he’s on headphones so you can’t hear the boss, you might still hear his distress and know he’s being berated and that’s so upsetting! Good luck.

  49. staceyizme*

    It really makes no sense that you both wouldn’t be wearing headphones! You shouldn’t be able to hear anything on the other end of his calls OR meetings. Blue tooth for the cell phone calls should also cut down ambient noise. If you really need quiet for certain tasks, maybe you could stagger your work days. Would doing these tasks before he is up and in meetings/ on phone calls make sense? Or after his work day ends? You say that he is not actively trying to distract you and that makes sense. But there is also a sense in which the simple fact that he hasn’t “taken on” the primary role of buffering you from his dystopian work situation could reasonably be construed as having surrendered to the status quo. He CAN train his boss to call less by responding more slowly or responding by text. He CAN wear headphones, turn down the volume on meetings, work with you on the schedule, use a white noise machine, use email/ text and chat etc… In short, there is a LOT that he can do that doesn’t appear in your letter. (And if he’s doing most of this, sorry to have mentioned it!) But it really sounds like work related dysfunction creep and HE has to take responsibility for containing it. If he isn’t willing or consistently proactive, then that’s another conversation altogether.

  50. Jessica Night*

    It sounds like it’s not really about the noise, but about the content you’re hearing that is causing stress for both you and your husband. I think some clearer boundaries for all involved would help make it more manageable. That probably has to involve your husband saying to your boss and coworkers, “I’m finding that our work calls are affecting my family while we’re in close quarters, so I need us to reset a bit on those. If possible, let’s try to catch up in the afternoons. I’ll be available via email or IM in the mornings.” That way you know when it’s coming and can hopefully plan around the disruption by saving your low-energy/low concentration work for that time and/or using the other noise-cancelling ideas others have offered.

  51. AnonAnon*

    My company is letting us expense certain equipment to make WFH easier. Maybe your company and/or your husband’s will do this and you can get some headphones. Over the ear, noise-cancelling will be best to block out sound.
    If I have a call that doesn’t require me to be in front of my PC and it is nice outside, I will go outside. I see a lot of people walking up and down my street talking on the phone. I suspect this is what they are doing :)

    I also am able to shift my hours and I tend to get up early so I can work in silence for a while before my child starts online school or my other half starts working and/or watching TV :/

    This is very challenging. I send you strength!

  52. George*

    I agree with the suggestions about both wearing headphone and hanging blankets /rugs on the wall between you (assuming one is in the BR and one in the kitchen or living area). Bookshelves also mute sounds.

    A white noise machine (or from your phone on an app) can help too. For that matter, playing background sounds like rainfall or nature sounds can make random sounds that leak through less impactful on concentration.

  53. it_guy*

    Since it’s a 1 bedroom apt, can 1 of you work in the bedroom, close the door and the other work in another room (Living room) ?

  54. Miss Vicki*

    One of the weirdest things about being in quarantine is having an up close look at my husband’s office life, which I only knew a little bit of. Now I can see that he wasn’t exaggerating about a lot of it — if I worked in his organization, I’d have left a long time ago. But he believes in the mission, and for him, the annoying and ridiculous things are worth the price of admission to contribute to the organization’s mission.

    But in your case: it sounds like your husband is in a bad situation and he knows it. Since he knows he wants to look for other work, would it be possible for him to find ways to commit to that search right now? (I say this without knowing his industry and whether or not that’s workable, of course.) Maybe he can take a half day of vacation every week and commit that to job searching. Or honestly, maybe just to decompressing.

    I empathize with you both right now. Everything that’s sucky is just under a magnifying glass right now. (Also, I second the headphones for both advice.) Hang in there.

  55. Student*

    Sometimes unreasonable people can be pushed into reasonable behavior. Can the husband can say, very early into the yelly/loud call, “My wife is on a conference call and we’re bleeding into it–can we reschedule or try to be very quiet?” And then, if the boss persists, “Hang on, I’ve got to go sit in the car or something. This is a very important meeting for her.” Make it easier for the boss to quiet down than to keep yelling. This won’t work for the sort of boss who enjoys humiliating subordinates but it would work well for the sort of boss who is appearance-focused. As long as it’s phrased as strictly a volume issue rather than a critique of the boss’s communication style, this might be a good way to calm things down enough to keep OP sane.

    Since this has been going on for a while, a larger-picture conversation might be in order, where husband tells boss, “Hey, my wife has been getting complaints from her people that they can hear our conversations. Thin walls, you know? Since her work is almost all meetings-based, can we schedule these calls or mostly do them by email? Her boss is a stickler about noise and he can be sooo unreasonable.” Then reinforce with “Oh, no, we’re too loud” in the calls themselves.

    Unfortunately, this relies on the husband being willing/able to manage his boss. If he’s not, then a headset for the husband might help. Putting blankets or other fabric on walls can dampen sound, so it might be worth experimenting to see if it helps with the thin wall problem.

