17 October 2019 | 20 Comments
I’ve worked from home to run Stonemaier Games for the last 6 years, but I’ve spent the last week experiencing something new: My girlfriend and I now live together, and she also works from home.
While we’re still navigating this arrangement, I’ve learned a few things already, and I found some great articles that offer some insightful tips as well. So in case you ever find yourself in a similar situation, here are some ideas and observations to consider:
- Respect each other’s space and focus. I have a separate office, and Megan has a dedicated desk area. Having these separate spaces are really helpful, though we’re also mindful of each other’s focus. Just like in any office, interruptions can really disrupt the flow of your work. I’ve realized that email is still a viable option if I want to share something fun with Megan that she can consume on her own time.
- Wireless headphones are super helpful. I’ve never used wireless headphones before, but they’re amazing! They let me listen to videos and podcasts without being tethered to my desk and without disrupting Megan. Mine have a pretty good range, so whether I’m at my desk or doing my morning workout, I can multitask while doing so.
- Give each other non-judgmental space to goof off. One of the best things about working from home is you can unplug from the job as often as you want without judgment to recharge or transition to a new task. I often watch short, funny YouTube videos; Megan likes to scroll through her Facebook feed. It might be easy to see your significant other not working and think it’s a good time to hang out, but I think it’s really important to respect the integrity of goofing off. (Lifehacker)
- What to wear and when to wear it. My standard work-from-home outfit is a pair of sweatpants and a t-shirt. However, that’s the kind of outfit I only wore around Megan (pre-cohabitation) if we were getting comfy for a movie. I’m all for being comfortable around her (and her around me), but I want to remain aware of how I look. Sometimes this might mean that I wear a more normal outfit during work hours or even change into one at dinnertime.
- Be considerate and proactive for calls and meetings. I film several videos each week and often have a conference call or two; Megan spends quite a bit of time in virtual meetings. We’ve tried to be very considerate of the impact of that noise on each other’s space and focus, usually by giving the other some advance notice, wearing headphones, and closing doors.
- Create the potential for “I’m home!” moments. I’m not exactly sure what it is, but there’s something fun and special about coming home to a loved one or having them come home to you. But if you live and work together, this doesn’t really happen. However, Megan and I finish our work at slightly different times each day, so I’m finding it’s nice to either find her for that “I’m home” moment if I finish later (or vice versa).
- Find reasons to leave the person with an empty house for a few hours. This is something I’d like to work on, as I think there’s great value in the gift of an empty house. There’s a certain level of freedom it provides, especially for introverts like us. However, this is a tough one for both Megan and I, as we both have 2-monitor workstations. So I’m going to try to pick a few hours each week (maybe a set time) to take my laptop and some game design materials to a nearby coffee shop. I think that’ll be good for the two of us; plus, that unplugged time is good for creativity too.
- A good time for you to take a break might not be a good time for your significant other. We’re learning to look for cues from each other, sometimes verbal (“Are you going to work through lunch or do you want to break together?”) and sometimes not (if either of us is walking around and the other does/doesn’t look up from their work).
- Say hello and goodbye. This is something I didn’t expect to discover, but I’ve found that it’s really nice to have a quick hello or goodbye when coming or going. Conversely, it just feels weird to leave without doing so.
- Make time to continue to learn about each other through conversation. While I think this is just solid relationship advice in general, especially after you feel like you “know” the other person. But I think this article says it well in regards to working together: “Stay in tune with each other’s thoughts, feelings, and interests. Recognize that there may be more to learn about each other, even though you seem to spend every waking moment together.” (Virtual Vocations) One suggestion they had was to schedule a weekly happy hour not in the home. That way you actually get to connect to the other person instead of just falling back on a default like TV (which is fine, but I think a relationship needs a lot more than than to thrive). I certainly want to continue to learn something new about Megan every day.
That’s my list! What do you think? If you’ve experienced this type of cohabitation/coworking arrangement, what did you learn?
Also, I just want to mention this podcast episode from Richard Bliss at Funding the Dream. This has been my go-to podcast about the business of Kickstarter for many years, and Richard is now moving on to other things (though the archive of past episodes will remain online). I had the pleasure of appearing on the podcast several times, and I’m incredibly grateful for everything Richard has added to the Kickstarter ecosystem.
If you gain value from the 100 articles Jamey publishes on his blog each year, please consider championing this content!