My husband and I have vastly different job descriptions.
As a sales executive, my husband is an exuberant, extroverted guy who genuinely loves team building, helping others, and indisputably has the gift of gab. He spends most of his days dealing with other people. Whether he’s talking to a client in person, strategizing with co-workers, or having a marathon-length telephone conversation, he’s usually talking. And talking. And pacing while he’s talking (oh, the pacing!).
I, on the other, hand tend toward more solitary tasks. As an editor and writer, I like—no, make that need—my quiet time. I need space in which to think and ponder. I need to research. I need get inside my own head and get all esoteric and philosophical and zen. I need peace, and distractions are not usually my friend.
Obviously, we’re two different people—which is okay, because even after 10 years of marriage, we still compliment each other very nicely and help each other see the world from different angles. It generally works, except for one little thing: we both work from home, and in rather tight quarters.
On the bright side, I get to spend even more time with my favorite person. But it can also be a problem sometimes, mostly because of the aforementioned talking (and talking) and pacing that can make concentration difficult.
Which begs the following question: as working from home (even just part of the time) starts to become the norm for more and more people, how can couples working in the same home stay productive and refrain from driving each other crazy?
Here are a few tips:
1. Find Your Own Work Space
In some situations—like, say, if your Manhattan apartment is the size of a closet in Texas—this may not be feasible. If that’s the case, consider going to a library or cafe when you really need to get away. For the rest of us, make sure each of you has your own designated workspace at least some distance away from each other.
Maybe one person uses a desk in a guest room, for example, while the other takes over the dining room table during the day. Or, perhaps there is basement or attic space that is currently not being utilized that could be fashioned into usable office space. Whatever arrangement you choose, the point is to make sure that each of you is able to create the working conditions you need to be at your most productive—and also to ensure make you aren’t in each other’s grill 24/7.
Which leads me to this…
2. Avoid Seeing Too Much of One Another
I adore my husband. But, you know that old saying about too much of a good thing? Spending all day sitting side by side, followed by an evening side by side, day upon day, could quickly wind up as overkill. There simply will be no mystery left, and you’ll have little to talk about. Don’t forget, it can be really nice to be able to ask your partner what they did all day without already knowing the answer.
3. Set Boundaries (for Both of You)
You know that feeling you get when you’re typing away on your laptop and someone stops right behind you to peer over your should and ask what it is you are writing about (as if they need to ask, since they are in fact reading it)? Yeah, well, the fact that it is the love of your life doing the asking doesn’t necessarily make that feeling any more pleasant (okay, maybe it does—but just a bit). Be sure to respect each other’s time and space.
Try setting particular hours out of the day when one or both of you is simply not to be disturbed. If you need the rest of the house to remain absolutely quiet for a time (perhaps for an important phone call or teleconference), try placing a tell-tale do not disturb sign nearby. That will hopefully save you the embarrassment my husband once felt the time I tactlessly decided to run the blender while he was on the phone in the next room with a big client.
4. See Other Places and Faces
I recall one particular week not too far back when—barring trips to the school bus stop to retrieve our children—neither of us left our home for three days straight. Living in a bubble is no fun, but it’s easy to let it happen when you are busy working at home during the day and busy at home with the kids at night. Generally, it’s a good idea to make sure you get outside and into the real world at least once every day.
That could mean taking your laptop to the local coffee house for a couple of hours, the occasional lunch date, or an evening extra-curricular or hobby. Regardless of what it is, just get out there and interact with some other humans to whom you are not married—lest you become the pod people.
5. Don’t Ask Each Other for Daytime Help with Household Chores (Often)
One of the perks of working from home is having the freedom to handle your life and your work simultaneously. And there are so many times when that flexibility feels like such a blessing! But for people with children, the hours when they are at school are often our most precious, productive hours (aside from the late night hours we also put in). With that in mind, try not to confront your spouse between 8:00 and 3:00 on a Monday about why the lawn never got mowed on Sunday. It will earn you dirty looks.