Working from home – with your significant other

We are living in crazy times right now, that’s for sure. No matter what your working circumstances are, it’s going to be a wild ride before anything gets to be the new normal.

One thing I don’t have to think or worry about is what it will be like working with my husband.

We started Essence together in 2003 and both gave up our day jobs in 2004 / 05 to dedicate all our time to our consultancy. Since then, we have been working side by side on-off project depending, and our relationship has not suffered, but there are some things we found worked for us…

We work in a little home office, in one room. That may not suit every couple, but for us it is nice to be together (unless Steve has a string of video conferences to attend) and it’s practical to keep work in a work space. If you want or have to share a room, consider this:

Agree first on what background noise you will have during working hours

This is super easy now with lots of types of noise cancelling headphones, but before that we used to chat about what’s on our plate and if we needed quiet time or if some music would be good. Steve is a developer and analyst so when he has to focus, classical music really works for him. I am a soppy person and it makes me feel very emotional so it’s not that great for me when I’m designing. I prefer to listen to programmes so it’s a bit like having office banter in the background. And when I do strategy or copy writing, it’s all noises off – apart from the cat purring…

Don’t chat about non-work stuff at work

Time is precious. Especially now when we also have kids to entertain, uninterrupted work time is a premium. Don’t get distracted by catching up on what DIY needs to be done or what holiday plans you may want to make. Instead, wait for natural gaps in between jobs, meet in the kitchen for a cuppa and chat then. You get a little break and don’t feel you’re interrupting. If you need a break before your partner, have it, but don’t impose it on him or her and pull them inevitably out of a good train of thoughts.

Instead, use the ‘commute time’ to sit together and have a banter – the saved travel time is perfect to use for chit chat!

Wear work clothes

Don’t sit down in your undies or pjs. We found it helps to pretend to be in a real office even if it’s just a corner in your home. (Plus it may be too tempting to pursue more leisurely activities if you sit there semi clad 😂).

Share boring admin

If you have rather dull but necessary admin tasks as part of your work, same business or not, do them at the same time so you can agree it’s ok to moan about them! We do… and it helps to not struggle on your own.

Keep your work space tidy

If you can work from a study or spare room or even convert a corner in your bedroom to have a table in to work on, keep it tidy so both of you don’t have to feel pressure of more clutter to deal with.

Be patient and kind

Of course this is not going to be easy. You may find you function better in different rooms if you can.

If your jobs require different levels of concentration, noise cancelling headphones may be the answer without having to miss each other’s company.

No matter what the day throws at you work wise, don’t reflect your frustration on your partner. Being stressed is one thing, but venting on your other half who is an innocent bystander is not fair on them or you. If you get a bit wound up, talk about it (next break) and you might get a soothing shoulder rub and a hug! Be kind and accept it’s not going to be perfect, but neither is normal office work.

Respect different time requirements (but don’t use it as an excuse to hide during tea prep)

Very much job depended, it may well be that one of you can finish early. That’s ok… we all need to do the best we can and on another day it could very well be you needing to ‘stay late’.

Saying that, if it’s always you then ending up doing the household whilst he is working longer, beyond the usual hours, it’s good to check if perhaps the project itself is at fault and timings need to be adjusted. It’s easy to fall in that trap and the one left to hold the baby may resent you for it.

For us, it’s always been pretty seasonal that I have to work more at certain times in the year but I have a break first when the kids are back from school to have time with them and do household tasks together. I then add a late session if I need to.

I’ll let you know how I get on having my three boys all day every day now and working around home schooling them. I figure that’s a completely different challenge to being productive with your partner working beside you 😂😂😂

Regine Wilber

I am a brand consultant and conceptual designer. I love using creativity to solve problems for our clients. In my spare time, I like jigsaws and probably a bit of a board game geek. 

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