Making it Work When Your Spouse is Your Office Mate
When I switched to consulting almost a year ago, I made the decision to work mostly from home. The problem? My husband was already working remote, so our new arrangement required us to share an office (gasp!).
Even though friends and family expressed concern (“Won’t you get sick of each other?!”) working side-by-side wasn’t completely new to us, as we had shared telecommute days in the past. But doing so on an almost daily basis — in a shared space no less— would indeed be a new experience. To keep harmony during the work day (and our marriage in tact!), we had to establish a few ground rules. Here are some of them.
Respect each others personal space and work styles.
It wasn’t until I worked next to my husband regularly, that I noticed how different our work styles are. He likes to keep things tidy, while I have papers and files lying around. He wanted me to keep my side clutter-free too, but eventually gave up after he realized I need some disorder to get things done. We had to come to terms with the fact that he’s worked his way for 20 years, as have I, and we can’t change each others work styles. But we’ve learned how to co-exist together (as long as we commit to keeping our spaces relatively clean!).
Invest in workstations with laptop computers.
Before I started working from home, we configured our workstations with laptops, docking stations and monitors, so we can both be mobile. This is a must for any remote worker, and especially in my line of work where I can literally do my job anywhere. I wouldn’t know what to do with myself if I was chained to a desktop all day long!
If you need to take a call, try to do it in another room.
We both own wireless headsets, which is lifesaver when you’re on non-stop conference calls! If the call is casual, I often like to walk around, or even sit outside and get some fresh air. My husband will usually warn me when he has an important call, and I do the same, so one of us can leave the shared space, and let the other concentrate.
Wear headphones when listening to audio.
My other half prefers to listen to LOUD music when doing tasks, while I mostly prefer quiet. We both use headphones quite a bit to not disturb each other when we are in between calls. I use relaxing music when I need to focus — like this meditation player from Simple Habit, or my new favorite, iHeartRadio’s free work playlists.( “Grind and Shine” and “Chill Pop” have been on a steady repeat this week!)
Work in an alternative location once in a while.
I go into the office once a week, which is a nice break from the work-from-home routine. My husband, on the other hand, goes on business trips more often than I do. In between, I sometimes like a change of scenery, such as working in a coffee shop when I need to do some writing. It’s good to switch things up, if you have that flexibility.
Lastly, try to take a few minutes each day to have a quick break and talk to one another.
This may sound simple enough, but it can be difficult on days when we are both crazy busy. We usually eat lunch at our desks, and often sit in silence for hours at a time. But we do spend a few minutes in the morning most days getting coffee and chatting before logging on, which is a nice reminder to both of us to be thankful we have this shared lifestyle.
“What I love most about my home is who I share it with.” — Tad Carpenter
Let’s face it: when you share your home and work space with your spouse, it isn’t always sunshine and roses. You will likely frustrate and annoy each other more often. But, on the other hand, I am blessed to annoy him on a daily basis now. Until next time!