  56. Non-profiteer*

    I’ve heard from friends in apartment/condo buildings that they’ve been able to strike deals with building management to reserve some spaces in the building for work. Like, does the building have empty apartments right now? It’s not like they’re going to rent those out. Can they let you use a room during the day?

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      It’s not like they’re going to rent those out.

      Not necessarily true – my building is still renting apartments, people are still moving, and management is doing virtual tours to maintain social distancing.

  57. Rozefly*

    Outside of the obvious headphone suggestion, your husband also needs to explain to his boss that during quarantine he is working from home in a small living space and sharing the space with you. He needs to say he can’t take calls like this which are so loud and his boss needs respect that things are different during this time. Surely his boss can be understanding of that? If it carries on, and your husband can see that it is going in that direction if he is on a call. He needs to speak up and say he has to duck out as its disrupting you. But… his boss sounds like an asshat, so I expect this might have a very limited effect…

  58. Laura H.*

    Not in a toxic situation, but when I can (when the weather allows) I’ll take my meetings outside on the porch. Aside from that, my wireless headphones have become my best friend for not adding to the noise saturation of the house. But they muffle the incoming non-headphone sound a little too well and I’ll accidentally yell when I think I’m at normal volume… oops.

  59. Chili*

    Is it possible for your husband to take any calls outside/ while on a walk? My boyfriend and I started taking our more informal calls while taking a walk outside and I have to say it really improved both our moods and our work environment. We’re lucky enough to live in an urban-yet-quiet area that isn’t incredibly densely populated, so I understand this isn’t feasible for everyone.
    I don’t want to be that person who annoyingly evangelizes walks and outdoor time, and I understand there are many reasons people cannot partake in them, but taking a half hour during my workday to take a walk by myself and just zone out has uplifted my spirits, restored some of the patience I’d lost with my partner, and helped helped me regain a little more focus for work.
    Also: others have said this, but it sounds like your husband should be using headphones on calls too.

    1. Sleepy*

      Yes, I know it’s not possible for all meetings, but ask for audio calls instead of video and then walk outside. I know a lot of people will be relieved to have one fewer time on Zoom.

  60. BeesKneeReplacement*

    There’s a website called Coffivity and others like it that play long tracks of background noise as if you were in a coffee shop. Murmuring, cups on saucers etc. Perhaps playing that over the headphones will help the husband’s noise just blend into the background. Generally, I can’t listen to tracks with lyrics in a language I know, because I’ll focus on that. Also, conversations around me will stick out. This makes everything a dull roar that’s easy to tune out, something I generally struggle with.

    1. Nelalvai*

      +1 to coffee shop chatter. I’m sharing a basement with 2 other WFH’ers, we all have daily calls, playing background chatter is critical to my focus.

  61. Jeremiah*

    Have you clearly defined what is and what is not acceptable?

    “I find it hard to concentrate when X and Y happens.”

    Ask for his help in coming up with possible solutions.

    Maybe you split the day. From 8a-noon is his time for meetings, and 1p-5p is yours. Or maybe once one of you has scheduled a meeting, that time is off limits to the other.

    *How* he holds up his end of the bargain is up to him. It can’t be “my boss trumps everything.” Certainly consider the risk of his being fired if he holds firm and his boss is entirely unreasonable. If he’s wanting out of this job eventually and you don’t want out of yours, don’t sacrifice your productivity entirely for his.

  62. Wichita Lineman*

    This is to address only the spouse has a toxic boss/job he can’t quit issue: A few years back, spouse had similar situation with toxic boss. Spouse works in a very narrow industry so even getting an interview was something that took almost a year & we couldn’t get by on one salary, so quitting was not a good option. Since spouse couldn’t change jobs, couldn’t change boss, spouse instead tried a combo of therapy and career coaching. It did not make the job any better, but it gave spouse the tools to better handle the stress, set boundaries and allowed spouse to disengage and enjoy life outside of work.

    1. Wichita Lineman*

      It was not only helpful for spouse, but also for us. It is disheartening to have challenges that you can’t meet as a couple, and as LW noted, partners often take on the stress and the problem boss ends up affecting both partners. Sometimes you have to put on your oxygen mask before you can help others, and sometimes your partner has problems where you are not the right person to help them.

  63. Lisa*

    Would it be possible for one of you to shift your workday by a couple of hours? It might help if you knew you had 2 hours each day during which your husband wouldn’t be talking/arguing with his boss.

  64. Sleepy*

    Can you ask your husband to modulate the volume of his voice? It sounds like you are already working in separate rooms. I know a lot of people when they speak into the computer or phone are not aware of how loudly they’re talking. I certainly am not.

