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A Survival Guide for Couples for When You Both Work From Home

February 14, 2018

A Survival Guide for Couples for When You Both Work From Home

It’s Valentine’s Day, so I figured I would tackle a topic that’s both romantic and practical: what to do when you and your partner both work from home. Obviously, for us, ‘home’ is relative—we haven’t been in the same place for more than 3 weeks at a time since we met almost five years ago! But in our condo now, we share an office, and even when we’re on the road, we’re both working at the same time pretty much all the time. Sometimes we collaborate on projects like camps and clinics, but more often, we’re both doing our own thing. And believe me, it can have its moments of sheer awesomeness, followed by sheer I-want-to-throw-you-out-a-window-iness. So, what have we found works?

The desk. It was a work in progress at this point, but that’s a post for another day!

Design Your Space

We share an office, yes, and on the road, we’re often stuck in hotel rooms or small host houses with one reasonable working surface. Luckily, I’m OK with sitting on the bed and working in hotel rooms while Peter takes the desk, but at home, it’s even better. We have one desk in the office, but it’s a 9-foot long standing desk that I built. It’s ideal because we each have half, and sharing the desk forces us to keep our sides clean, versus letting us each have our own desk that we can make messy. The most important part is establishing your expectations—how are sides divided, how clean do you anticipate them being, what shelf space do you need, et cetera. (Our storage closet is also split.)


Respect The Work

One plus of both working from home and being in similar lines of work is that we can bounce ideas off of each other… That’s also a minus when one of us is in deep work mode while the other is doing some planning / has something they want to share. It’s taken us a while to find a balance, but the two key rules seem to boil down to 1) It’s OK to share when you do have a question/comment, but 2) It’s OK to respond that you’re in the middle of something and need to focus. So just being respectful of the other person’s work is huge—but it’s also OK to take advantage of the fact that you work together!


Know Your Biorhythms

I’m not as much of a morning person as Peter, so it took me a while to stop feeling bitter when he beat me to the office and was already working while I was still getting through my morning core routine and hitting the coffee. But I work a lot better mid-morning when he starts to lag. We each have our own workflows and processes that work for us, and just because you work in the same room doesn’t mean you need to fit one certain mold of “worker.” So figure out how YOU work, not how your partner works. Honestly, it’s actually ideal if you aren’t as in sync, since it allows you to have the office to yourself at different points in the day.


It’s Not a Competition

Similar to the above point, I start feeling guilty if Peter is working at any point when I’m not. If you’re a competitive, Type A person, this can be a huge challenge, but you do need to learn to ask yourself if there’s anything you need to be doing at those points… or are you just going to stare at your monitor feeling grumpy? If there is something you can work on and are excited to get going on, great. Having someone working when you’re starting to lag can be a good shot of motivation. But if you’re actually done for the day, that’s OK too. Chill.


Walk Together for “Meetings”

Most of our meetings—where we discuss collaborative ideas and projects—we do on foot rather than in the office. No matter where we are, going for a walk while talking through work stuff tends to be more productive… Plus it adds a bit more movement to the day!


Take Turns

We both do a lot of calls with our work, and one thing we’ve realized over the years is that taking turns in the space is key—sometimes, you can stay in the room for calls, other times, it makes more sense to cede the space. Being more aware of this has made the days a lot smoother and less tense!


Take Time Outs Before You Need Them

You’d think a couple like us, both active, would try to do our workouts together, or at least at the same time. But since we both work from home, we realized that a lot of the time, the better idea is to use our workouts to get time to ourselves… and to let the other person have free reign of the office space. Most couples would say goodbye for 9-10 hours of the workday, but we’re together for most of it. It’s actually really healthy and super important to make sure we are taking our own time. (To make this micro idea more macro, we do travel together a lot but we have started taking more work-related trips separately when it makes sense to do so.)


Coffivity Soothes A Lot

I can’t work in absolute silence, it makes me way too self-aware. So, now I play a white noise coffeeshop-buzz generator, Coffivity. It’s just a website you open and it mimics the noises you’d hear in a coffeeshop. Weirdly, it helps cut down on distraction. And it’s great if you have a sniffly partner with a cold, or someone who sighs a lot (me) or makes any kind of weird noises, drums fingers, etc.


Collaborate When Possible

There are a lot of projects that either of us could do on our own… But it’s so much better to collaborate! Even if you’re not in the same lines of work, having one thing that you both can work on can be a huge help in making the workday a lot more pleasant, even if it’s something super small.


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