As you know, I’m a virtual assistant and blogger. I’ve worked from home, off and on, for about ten years now. It worked out really well when the kids were smaller, and it works out really well now that they’re in school, too.
Rachel and I have been trying to figure out how she can work from home as well, and I think we’ve finally got a plan in place that will be worth a shot. It’s scary, though, to have your entire life rely on income that comes from self-employment – especially when one of you is expanding a very small, very new business – and the other is doing something that isn’t always bringing in the steadiest of incomes (one month it’s $3,000 another month might be $5,000 – it’s steady but unpredictable).
The stress levels can get pretty high. So, we’re saving up and building our emergency funds while we work on transitioning her to working from home at least part time.
I was reading about things bound to happen to couples who both work from home, and it got me thinking. I really, really need to figure this shit out before Rachel starts working from home full time. Obviously since we don’t work together yet, these are all just great ideas that I have – that might or might not work… cuz that’s how I roll, yo.
How to Survive Working at Home With Your Spouse
Set clear expectations. Instead of just assuming your spouse will do this or that, make sure you lay it all out. Who is going to make lunch? Are you going to switch off? Eat lunch together, or separately? Are you going to go out to lunch once a week? Obviously you don’t have to plan every little thing, but instead of just springing it on your significant other by saying, “Wanna go to XYZ for lunch today?” when they haven’t had any time to prepare to stop work, why not plan it?
Who is going to take care of the kid(s) when they’re home sick from school? Is your job more flexible than your partner’s? If so, you might get assigned that duty. Do you have to work late? If so, your spouse might have to put the kids to bed. Whatever it is, just set clear expectations so there aren’t as many surprises.
Don’t hover. Or nag. It’s tough to let Rach do her own thing, especially because she does need a lot of extra help with learning how to do spreadsheets, computer work, etc. However, I’ve got to make sure I’m not hovering or nagging. Be helpful, not critical.
Focus on your strengths. If you’re working together on a joint business venture, play on each others strengths and help with the weaknesses. For example, I’m uh-ma-zing at social media, advertising, etc. Rachel is better suited for packaging items, shipping them, etc. That works out really well because we both have jobs to do, we aren’t getting in each other’s way, and we are avoiding frustration because we are working on things we’re good at rather than things we are terrible at. I can’t imagine the frustration she’d have if I put her in front of the computer and asked her to make me a cost list spreadsheet.
Make your own work space. Even if you’re both working on the same projects, having your own work space is vital. If you’re working with limited space but at least have one room to dedicate to a shared office, put your desks on opposite sides of the room. If nothing else, set up a schedule to where you’re not both trapped in the same room 8-10 hours a day.
There are many ways to work this out, but for us we are just turning the entire main floor into offices for ourselves. There’s a wall between our office spaces, but there are no doors. I’m the type that likes to work either in complete silence, or playing my music. We both like different types of music, so I’ll need to invest in some good headphones when we start working together.
Create office hours. Office hours are useful if you’re sharing a room, so say you get the office from 7AM til noon, and your spouse gets the office from noon til 5PM. Obviously this isn’t always possible, but it’s worth a shot if it is. This creates the illusion of “going to work”, so whoever isn’t “at work” can do housework, take care of the kids, etc. I might make my hours 3PM til 9PM so she has to make dinner and take care of the kids LOL.
Office hours are also important so you make sure you’re not working around the clock. It’s easy to get sucked into “one more post” or “one more sale” or whatever, but if you say you’re working 8AM til 5PM, log off at 5PM and be present for the rest of the evening. Period. Whatever it is, it can wait – spend time with your family!
We might both try the 8-4 thing, with us both having evenings free for the kids. However, I’m a lot more high strung than she is, so I really, really need my space. This might lead to me doing work on the laptop, from my bedroom, while they’re doing dinner/homework/baths/bedtime. Works for me (and her).
Minimize distractions. If you have an open schedule like I do for the most part, minimizing distractions will cut down on how many hours I have to work. I have school work which takes up about 15 hours a week, and then I have my actual work which takes up about 30 hours a week. If I screw around and get distracted by Facebook, I might be working 10 hour days instead of the 6-8 I would if I had cut out the distractions. The same goes for kids, pets, etc – if there’s any way to have your spouse watch them while you work for a few solid hours, you’re going to get a lot more finished than half assing 10 hours.
Have an action plan for when disagreements arise. I have no doubt that we are going to disagree on a lot of shit; it’s just a given. How we deal with the disagreements is key. If you’re running a business together, usually someone will have more “say” than the other. If you’re running separate businesses, you run yours and they run theirs and leave it at that.
Rach and I have separate businesses, but I need to help her with hers – a lot. She doesn’t know anything about computers or social media, so it’s going to be tough to walk her through everything. I’m a very impatient teacher, and she is a slow learner. We will have to take it one day at a time!
Take some personal time – together. This one will depend on your schedule(s), and whether or not you have little ones at home, but for us… it’s gonna be golden. Sexy lunch time? Sign. Me. Up.
Take some personal time – alone. If you have a laptop, move to another part of the house to get some work done. If you don’t have laptops, do some work from your phone or just take a break in your bedroom, outside, or anywhere – away from your significant other. It’s okay to need a break. Take them as needed.
P.S. TLDR; Coffee, and chocolate. You’re gonna need lots and lots of both.