How to Work from Home with Your Significant Other

17 October 2019 | 18 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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)
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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).
  7. 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.
  8. 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).
  9. 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.
  10. 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.

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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,Β please consider championing this content!

18 Comments on “How to Work from Home with Your Significant Other

  1. Jamey, I was all prepared to leave a comment about working with your partner at home and then your sign off caught me off guard.

    I want to say thank you for your kind words. As you are very aware, letting go of something that you care about and are passionate about can be difficult. My podcast has been a sort of oratory documentary of the evolution of the board game industry and Kickstarter. And you have been a big part of that.

    It was such a pleasure and privilege to have you as a co-host multiple times to share your knowledge and wisdom.

    And now I want to comment on working from home with your partner. I have worked from home for several years, and now work from home with my wife, who also works from home.

    One thing I have focused on is the maintaining of professional space. What I mean by this is that she has an office with a desk and monitor and all the amenities of working from home. She has offered for me to use her space when she isn’t there, since I work in the corner of the spare bedroom with a standing desk, which also serves as my daughters bedroom.

    But I have resisted using her office, even though there is a tremendous amount of space and functionality. It is because just like we were at work, I would not like someone sitting at my desk, touching my things, moving things around, and disrupting the flow I feel when I begin work.

    It is much easier for me to maintain my small crowded corner than to ‘hot-swap’ desks with her.

    It keeps our work boundaries clear, which is important when you are working and living in such close proximity to each other and those boundaries are often blurred.

    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Richard. I absolutely agree with what you’re saying about your wife’s professional space–I feel the same way about my space, and I want to treat Megan’s area the same way.

  2. I think this is vastly different for different people, depending on personality and the type of work environment someone needs.

    For me, I have my wife and two kids at home as well, and I just work from the living room couch while the kids are playing, watching PBS kids, or whatever. If Caylyn needs to run an errand, some times I have the kids while I work. If we need to have a conversation, we just do it when I hit a stopping point.

    It’s all very unstructured, and works fantastically!

  3. Time for the paparazzi to find out which “nearby coffee shop” and take some photos of those game components with high-powered zoom lenses! πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚

  4. I try to work from home 1 day/week. My wife home schools our 4 children, so it can get noisy around the house. Plus, since I’m home, I want my kids to be able to come in and say hi, or sit with me for a bit while I work. I have a separate space to set up that has a door (my game room) and I usually try to tell my wife my conference call schedule for the day, so she knows when the kids can/can’t come up and say hello. If anything changes, a simple text from me is sent to update. All-in-all it works really well and I love being able to see my wife/kids during the day when I need a break! I also usually work longer when I work from home, too because I’m essentially saving my commute time, so I don’t mind “giving” my company some extra time as a thank you for their flexibility. :)

  5. This will change with time for absolutely sure!

    I’ve had days that I’ve spent writing screenplays or web-coding in my boxers while watching a TV Show, playing board games or just sipping coffee while a Sunday Sitdown video goes in the background and we’re commenting Jamey’s Top 10 favorite roll and move games.

    We started living together 10 years ago (we’re 29 now, we moved together when 19) so we’re too used to being together to care or to be distracted.

    I’m definitely far less productive when I’m working from home alone.

    1. It’s interesting that you’re less productive when working from home alone. Why do you think that is? I’m noticing that for me too, and I think part of it is that I’m excited to spend a few hours with Megan in the evening–it’s making me more efficient during the day.

      1. Hey Jamey- not the OP but I find I am less productive when I’m alone because there is too much freedom for fun stuff. I think oh I will watch a YouTube for a bit and then an hour later I am in the same spot having lost a lot of time… Kind of like right now actually?! Ironically my wife is home today and I shared the as article with her because we both need to do a better job of working from home together! Thanks for sharing!

  6. I work from home every day (and have for… 17 years, whew), and my wife often gets the chance to work from home. Over the years, we have developed a great working relationship. I think the key to it is honesty. If one person is bugging the other, we bring it up and work it out that day, and try to never let small annoyances fester into something bigger.

    We are lucky enough to have two separate rooms β€” one for my studio and one for her office. The ability to close doors between us gives us the freedom to be as loud or quiet as we want, which is has become more important as video conference calls have become more common. Besides, I like to play music pretty loud as I work (and hate wearing headphones all day).

    Another thing that helps us be productive is is treating working from home like you are going to the office. For example, I always dress in clothes I could go out and meet other people in (never sweats or pajamas). I start and end work at the same time every day. If we want to talk, we don’t just drop in on each other, but we text or email β€” although if you are in the kitchen, you are fair game for interruption.

  7. My girlfriend and I moved out to the Portland, OR area last year – I kept my ‘work from home’ job, she was looking for a new job, and found a ‘work from home’ job as well, so we are in a similar situation. We set up the house where our offices are in bedrooms that are quite a ways apart, so we really don’t even hear each other. We’ll ping each other on chat if we need anything, and usually have our ‘office’ doors close. Has worked out well, and at least for us means we get more time together (lunches together, we have no commute that eats up time, etc). We both work in the IT field, though on completely different stuff – but it does mean we speak the same work language, can bounce ideas off each other, complain about work situations etc – it almost feels like having a coworker that is a good friend at times. It is funny that with just the two of us we ended up needing such a big house (:

    We do have enough activities that do not include the other that we do get personal time as you mention above – but that is necessary as well. Congrats on the co-habitation!

  8. I’ve been working from home for over a year now and I honestly love the experience. It’s almost always just me and I’ve found I can get a lot done.

    This summer was a bit of a change though, as my wife is a teacher, so she was home, along with my son. I often like to work in the dining room, but I found I needed to move to another area of the house to be able to focus. It was nice to be able to take breaks and have lunch with them often, though, as well as have some playtesters available if I needed to try out a new game idea.

    I’m glad you’ve found a groove with Megan and you’ve both been able to remain productive while still squeezing in some goofing off time.

  9. My wife and I both work at home and we have a 5-month old to boot. We have a weekly meeting every Sunday where we discuss what went well and poorly for us in the previous week, how we might improve things this week, and then plan our week through our shared calendar to make sure our improvements get implemented. It’s kind of a kaizen approach and it’s wonderful. We don’t just talk about nuts and bolts in these meetings. We talk about our big desires in life, and how we can translate them into daily action. Strong recommend. I learn stuff about my wife in these meetings that I otherwise wouldn’t know.

    It also makes us feel like a team, each looking out for the others’ interests. I regard this as critical because life with a baby is busy and I’ve seen lots of parents start to get suspicious that the other parent wasn’t pulling their weight.

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