  65. Existentialista*

    Would time-shifting be possible in your job? I have a new employee who’s working from home, her husband is as well, and they have a 9 month old baby boy. The baby takes a lot of attention during the day, so she and her husband try to schedule calls at alternating times and around his nap schedule. This week I saw an email from her that was sent at 8:30 pm, and our company definitely doesn’t encourage working long hours, so I mentioned that to her, but she said her best time to concentrate is after her son is asleep. So, her eight-hour day doesn’t happen during the usual eight daytime hours, and that’s fine with me. I wonder if you could do anything similar – do your own focus-intensive work after normal hours during times when your partner’s boss won’t be calling? That doesn’t help the overall stress of the difficult work environment, but might help at least get you some space?

    1. irene adler*

      There ya go!
      If non-traditional hours are acceptable, maybe even do the intense concentration stuff early (3 or 4 am) or late (9 pm).
      I have no idea how noisy husband’s work meetings are, but maybe take a snooze in the bedroom while he takes those calls in the outer room (thus allowing the non-traditional hours).

  66. Sunflower Phobia*

    Just popping in to commiserate over your spouse’s toxic job. My husband’s workplace is extremely dysfunctional, and it’s really hard to hear about all his work nonsense without getting invested or trying to solve his problems for him. I eventually had to limit how much he talks about work because it just puts both of us in a bad headspace, but you can’t do that because you’re confronted with the problem every day while working from home. That’s rough, and I hope your spouse finds other work soon. No one deserves to be berated like that.

  67. tired anon*

    Ooof, this is rough. I live with my sister in a 2 BR and we’re driving each other crazy, even though we both have spaces to retreat to (and I’ve got a desk in my room for times when work stuff conflicts).

    Aside from headphones, I think my main strategy would be to see if you can compare schedules and (if you have any flexibility for things like meeting times) make sure you don’t have overlapping meetings. (His boss sounds like a disaster who is maybe calling without a schedule, which may not be something you can fix, but worth a shot?)

    For aspects of your job that require a lot of concentration, would your coworkers be amenable to you having a funky schedule? Something like getting up early, working 5-7 on those tasks that need silence (or after dinner, or something), and then another 6 hours during regular work times so you’re getting a full day of work in, just breaking it up or shifting it to take advantage of hours your husband isn’t working?

  68. Malarkey01*

    I know this is really hard but I repeat the mantra “not my circus, not my problem” a LOT. I get stressed by things being right or wrong that have nothing to do with me all the time. I’m outraged on perhaps behalf as a public service. However sometimes it’s just too much. When I started repeating that, even though I felt dumb, I was amazed that it helped so much to just stop the stress and reset, and makes things easier to ignore.
    It’s not easy when it’s affecting a love one, but this is not something you can solve and really if you weren’t together in the apartment you’d have no idea it was happening. Trying to reframe it as something out of your hands- like the virus or the weather may help the anxiety stress because right now it’s just about getting through this.

  69. Crocheted familiar*

    If you need silence and don’t like the static of noice cancelling headphones without music playing through them, ear plugs under ear defenders works pretty well. I can’t deal with loud or complex noise without getting very overwhelmed, and this combination meant I went to a very, very loud football stadium for a game (which is both) and it was QUIET for me. I get that it might seem like overkill to do both, but it really does help.

      1. Should I stay or should I go?*

        I LOVE this trick, and cannot highly endorse it more. I even used to wear ear plugs under normal headphones in situations where it would look weird to be wearing ear defenders, and that helped a lot too.

        Completely saved my sanity after a concussion!

  70. Donkey Wrangler*

    I know others have said headphones and I agree completely. My are over both ears Plantronics brand and I think they were kinda pricey but I didn’t have to pay for them. I have worked from home for years but my husband has been home more lately and I find myself wearing them even when I’m not in meetings so I can concentrate and not get too distracted by whatever it is he’s doing.

  71. Julie Of The Tulips*

    Letter writer, I am dealing with a very, very similar situation.
    I live in a one bedroom apartment of less than 500 square feet with my husband. We don’t have doors between the “rooms” except for our closet-sized, one-person bathroom. I also live in an area with a tremendously horrible covid-19 outbreak, which means it’s not safe to even go for a walk outside to decompress. I am like you, where I need silence (or very atmospheric, absolutely no lyrics music) for a very cerebral job with tiny-to-no acceptable margins of error. My partner is in one meeting after another, for the first three weeks, it was a disaster.
    Here are the rules that made it livable for us:
    1. Noise cancelling headphones are not optional.
    2. In the morning, my focus is prioritized. (This has meant that if there are meetings in the morning, my partner has to take them in our bedroom area, where at least with my noise cancelling headphones on I am not likely to hear much.)
    3. In the afternoon, it switches, and my partner’s work is given priority. He tries to schedule all his meetings in the afternoon, and I try to get to whatever tasks don’t take so much focus.

    It’s not easy, but we’re getting better. It also means that I try to wake up as early as possible.
    I hope this gives you an idea of how to go forward. Your husband’s boss sounds like a jackass. I fully sympathize, and hope this gets better.

