About a year ago, my husband and I moved his business home, and I joined the team. It was an interesting transition initially. He learned how to work from home (I was a work-from-home pro), and we both learned how to conduct business, together, and essentially be together 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We have had our ups and downs, but we’ve survived for 12 months, and I think we are finally starting to get the hang of it.
Here are seven key lessons we learned about working from home with your significant other:
1. Assess each other’s strengths, define roles, and divide and conquer.
We each have definitive strengths. I am more organized, more creative, and have a looser work style. He’s more regimented, has more product knowledge, and is really good at solving production problems. So, when we started, we agreed on which one of us would be best to tackle the critical tasks of our business, and we divided the work and got busy. We each know enough about what the other person does to cover for each other if either one of us is out, but for the most part, we stick to the things we are good at and stay out of each other’s way.
2. Set some money rules.
We did some restructuring of our business’ finances and looked at a few different lending options. In the beginning, my husband would make decisions unilaterally, and I wouldn’t discover what he’d implemented until weeks later when I’d be reconciling our accounts.
This would frustrate me because I’d feel like it was something we should have decided together. I’d have different ideas on repayment and different things I would have prioritized. I often felt like I was forced to go along with these decisions without any clear understanding of how they were made. We talked it through and agreed that, moving forward, financial decisions greater than a specific dollar amount would be made together. As a result, I felt like my perspectives were an important element of the decision-making process, and likewise, he didn’t feel like he had to burden these difficult decisions alone.
3. Create separation between “work” and “home”.
Separating work from home is a challenge for most work-at-home professionals. Despite the challenging and very obvious fact that you WORK FROM HOME, some separation is required to maintain sanity. This becomes especially true if you work with your significant other. There are times when “work talk” is discouraged, and likewise, we have to leave our personal issues at the door once we walk into our home offices. If this separation isn’t maintained to some degree, you can find yourself burning out rapidly.
4. Create separate working spaces.
In our home, we have two separate offices. We are right next door to each other, but if either one of us needs to focus or needs space, we can go to our individual offices, close the door if need be, and do our thing. If you don’t have two separate offices, consider a set up where you have dividers, or devise a work schedule where each of you comes in and leaves at slightly different times so that you can each have time to yourselves for a portion of the work day.
5. Make time for individual pursuits.
After spending so much time together working, my husband and I realized it was critically important for us to each have individual pursuits outside of our home and work lives. Whether they are volunteer opportunities, sports leagues, an evening class, crafts, bridge group, or quiet time at the coffee shop with your favorite book, getting away by yourself to pursue something that allows you to de-stress and recharge is important.
6. Make time for each other.
Set aside time on a regular basis (e.g. one evening once a week or every other week) to get out and do something together. Catch a movie. Pack sandwiches and go somewhere to watch the sunset. Hike a local trail. Get coffee together. Whatever it is, break out of the work rut and home responsibilities to just reconnect. Your relationship is multi-faceted, and sometimes we forget that there is an important connection there past our business or family obligations.
7. Prioritize your marriage.
In all honesty, my husband and I drive each other crazy sometimes. I usually think about the points above and try to determine where maybe we are letting things break down.
- Are we talking about the business too much?
- Are we allowing our family responsibilities take over?
- Are we stepping on each other’s toes with our work roles or not communicating about critical business finance decisions?
- Are we regularly taking time out individually to rest and recharge?
- Have we had a date night recently?
Usually, we can find a tactic that we’ve neglected and make the needed adjustments to get back on track. But at the end of the day, we agreed ahead of time that our marriage comes first. If we find we can no longer work together, we will do what we can to maintain our relationship. That may mean that one of us will have to find another job or that we carve out money from our budget to rent a small office out of the home. The bottom line is we will do what it takes to maintain our relationship – above all else!
Do you work from home with your significant other? What tips would you add? What changes did you make to keep your business AND relationship successful?
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Christy Schutz is a communications professional and freelance writer focused on topics like employer/personal branding, career management, personal development, women in the workplace, and female entrepreneurs. She enjoys putting 16+ years of experience in the advertising, recruitment marketing, employee/internal communications and special events industries to good use by helping others to discover, develop and market their own distinct calling or mission. This Tampa Bay, FL-based Mom also keeps herself busy by raising 4 kids, caring for her husband & doting on her dogs Petey and Daisy!