When we moved to Denver, my husband kept his job in St. Louis and became a telecommuter. And due to the nature of my job, I often find myself working from home, at a desk right next to his. People are always asking how we can manage to work so closely together at home without distracting each other or fighting constantly. In a recent blog, I offered some thoughts on how to work from home more effectively. Today, I’ll expand on this topic with thoughts on how to work from home, with your partner, without blowing up your relationship (or your job).
When I first started working remotely, my husband and I took some time to iron out some ground rules and set some responsibilities. For example, I’ve agreed to listen to whatever music or news station my husband wants to listen to, but the moment my phone rings, he knows to quickly mute the radio so I can focus on my call. We’ve also agreed that we can chat here and there throughout the day as long as we check first to ensure the other person isn’t focused on a task or prepping for a meeting. We also use instant messaging from time to time to communicate when one or both of us are on the phone or busy with something else.
Because our desks are situated side by side, taking calls can be tricky. As much as possible, we try to coordinate meetings so that we both aren’t on the phone at the same time. But if we do both end up on the phone at the same time, I’ll move my laptop to the bedroom or patio for the duration of my meeting so that we each have a quite space to talk. We previously tried working from coffee shops but found the noise to be far too distracting.
Another thing to consider is that spending 8+ hours a day together at work and then relaxing together during the evenings and weekends can start to become tedious. Which is why we make a point to schedule activities that don’t include one another. I might practice yoga at a studio while he writes, or grab dinner with just the girls while he’s out with friends, or take the dog on a walk during lunch while he’s at the gym. We have lots of similar interests and spend a lot of time together, but we also value our separate activities and time alone.
If I could use a single word to describe how we are making telecommuting together work, it would be respect. We respect each other’s space (although my stuff tends to creep onto his desk every so often), we respect each other’s need for quiet time, and we respect each other’s schedules. If something isn’t working out, we have an honest and respectful conversation about what adjustments need to be made. And although we distract and irritate each other every so often, we have made it work for nearly 5 years, and in the end it has only strengthened our relationship.
Hopefully some of these tips will work for you too if you find yourself working from home with a partner. And if you’ve found any other techniques that have helped, please feel free to share!