  72. need some space*

    If you’re really desperate for some space away from home, you *might* be able to find a local building, like a church, that will let you use, say, a library or other room. My husband is furloughed and bored (and therefore driving me crazy), but luckily we live in a building attached to a church and they’ve been kind enough to let us borrow the library while the building is closed. Couldn’t do this without them!

  73. TootsNYC*

    In addition to him wearing headphones, maybe you can find a white-noise app that you can use to drown him out. (my inexpensive “noise-cancelling” headphones actually make a whooshing noise.) You might find that easier to concentrate around than loud music (and “blaring music” is bad for your hearing).

    And if he’s loud in response, is there a headset that lets your hear your own voice through the mike? I don’t know if those exist; it’s what I miss about the old-style phones; you could tell how loud you were, because you could hear yourself as well.
    I sort of suspect those kinds of headsets are hard to find, because my gamer son is REALLY LOUD, and I think it’s because he can’t hear himself through the mike, and the headset blocks his actual ears from hearing himself.

  74. NW Mossy*

    One of the things that I think we’re all having to work on in different ways at the moment is our ability to accept things that impact us but that we have limited power to change. This situation feels like one of those spaces – you can’t fix your husband’s boss, and much of what you can do to mitigate the impact comes with its own costs that are themselves hard to bear.

    Part of what’s helping me is to stop and observe/acknowledge a reality, but consciously stopping myself from moving into fix/change mode. It’s an idea I stole from yoga, which has a concept of observing yourself like a witness without judging yourself for what you are thinking or feeling in the moment. It sounds kind of woo-woo, I know, but I find it really does help because it creates a clear distinction between what I feel and what I do. It seems to work better than trying to ignore or deflect, and it becomes easier to release myself from the self-imposed obligation to Fix All The Things.

  75. Clementine*

    This is a suggestion with only a small chance of working, but I thought I would throw it out there. Someone above mentioned hotels and AirBnB spaces for work (I’ve also seen Sonder advertising this). I personally would feel a bit iffy about that, but I think it could be done safely. However, another option that might possibly work, even if expensive, is to see if your apartment building has any spare suites (it’s not the easiest market to rent out to new people right now) and would cut you a temporary deal to have exclusive use to one of them as needed. No one wants huge extra expenses right now, but if it saves your marriage and your job and your sanity, it could be worth it.

  76. Coverage Associate*

    I have read lots about how we all need to relax about family and work disrupting work calls, but I am glad to have someone write about work noise disrupting the family. My husband has a sleep disorder, and we also have thin walls. I have had to tell work a few times that I can’t place calls “for family reasons” when he is sleeping at odd times. I wish I could invent a baby. Much easier to say a baby is napping than a husband.

    Anyway, I would try to split work noise time. He places work calls from 9-1; her from 1-5.

  77. Rae*

    My spouse and I are also sharing a small space for teleworking. We both wear headsets, but when one of us is talking the other has trouble hearing. We’ve staggered our work schedules as much as possible, M 7:30 am – 12 noon, S 10 am – 5:00 pm, M 7:30 pm – 10ish. I also work extra hours on weekends. And we both try to refuse meeting invites when the other already has a meeting, S has an 11 am meeting everyday so M is never available at 11 am. We keep our weekly meeting schedule on a whiteboard.

  78. Brooke*

    Noise canceling headphones for both of you! I bought MPOW ones from Amazon and I can put them on, turn on the noise canceling function, and enjoy silence. I don’t even have to play music!

  79. Aileen*

    I feel your pain. Husband’s job is not toxic, thank goodness, but it’s literally his job to make super! enthusiastic! phone calls to people. I have all day meetings, too, and he complains about hearing me on calls as well. We are in a small townhome and both of us work in the dining room. The previous solution on the rare occasion we were both at home was for one of us to use the kid’s room. But now those are classrooms! Good headset might help, but people are right about hearing yourself in the mic – generally that is difficult. I’m pretty good at talking without hearing myself, but it takes concentration which I can’t do if someone’s talking behind me. One thing I’ve done is as long as it’s a call where I don’t have to do screen work at the same time, I take the laptop or my cell phone to our bedroom and take the call sitting on the floor. It’s not as productive or comfy, but it’s less stressful. As far as productivity goes – mine is down too for all the interruptions, but I try to make up some work in evenings. When I’m not in a meeting, I’m BLASTING music in my headset to not hear. Good luck. And maybe just explain to your boss the situation, so they know why it’s loud, or you might lose focus. As far as the stress goes – I know it’s hard, but try not to take it on yourself – can you view it like it’s a tv show that you have no stake in? Alternatively, think of things that can be done about it when this is over – like how to help him job search in the distant future, having some plan might help you. (When he was in a toxic job, I would obsess over our savings account and what expenses we would cut if he had no job – sounds depressing – but it gave me a sense of control over something! Best of luck and sorry I don’t have much helpful for you!

