Research shows couples who work together stay together. Here are 10 tips to help you and your significant other maintain a balance in your personal and co-working relationship.
10 Tips for Successfully Working from Home with a Significant Other
Working with the person you love always sounds like a dream, but it can quickly become a nightmare. However, the rewards tend to outweigh the risks. The Boston Globe shares research results proving that couples who work together show signs of increased job and family satisfaction.
Telecommuting with your significant other definitely puts unique pressures on your relationship, but it can be well worth the effort. Use these tips to help you and your partner develop a healthy and functional remote work environment at home.
1. Separate Business and Pleasure
The golden rule for working with a significant other is to keep work and home life separate. However, this is easier said than done, especially when you work at home. For starters, keep all business finances separate from personal accounts. For example, use a business checking account or credit card for work-related expenses. Resist the temptation to dip into family funds to pay for new office equipment or use company credit cards to buy gifts for the kids.
Also, try as much as possible to keep personal disagreements out of your home office. Consider addressing relationship issues as you would coworker disputes and be as civil and productive as possible to resolve the conflict. You may even need to work in separate spaces until you sort out personal differences.
“You are everything.” – Jim, The Office
2. Practice Smart Role Play
Your roles at home might be different than your roles in business, which can sometimes cause tension and control struggles. However, to be successful, you must focus on each other’s strengths. The more honest you are with yourselves, and the more you play to your strengths, the stronger you are as a couple.
For example, if one of you is better at crunching numbers, let that person lead budgeting and financial planning efforts. If one is better at technology, allow that person to manage software updates and Wi-Fi troubleshooting. Even if you don’t work for the same company, you can still work together as a team.
Also, divide household chores fairly so that you’re both responsible for maintaining your home. Create a schedule and assign tasks so that responsibilities are clear.
“So, it’s not gonna be easy. It’s gonna be really hard. We’re gonna have to work at this every day, but I want to do that because I want you. I want all of you, forever, you and me, every day.” – Noah, The Notebook
3. Get a Room
It’s challenging to share a home and workspace with a significant other, especially when you have completely different work styles and preferences. For example, one of you may love working in cozy pajamas all day, while the other prefers to clean up and put on professional attire.
To help establish boundaries and maintain personal space, create a separate work area in a spare room, oversized closet, or basement. If there’s not enough real estate for each of you to have your own office, then either commit to being officemates or create a work schedule so that each of you gets some quiet time alone.
However, there’s no need to feel like you’re stuck at home. Take your laptop to a coffee shop once in a while or consider a co-working space as an alternative work environment. Even some time in the backyard or on the front porch can give you enough space to concentrate.
Allow your co-working relationship to help you develop a stronger bond and learn more about each other. Enjoy having a telecommuting buddy to chat with when work gets challenging.
“I’m scared of walking out of this room and never feeling the rest of my whole life the way I feel when I’m with you.” – Baby, Dirty Dancing
4. Use Safe Words
Let’s be real: You’re going get on each other’s nerves from time to time. Whenever one of you is annoyed or at a tipping point, try using a safe word to let the other person know you need a break. For example, if your significant other whistles while she works, give her some time to play her tune, but use your safe word to let her know when you’ve reached your limit.
Think of funny words to break the tension, such as “catawampus” or “nincompoop.” You can also choose a word that represents a fond memory, like the name of a city you visited or the main character of the first movie you watched together. Find an inside joke that keeps things light while letting the other person know you need a bit of a break from the shenanigans.
“In my opinion, the best thing you can do is find someone who loves you for exactly what you are. Good mood, bad mood, ugly, pretty, handsome, what have you.” – Mac, Juno
5. Engage in Conversation
Co-working with your significant other can leave little interest for conversation at supper time, but it’s important to maintain personal interactions outside of work. A study by the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia found that married couples who have dedicated couple time at least once per week are much happier in their marriages, which mean they are less likely to divorce or separate.
As a telecommuting couple, you can spice things up a bit by going on lunch dates and hitting up happy hour. If you have kids and don’t want to leave the house, have a picnic in the backyard or subscribe to a meal delivery service and prepare delicious dinners together.
