I admire couples that can work from home together and not strangle each other by the end of the day. It’s not that I’m unreasonable, bitchy or territorial (at least not all of the time), but there’s no way I could stand to share a home office with my spouse.
Part of the reason I have issues with needing my own space is that I have four siblings. As the middle child, I never had my own room. Either my older sister or my younger, annoying sister (who is now my best friend), was my roommate. We had to share everything.
I envied my friend down the street who was an only child. Her main complaint was that she was bored most of the time. She didn’t get any sympathy from me.
So it’s no wonder that I demand my own workspace, insist that no one touch my supplies (I’ve been told I have office supply issues), and crave as much privacy as possible. I like to work alone.
The other reason I couldn’t work with my significant other is that too much of a good thing can be bad. Think about it: you may adore your wife, husband, boyfriend, girlfriend, but if you spend every day and night with him or her, you may drain the fun out of your business and your relationship. Trust me, those cute little habits that first attracted you to him or her will be the same habits that make you want to plot a file cabinet “accident.”
If you’re still willing to work with your spouse (don’t say I didn’t give you plenty of warning), there are a few ways to keep the peace so no one considers hiring a hit man by the end of the day.
Buy duplicate supplies.
No one likes to reach for a stapler and realize it’s on someone else’s desk or in another room. Get creative and buy two sets of office supplies in different colors: one for each of you. While you’re buying extra supplies for your spouse, pick up more sets for the rest of your family.
Don’t share a computer. Ever.
There’s nothing wrong with cutting costs, but sharing a computer will cost you more than money. It will affect your working relationship, put your patience to the test, and, more importantly, destroy your productivity. Whether you use a desktop and your spouse uses a laptop, each of you should have your own device. Sharing a printer shouldn’t be an issue, but if you print more than anyone else in the family, pick up extra cartridges so there’s always a replacement cartridge when someone other than you has a last minute deadline.
Leave the room when you need to take a call.
Unless you can talk quietly and not bother your spouse while he or she is in the office (which I don’t think is humanly possible for anyone), leave the room during a call. Another option is to use a headset. It’s a good idea to leave your desk throughout the day anyway, so why not leave during a call?
Use separate workspaces.
Whether you use two desks, or install a long counter with enough room for two chairs, keep your workspaces separate. This is especially true if you have two different working styles. Someone who is a packrat will drive a perfectionist crazy with piles of paper, cups of coffee and the leftovers from his or her last snack. The perfectionist will do the same thing by complaining about the mess and throwing things away without asking.
Compromise on the temperature.
You may like the office to be as cold as a meat locker, but not everyone likes to wear three sweaters, a hat, and gloves to work. Consider using a fan for your side of the room and keep the thermostat above the freeze-your-ass-off temperature.
Working with a spouse can be the perfect arrangement for some couples and a recipe for disaster for others. I’m a firm believer in everyone working together, but not always in the same space.