  80. married to a loud talker*

    My husband is a pastor. He is trained to stand in front of a room and project his voice. It is not helpful when he is on a zoom call and I’m literally sitting two feet from him on my own work call. I had a conversation with a co-worker that went something like “I think we should revise the figure to show … now I can’t hear myself think because my husband is talking.” I then literally had to wait until he was done. My coworkers reply was drowned out by a blessing. Now we put meetings on a shared calendar and when people schedule meetings with me I turn them down if they conflict with my husband’s schedule. It has the added benefit of limiting the number of meetings each of us can attend.

  81. Email OP*

    OP here,

    I should have mentioned that we are both using headphones! I cannot hear his boss, were just hearing our end of each call. Our mics pick up each other even from the closed bedroom, its a small apartment with crappy walls. Unfortunately, it just was never a huge problem before!

    I have a pair of noise cancelling phones, but they are kinda old, and mostly just take the edge off. They are better at singling out a plane engine hum than a human voice. My husband certainly projects when he is on the phone, and his boss is constantly prodding him to be upset, so it makes it harder for him to consciously stay quieter in meetings.

    Obviously if I’m on the phone too, it can make my own conferences get awkward if in the back ground they hear “Can you just stop interrupting me for A MINUTE so I can even ANSWER YOUR QUESTIONS” and things like that. It comes in pretty clearly for my coworkers, and I’m apologizing and trying to move on, but you might imagine the frustration for everyone involved.

    I currently have a balcony, but with summer coming on, my neighbor has started working on his car, which means I’m weaving in and out of the apartment when he starts revving his engine!

    Quarantine is pretty rough here. I am reading through the replies and taking note of the mental health tips, I really appreciate each one of you who has taken the time to make suggestions. I’ll maybe shop for a new pair of headphones and see if it buys me some sanity.

    Thanks again!

    1. Dagny*

      Hang in there, OP!

      I think a lot of people are very forgiving of what’s going on in the background, because everyone is working from a three-ring circus.

      My husband and I block out each other’s meetings on our own calendars. If he has a department meeting, it goes on my calendar as “tentative” or “busy,” so that no one plops a meeting down at that time. For people with kids, it means that you do not have a situation wherein both parents are booked at the same time. In your situation, it shows your husband’s boss when he just can’t call.

    2. Keyboard Cowboy*

      Some folks on my team have pushed back on meeting times by mentioning that they overlap with their spouse’s meetings. I saw the post above about how not all bosses are fine with less productivity, but surely all bosses understand that your home is essentially a meeting room you need to book now.

      Is it possible for you to put each other’s calendars onto your own calendar as free/busy time and schedule meetings around each other, plus mention to bosses that you won’t be able to take impromptu calls while your spouse is in a meeting? That way your husband’s boss won’t be surprised when he doesn’t pick up, as your time is on his calendar.

      Or, maybe it’s possible for your husband to ask boss to redirect conversations to instant messaging while you’re on meetings. Once my teammate mentioned the noise contention we started scheduling more meetings as “chat only” when my teammate’s spouse was busy.

    3. blink14*

      Hey OP, this sounds like me trying to work from home with roommates! Old house makes for not so great sound control.

      I would suggest turning on some ambient noise in either the room you are in or your husband is in – perhaps a TV or radio playing a low enough volume that it will not interrupt your calls or his, but high enough that it may blur out some of the noise from another room. I do this a lot in my own apartment when making calls when my roommates are home as well – turning on my TV, and calling from the opposite side of the room.

      Another thing to try is some soundproofing – put towels or pillows against the bottom of the bedroom door, on either side. It may muffle the sound enough so that it is less distracting.

    4. Holey Moley*

      Someone mentioned on here a while ago that while librarys are closed, some are still having their wifi available in the parking lot. Id be tempted to try to work from my car rather than deal with the noise.

      Also, I recommend downloading a white noise app for your phone and hooking your headphones up to that when you are trying to do the complex tasks. Also, white noise machines are great! Maybe one for each room.

    5. Koala dreams*

      In addition to the earphones, there are earplugs that are made for silencing sounds. You can combine in ear earplugs with over ear earphones, if you want. When you don’t have meetings, you probably can use any cheap ones. There are earplugs that are supposed to lower sounds without distortion, meant for musicians, maybe your spouse want to use them for talking with the yelling boss. (Although it would be more fun to just lower the volume on the earphones.) Someone recommended silicon earplugs in a previous thread. I use either foam ones or those big ones you get in the building supplies stores.

    6. blackcat*

      White noise machine (or phone with white noise app) placed in between the two of you may help.

    7. allathian*

      Can you mute your mic for when you’re not talking in a meeting? This should be self-evident, but apparently not and some orgs apparently require people to have their mics on all the time, which I really don’t get. I don’t think you’ll get pushback on that, given how your coworkers have been subjected to your husband’s yelling.

