I’ve read a lot of posts this week on how to work from home and be productive. They’re all incredibly helpful and great for setting up a home office while we social distance. But what about if you’re having to work from home with a significant other or spouse for the first time?
Travis and I have been working from home now together for almost 7 years. The first place we worked from home at was a very small apartment in San Francisco to our new home here in Sacramento. Along the way, we’ve worked on the road together in shoebox apartments, to our family’s home, and other assorted settings. Needless to say, it has been a work in progress for learning how to work side by side.
Our days are not perfect — but we’ve learned a few things along the way to help make the day run smoother for each of us. The goal is to give each other space and give ourselves the boundaries we need to be productive in our work.
So I thought I’d share a few tips for what has helped us along the way. Here are my five tips for working from home with your spouse or significant other.
5 Tips For Working From Home With Your Spouse or Significant Other
1. Open Communication
I know this is the most obvious one, but I have to start here. I don’t want to talk about just “communicating” but rather what you communicate about. Here are a few things that I’d suggest open dialogue around to help each other:
- When we have phone calls. Travis lets me know in the morning when his calls are so I know when I can’t go ask a question or start a conversation.
- If we have a big workload. Some days I am busier than others and it’s the first thing I tell Travis in the morning. A simple “Hey, today is going to be busy” goes a long way and sets up an expectation.
- Our emotional levels. Down and out? Let the other person know. Feeling stressed? Let the other person know. Sharing where we are emotionally not only saves us during work hours but after too.
2. Give Yourselves Permission to Eat Breakfast and Lunch Separately
Yup, I’m saying it. You don’t need to eat all three meals together. That’s a lot of time in a day spent together. Sure, some days we will have breakfast together but it is rare. We start our days differently and often break for lunch at different times. It’s okay — just because you’re home together, doesn’t mean you need to do it all together.
And one more tip: don’t eat your meal at your desk. Break up your day and separate out your work.
3. Work in Separate Rooms if Possible or Have Defined Areas
I want to preface that while not being together in the same room while working is ideal, we can’t all do that. We have an office room but I’ve been working from the kitchen table this past quarter as Travis was taking a lot of phone calls. It was healthier for my work to be in a separate room.
If you can’t be in separate rooms and are sharing a table, I’d recommend this: have defined areas for one another. I.e.: one side of the table is his and the other is mine. Having our own spaces allows our minds to compartmentalize. If you’re sharing a desk, I’d recommend some good noise-canceling earbuds like these:
And one more tip: have a designated phone call room. I will take phone calls from the bedroom frequently if we’re both in the house together.
4. Have a Defined “End of Work Day” Time
You still need time for your relationship. It can be easy to keep the laptops out and keep working through the night because we’re home now all day and it may seem there is not much else to do. BUT there is! We have an “end of day” time at 5:30 which means the rest of the night is for us. We cook, tidy up, go for walks, play games, and more.
Nurture your relationship even though it may seem like you’re with each other 24/7.
5. It’s Okay to Work Differently.
This has been the hardest lesson for me in our marriage when it comes to working from home. Travis and I just do things differently when it comes to working. We work and are productive at very different hours. I’ll give an example:
I wake up and the minute I’m up, I am out of bed and making a coffee and ready to work. I dive almost entirely at full speed into work within 10 minutes of waking up. Travis, on the other hand, takes his time to wake up and ramp up his work. We joke that I’ve done usually a couple of hours or so of work before him but I also finish my day before him.
It used to frustrate me so MUCH that he was slow in the morning and took his time. He sat me down one day and shared that’s how he always has been. He’s slow to start but once focused he’s full steam ahead.
The lesson? We work differently and we need to hold space for that. The quicker we are able to understand that, the quicker we can support each other.
Do you have any other tips on working from home with your spouse? Drop a note here!