Stay in tune with each other’s thoughts, feelings, and interests. Recognize that there may be more to learn about each other, even though you seem to spend every waking moment together.
Strong relationships take work. So, when you clock out from your job, you need to clock into your personal relationship to ensure your home life is balanced.
“In case I forget to tell you later, I had a really good time tonight.” – Vivian, Pretty Woman
6. Give Each Other Downtime
When conversation gets annoying, or you need some space, give each other time each day to be alone. If you live in a small place, try having one of you go into a separate room and shut the door to relax. Maybe you can even schedule a few hours each week to be completely alone. For example, one of you gets the whole place to yourself on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, while the other gets Monday and Friday mornings to romp around solo. Figure out what works for you and respect each other’s need for privacy.
“Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she had to walk into mine.” – Rick, Casablanca
7. Stay on Top of Each Other
Be each other’s accountability buddy so that you optimize your time and do excellent work. Keep each other accountable for achieving goals. Help each other pick up the slack when things get busy. Listen to each other’s needs and struggles and be there to help support.
As an exercise that can help both your career paths, have a career planning meeting where you each set goals and devise routes to achievement. Post the plans on the wall for both of you to see, track milestones, and leave encouraging feedback. It always helps to have a trusted accomplice on your path toward success. Plus, witnessing someone else working toward a goal can motivate you to work toward your own.
“You make me want to be a better man.” – Melvin, As Good as It Gets
8. Enjoy the Closeness
Most working couples spend at least eight hours apart from each other each day. Factor in time spent commuting to and from the office, occasional overtime, after-work errands and social events, and much-needed personal time, such as showering and sleep, and you’re looking at just a few hours each day of quality togetherness.
Work-at-home couples have the advantage of developing stronger bonds by being physically present more of the time. How wonderful it is to spend so much time together and truly venture through life arm in arm! Be grateful for the comradery and remember how awesome it is, even when you’re at each other’s throats.
“If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaky feeling you’ll find that love actually is all around.” – David, Love Actually
9. Take a Couples Retreat
Take a break to enjoy life outside of work. Use some of your hard-earned cash to treat yourself to a couple’s trip. Remember, as telecommuters you have the luxury of taking your work with you wherever they go. So, if you want to travel while earning income, bring your laptops while you visit new cities.
If you have different ideas of what it means to have fun while traveling, take a day or two for solo exploration. Make it into a game by seeing who can check as many sites off on their list, eat the strangest food, or find the funniest random fact. Share pictures and stories at the end of the day, then snuggle up and enjoy adventuring with a companion.
If you don’t want to travel too far from home, spend a staycation in the downtown area of the nearest city. Check out museums, attend a concert, or stay in those fluffy white sheets all day and order room service.
“When you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.” Harry, When Harry Met Sally
10. Stop and Smell the Roses
Always take time to pay attention to the little things that matter, as they tend to matter the most. Force yourselves to slow down and take breaks from work. A study by Staples Business Advantage shows that 78% of workers feel more productive throughout the day when they take breaks. Use the free time to connect as a couple or simply enjoy a few moments of peace by yourself.
“The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.” – Christian, Moulin Rouge
Want to Take Things to the Next Level?
If you want to give your work-at-home relationship that extra special something, leave sweet love notes at each other’s desk, send each other cute emails on occasion, or get flowers delivered by surprise. Think about the kind gestures you’d make if your significant other worked in a traditional office and incorporate such romantic acts at home to keep your relationship thriving.
If daily romance isn’t really your thing, then stick with open communication as the primary key to a healthy relationship. Hopefully, you feel comfortable enough to be honest about your feelings and work through conflict constructively. Accommodate each other’s work style preferences and need for personal space as much as possible. Since you know each other through and through, practice accepting each other with all your flaws and features.
If you can leverage each other’s strengths, work through your differences, and support each other in work and play, then you’ll make unstoppable telecommuting team.
Have you ever worked from home with a significant other? Share your tips for successfully sharing work and personal lives under the same roof when you connect with Virtual Vocations on Facebook and Twitter. We’d love to hear from you!
Photo Credits: 1. iStock.com/izusek; 1. iStock.com/jacoblund
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