  82. Belle*

    This is a tough spot to be in. I grew up with my parents and sibling in a tiny two bedroom apartment and developed a host of making quite spaces for myself. Tactic 4 might not be workable for work-from-home, but I thought I’d share just in case.

    1: Headphones for everybody! Especially noise cancelling ones.
    2: White Noise Machines or a white noise app like Noisli.
    3: Earplugs + Headphones
    4: Desperate times call for desperate measures. So I present the Blanket Fort option. When I was a kid and needed quiet, I would take all the comforters, thick blankets in the house and then lay them one after another on top of one another on the kitchen table, till I had a kitchen table cave. Then I would take all the couch cushions + every pillow I could lay my hands on and pile/lean them against the table to make my cave. It’s not sound proof, but it does muffle sounds. Combined with headphones, maybe it would work. I do make this suggestion with seriousness, but also recognize that not everyone wants to sit on the floor for work, live in essentially a cave, and rip their entire living room apart to make said cave.

    1. nonegiven*

      It really could help to hang a blanket over the bedroom door or line the adjoining wall with them. Then put a youtube brown/white/pink noise video on the tv.

  83. MissDisplaced*

    Unfortunately there isn’t much that can be done right now as we’re all in close WFH and stay-at-home conditions.
    I have a small house but we do have a dedicated office I share with my spouse. And yes, it gets annoying if we have calls at the same time, or if one of us (usually me) is trying to concentrate and work when the other isn’t, or when my hubs decides to mow the lawn midday or is running in and out of the house making noise. We can certainly hear each other all the time. But on the other hand, I can say that this really isn’t all that different from my large noisy open office! So the strategies are much the same.

    >Noise cancelling headphones
    >Microphones/headsets so you don’t have to raise your voice on meetings
    >Trying to alternate use of office space for the *really important* calls (moving from office to living room)
    >Going somewhere else for awhile: another room, closing the door, sit in the car? Perhaps ask if your building has some type of currently-unused space? Think janitor closet, laundry room, pool shed, gym? IDK It’s a shot.
    >If all else fails and you can afford it, you could rent a hotel room for privacy for a few days.
    >Perhaps a relative or close friend may have a empty bedroom?
    >We work or Co-working space? (Not sure if they stayed open-might vary by city)
    >Is your office an option? Offices have everyone on WFH, but might allow you in for a few hours to conduct necessary work. You’d have to ask and see if it’s possible.

  84. cubone*

    I’m working and my partner isn’t. Every day, I take a sheet of paper, write out my scheduled meetings and rough plans for the rest of the time, flagging if there’s something focus-intensive (like “working on big report 1-4ish”). It’s not like we’re not talking (lol), but it just gives a visual element if say my partner’s parents call randomly and he can glance at the schedule and pop into the bedroom. It sounds like here your husband gets many impromptu calls and you have meetings + focused work, but maybe this could help. At least when he gets one of those calls, he could see your schedule on the wall and remember “oh right, LW is working on that detailed task right now, I’m going to go sit in the closet and try to be quieter.” This feels like pretty lame advice, but thought it might be worth sharing.

    Also for what it’s worth… I certainly don’t want to imply that the better option is for him to quit, not knowing your financial situation or what’s to come in the next few months/years job-wise for all of us. My partner quit his incredibly toxic job with incredibly abusive boss in January. He’s said a few times (and friends/family do on every skype call) what unfortunate timing it was to leave a job and start looking and then have this happen….. but every time I hear this, I’m overwhelmed with thoughts of “THANK GOD” and how unbelievably relieved I am that he’s not in that situation right now (covid has brought other family/mental health stressors for us too). He got constant “don’t you know you should never quit without something lined up?!” when he left (from people in the org and outside it) and I really struggled with that “accepted” advice. He’s a completely different person without that job, a recognizable, happier person who doesn’t hate getting up in the morning and feel worthless. It was more than worth any concerns about career growth, money, how it’ll look on a resume, a million times over. I would rather pinch every penny than have that debilitating stress in his/our lives.

    My salary can cover our rent and food (though without much extra) so yeah, it’s absolutely an incredibly risky situation if I get laid off and I REALLY don’t want it to seem like I’m cavalierly saying “he should just quit!”. It’s never that simple and it’s NOT a great time. But I dunno. Sometimes the wrong choice is the right choice. I wish my partner hadn’t heard so many messages telling him that quitting his shitty, shitty, shitty, abusive job was the wrong choice. It wasn’t. I don’t really know if I have a point to this… I just wanted to share that perspective too.

  85. NicoleT*

    I have no suggestions, only commiseration. I also am in favor of the relocation ideas if those are feasible for you. I have a long drawn out story of my own experience, and it boils down to temporary relocation for more familial support.

    Do what you gotta do.

