If you’ve already been in it, you’ll know that working alongside your significant other can be either the best or craziest, most hilariously ridiculous thing you can put yourself through. Having your significant other as a roommate, confidante, and coworker can be overwhelming at first, especially if it’s a new reality. But, it can be done!
The key is knowing how to navigate each other’s needs, establish boundaries, and preserve your personal sanity in the process.
I’ve been working alongside my partner, Jacob, for the past 7 years. We met at my previous job and both held positions in the marketing department. Fast-forward to when we both found new jobs at different companies, we still continued to work together in the evenings on freelance projects and on maintaining this blog you’re reading. Today, we both work from home full-time, and though you could say we’re veterans at it by this point, that doesn’t mean it’s 100% smooth sailing! Like all other things in a relationship, it takes work to make it work.
With so many people beginning to embrace work-from-home and remote work as a new reality, I thought I’d share some essential tips that’ve helped us the most along the way (and these tips can also be applicable for sharing space with a best friend or roommate!). Here are my 7 tips to successfully navigate working from home with your significant other.
7 Tips to Successfully Navigate Working From Home with Your Significant Other
1. Communicate Openly, and Often
This is so important, I can’t over-stress it enough! It’s funny how when we are living with another person, we tend to assume they now know everything they need to know about us. Sure, your partner might know how you like your coffee, and what time you usually wake up. But he or she might not know whether your morning is jam-packed with meetings, or that you couldn’t sleep last night, or that that enormous project you’ve been slaving over is due today and you can’t afford any distractions.
That’s why it’s so critical to communicate openly, and often, about what’s going on in your work life, even if you’re literally sitting right next to each other!
Here are a few ways you can communicate better about your work needs:
Share a calendar: Big meetings, calendar blocks dedicated to working on big projects, important deadlines, you name it. By sharing your calendar, you can gain a birds-eye view into what’s going on with each other’s schedules on any given day.
Have consistent morning chats: In the mornings, take the time to communicate with one another about the calls and meetings you might have planned for that day, so you know when not to interrupt.
Ask for support: On particularly busy days, it’s okay to ask your partner for support in small ways, whether it’s by making coffee or checking the mail so you don’t have to. The little things can certainly add up! And, it goes without saying to make sure you reciprocate when you’re needed, too.
Express your emotions: If you are stressed out, tired, happy, sad – tell each other! Sure, your partner might be keen to your emotional state in your relationship, but he or she probably has much less of an idea what’s going on with your work, and how to support or give you space, unless you share!
2. Define Your Workspace(s)
A lot of advice online will tell you to work in separate rooms, but I know that’s not always doable for those living in cramped quarters or apartments. In fact, my partner and I actually share a desk. That’s right! Our 800-square-foot, one-bedroom apartment has a really cool den in our living room that we’ve transformed into a two-person coworking space. We bought a six-foot dining table and we share it by working on opposite sides facing in.
Now, this works for us because we both run this blog, like I mentioned, and we collaborate frequently on other projects and business endeavors we’re in on together. But we also both work separate jobs, too, and yet we manage it despite sharing the same space.
Regardless of whether you have all the room in the world or practically none, the most important thing you can do here is to define your workspaces, whatever they are. If you share a table, like we do, define who sits where and keep it that way so you can set up your area precisely how you need it to function for you and your needs.
If you share a room, you should also have a conversation about call and meeting etiquette. Do you and your partner mind listening to each other’s calls, or is it distracting? Do you have another room you can go to if needed, like your bedroom? And, if you have calls at the same time, can you take turns on who needs to relocate?
Last but not least, it’s also critical to have a great pair of headphones handy when you need to join a meeting, take a call, or drown out your partner’s call so you can stay focused on your own tasks. I use these noise-cancelling headphones and Jacob swears by these. I also really like these wireless Bluetooth earbuds for when I need to take calls away from my desk or when I’m working on the road.
RELATED: How to Design Your Home Office Space
3. Establish Your Morning Routine, And Understand They May Not be the Same
Just like in a traditional work environment, it’s not uncommon for you and your partner to have different work schedules, and that is a-okay, even if you’re working from home!
In my case, I wake up earlier than Jacob. We go to sleep at the same time, so I’m not sure what it is about our body clocks but it definitely takes him longer to pry himself out of bed! I wake up, make coffee, and immediately start checking emails. He wakes up, makes his own coffee (i’m team french press, he’s team pour-over), and reads for an hour before he even touches his laptop. Now, I work a more traditional-ish 9-to-5 that just happens to be remote, and he is a full-time freelancer and entrepreneur, so I used to be very jealous of his reading time until I came to understand that our different careers come with different flexibility.
The most important thing here is to establish what works for you and helps you get your day started, and stick with it. If you both have your routines, you can establish a rhythm of conscious support that helps you both start your days on the right foot.
4. Understand that Not All Work Styles are Created Equal
On the topic of routines, it’s also important to understand that not all work styles are created equal. In fact, it’s totally okay to work differently!
While Jacob and I are both pretty much heads-down, get-it-done people, the way we move throughout our days is fundamentally different when it comes to how we structure them. Jacob likes to take proper lunch breaks and catch up on what’s happening on social media. I will often continue working while I eat (I don’t typically recommend it, but I also personally don’t mind it if it means I get to finish work earlier). At the end of the day, I like to ease out of work by getting a workout in at sunset. Jacob might continue working much later than that, until closer to 8 or 9 pm.
If we make plans to go out on a date or to dinner, we of course do what we can to stop working at the same time. But otherwise, we just operate on different clocks.
5. Trade Off on Making Meals (and Other Responsibilities)
Working from home can, at times, be very hectic. Every so often, you might realize that one of you needs to clock some extra hours to wrap up your to-do list, and on those occasions, it can make all the difference if dinner is one less thing you need to worry about.
Jacob and I will sometimes take turns making dinner when the other person has a heavy workload. This has proven to be so crucial for us because we’re both night owls, and we tend to get some of our most creative work done in the evenings.
6. Take the Time to Bounce Ideas Off of One Another
At times, it can be difficult to work from home because it lacks the buzzing energy of a busy office. In an office environment, you can walk over to your coworker’s desk, or call your team into a conference room, when you want to discuss an idea or challenge. When you’re home, sure, you can hop on a call, but it’s not really the same.
This is why it’s so crucial to take the time to be a springboard for your partner (and vice-versa) when needed. Sometimes, just the act of being able to talk through an issue out loud to someone else is cathartic, and having someone to run things by can help give you the encouragement or the push that is often needed in order to produce your best work.
Jacob and I are lucky in that we both work in very similar fields (marketing, travel, content creation), so we kind of understand each other’s ups and downs. If you and your partner work in completely different industries, take the time to break down the things you’re working on so that your partner can begin to gain a foundational understanding of your line of work. Often times, when you remove the industry-specific jargon, acronyms, and complexities, you can see eye-to-eye on pretty much any work-related issues (even if just on a basic level). The more you talk to each other, the better equipped you’ll be to be each other’s confidante, teammate, and cheerleader when needed.
7. Hold Each Other Accountable
On that note, being each other’s confidante, teammate, and cheerleader also means holding each other accountable, just like your team would if you were in a traditional office environment! Push each other to do good work, support each other when needed, and challenge each other to be the best version of yourselves that you can be. Then, take the time to celebrate each other’s wins and major milestones.
By establishing this level of support and accountability, you’ll create the kind of environment that’ll help you both succeed, with your work and with each other!
Do you have any tips for successfully navigating working from home with your significant other? I want to hear them! Let me know what works (or doesn’t work) for you below!