  86. OhHello*

    I’m in a very similar situation with my husband. We live in a 1 bedroom in NYC, so you can imagine the teeny tiny square footage we have available. I agree with all the other commenters about both of you needing headphones/headsets for all your calls. My husband and I both work at a table in our living room all day, but separate for any conflicting meetings. Every morning my husband and I review our meeting schedule with each other and determine who needs to take their call in the bedroom for any conflicts. My husband is more prone to having last minute phone calls and meetings, but the deal is that if someone calls him unexpectedly then he needs to step into the bedroom, speak quietly and use his headset. Additionally, I’ve asked him to decline some unexpected phone calls when I’m in a really important meeting and send them a text saying “my wife is taking a call right now, I can speak at X time instead.” I extend the same courtesy to him, but it’s just not the nature of my workplace for that to really happen. I’ve had toxic bosses in the past, so I know it’s not always feasible to push back against them. They just end up angrier, but if he truly is looking to get out of there then I think he should do everything he can to make his remaining time there as sustainable as possible. If possible, he should say things like “I can’t take last minute calls during this time, if it’s urgent then it’s best to email me. Otherwise, can we schedule something at least 30 minutes in advance?” He should set boundaries to the extent her can and do what’s best for his (and your!) mental health.

  87. Allison*

    I have been thinking of moving my office into my relatively large closet or even my garage. Anything to have space for work that isn’t my living space. Both will give me a quiet space away from the normal day-to-day life.

  88. NoLongerStuckInRetailHell*

    Okay, this may sound weird, but can one of you make a “blanket fort” basically a cubicle made out of quilts or blankets? That could provide at least a suggestion of private space, and some sound muffling. Perhaps combined with other suggestions like the headphones it might provide enough separation, because it seems like the problem isn’t so much noise as it is overhearing stuff causing LW to take on partner’s stress.

    1. TootsNYC*

      I wondered about something like this as well–if there’s a way to get a folding screen, or some sort of frame to drape a fuzzy blanket over.

  89. CopyCat*

    My kid is a music major on a loud instrument. That means hours of practicing, and to get better requires playing things that don’t sound good yet. I’m thinking of working in the car sometimes. Maybe driving a short distance to somewhere pretty until/unless I get told not to.

    Good luck! A one bedroom apartment makes this so rough.

  90. EastCoast*

    I don’t think it’s out of line to have your husband tell his boss that he needs to schedule all calls with him in advance so that you can avoid both being on concurrent calls and speaking over each other. These are unique times and a unique request like this is needed.

  91. Gobsmacked*

    I’m all about the white noise, either an app on your phone or just a separate desktop device can help. Sometimes reorganizing the furniture can help also. Larger pieces of furniture against shared walls – bookshelves are ideal – can help provide a little ad hoc sound insulation.

  92. JessicaTate*

    Your main questions seem to relate to your productivity and ability to work. For that issue specifically: In addition to the headphones/microphone suggestions (essential!), I think the other piece is going to sound callous — during work hours, you need to think about him as if he were a co-worker in the cube next to you who works in a completely different department with an a-hole manager. It sucks to have to hear it; you feel bad for co-worker; but there’s nothing you can do to fix it and you can’t derail your work just because co-worker’s boss is a jerk. Do what you can to block out the sound and try to think “not my circus, not my monkeys.” (I feel awful saying it. But for your 9-5 productivity concerns, that has to be part of the mix. If you spend all day empathizing with a miserable co-worker, when you have no power to help, you will not be productive.)

    After 5 p.m., you can go back to relationship zone and caring about your partner whose boss sucks. It’s not clear if you want advice there based on your question wording. If that’s part of it, it might be worth a conversation about what kind of support/commiseration he wants or could use. I think it’s important to trust your partner in knowing what he needs, even if it feels like you’re not doing enough. My guy needs to vent occasionally, but otherwise doesn’t want to dwell on his boss after 5 p.m.; so I wait for him to bring her up, and otherwise we focus on our non-work lives. (I’m a solver, so that feels like I’m doing nothing… but I’ve come to realize that’s what he needs.)

    That level of compartmentalization is easier said than done, of course. But I think any efforts in that direction will help you get back a little more normalcy in your work-life.

  93. Tabihabibi*

    We’ve covered headphones, and of course that will be key, but there’s another part of this (thinking of my current situation) that will still be there. My spouse’s job stresses him out and even with our separate headphone set-up and heavy relience on email, his stress does raise my tension. I feel my shoulders tense up just that little bit and look over and see that he’s gotten a bad email and has tensed up. Just being exposed to stress of someone you love when you are focused on different work can be kinda stressful!

    Some things I find helpful: choosing deliberately mood setting music with your separate headphones (I’ve been leaning heavily on Jose James with that smooth barritone). Checking in at the end of the day about how the day went, much like you might if you were working out of the house so there’s time to talk about stress. Imagining how I would react if he were a coworker (if Bob in accounting went “ugh” to an email, that doesn’t prompt much emotional response from me so I imagine it was Bob).

  94. Nicole*

    Any possibility he can have some of his meetings in his/your car? Like get a WiFi hotspot off of a cell phone and take a laptop to work the car?

    I do realize it everyone has a car

  95. Koala dreams*

    Your husband needs to use earphones for meetings and learn to use his indoor voice even if the boss is yelling. You can use noise cancelling earphones with instrumental music or white noise when you need to focus. It’s not as good as silence, but it’s much better than listening to half a conversation (there’s something about only hearing one half of the conversation that just steals all the focus).

    You probably also need to schedule your meetings so that you don’t have them at the same time. Sometimes the microphones are good enough to only pick up your voice, but usually there will be background noise, so for important meetings you’ll need to negotiate between the two of you.

    Lastly, don’t forget to take short breaks during the day. Stretches, a cup of tea, looking for squirrels, whatever you can do that gives you a break.

  96. The Other Katie*

    I’d suggest first of all that both of you should have sound-isolating headphone/microphone sets for meetings and phone calls. These don’t have to be expensive – I picked up a basic gamer headset for about £40. They block noise and give you some buffer space, and can really save your sanity when you’re trying to concentrate and someone is yelling in the background.
    Second, while it’s obviously not a great time to be switching jobs, don’t leave it too long before having that talk with your husband.

  97. Beth*

    1. Get headsets for both of you. There’s no reason for you to be hearing your husband’s boss, and wearing something over your ears will also help lower the volume of your husband talking.

    2. See if your husband can take less of these impromptu calls. “I need to schedule in advance since my wife and I are both working from home and need to try to stay quiet during one another’s meeting times” is an entirely reasonable limit for him to place with his boss. It might not work (his boss doesn’t sound like a reasonable person) but if he hasn’t tried yet, it’s worth a shot at least.

    3. You say you’re in a one bedroom apartment. That means there’s at least two rooms, right–a living space and a bedroom? Can you divide it out so each of you is working in one space, so it’s possible to close the door between you? Hanging blankets may also help deaden sound.

    4. If part of the problem is your husband yelling or fighting with his boss (such that headphones would only silence half of the problem, you’d still hear your husband replying), ask him to change how he’s responding. Even if that behavior is normal in his office, he’s not in his office. He’s at home with you, and how he talks and acts impacts you too. If that does include getting into fights, learning to keep a cool head and stay calm in the face of conflict will probably be a useful life skill anyways, so he might as well work on it now when it will also have a big immediate benefit for you.

  98. Atalanta0jess*

    MyNoise dot net is the BEST white noise website there is. Customizable to the extreme. It’s a huge gift, and would help a lot.

  99. GoMonkey*

    Noise cancelling headphones and white noise generators for you, headphones for him. If you’re hearing his boss from the next room, he needs different headphones.

  100. Schnapps*

    So this may be a stupid question, but what is the definition of “one bedroom”? In my mind (and where I live) it’s one bedroom with a separate living/eating/kitchen area (and bathroom).

    Unless this is different in NYC, then couldn’t the husband just be locked in the bedroom? :) Or if the OP has an important meeting they can lock themselves in there if they’re ok with that.

  101. migrating coconuts*

    I work at a library. We are closed, but the wifi still works, and can be accessed from our parking lot. We have people who sit in their cars and use it. When the weather is nice, they can sit out on a couple benches we have (opposite sides of the parking lot).

  102. Bopper*

    Defintely you should both wear headphones…also maybe your husband can say speak quietly “I have to keep my voice down because my wife is also working.”…or too his boss “You seem upset. Should I call back later?”

  103. Lauren*

    White noise machines will work a whole lot better than music. They aren’t distracting and will cover the noise better.

  104. Seagull-Marie*

    While it’s not a good idea to quit without another job lined up, he can totally still look and apply for jobs! There are still jobs being posted in some industries. In this situation, it sounds worth it to at least give it a try. Here are a few tips in the meantime…
    -Look up “brown noise” – it is similar to white noise, but is the closest thing to silence, at least for my brain. You can just play it off of a website and listen with your headphones (and like many have suggested, absolutely get some nice noise-cancelling headphones!).
    -Take turns working in the car, or having phone meetings in the car. Use your cell phone as a data hotspot (if you don’t have this, sign up for it). It’s not sustainable all day long, but just pop out there for an hour once in awhile.
    -Take walking meetings, if you have a neighborhood where you can walk around without getting close to others (for virus safety). If it’s not critical to have a computer in front of you, walking during meetings is a great way to break up the day.
    -Split up your hours so that both of you have uninterrupted/quiet work time for part of the day.
    -Prioritize self-care: take breaks, get outside, exercise, drink lots of water, work with a therapist (virtually), and treat yourself to fun and restorative activities.

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