Today is my two-year anniversary as an entrepreneur -- and of my husband, Jeff, and I both working from home. When I decided to open my public relations and communications business, I expected to have our entire house as my workspace. But then just a couple weeks before my business launch, Jeff started a great job for a global company where many employees, including everyone on his team, work remotely.
People ask us all the time how we do it, and if we have separate home offices. We do it by being flexible (most of the time) and talking (sometimes too much). We do it because it suits our careers and our family. I don't miss those crazy mornings of us hustling to get two kids to school and ourselves downtown to work. So exhausting. So inefficient. These days I get to work faster and can knock off earlier (sometimes). Oh, and yes, we each have our own office, in addition to our preferred secondary at-home workspaces.
I'm always surprised when people wonder how the two of us working from home works. The fact is more couples are in our situation than ever before. The number of people employed by companies who regularly work from home has more than doubled since 2005, according to Census Bureau data analyzed by GlobalWorkplaceAnalytics.com. Consider also that the overall employee population grew by 1.9 percent from 2013 to 2014, while the telecommuter population grew 5.6 percent. And that's to say nothing of all of the self-employed folks like me out there.
Since more of us are making the family home our workplace, I offer these five tips for surviving and thriving -- professionally and matrimonially.
1. Respect the work day.
From eight to five -- or whatever your work hours -- it's a work day and generally not the time to discuss parenting, bill paying, vacation planning or other family issues. I once barged into my husband's office to vent about something to do with one of our daughters and he was like, "Is this something you would have called me at the office about?" Point taken, babe.
You might email your spouse about such issues, so he or she can respond when time and attention allow. But refrain from discussing these topics in person -- unless you happen to meet it in the kitchen for lunch. And that brings me to the next point.
2. Respect each other's space.
When my husband is in his downstairs office that means he has work he really needs to "bear down" on, or he's on a call. I rarely bug him. When I need to focus and write, I'm in my office, and he rarely bugs me.
However, if we are working elsewhere in the house, we're perhaps a little more interruptible. The kitchen table is a popular alternative work space as is our back deck when it's nice out. We often jockey for the good seat on the deck, the one that faces the trees of our very wooded backyard.
3. Your spouse is not your workplace best friend or business coach.
In my corporate life, I had to complete annual surveys on workplace satisfaction. A popular question: Do you have a best friend at work?
In my current situation, that person cannot be my husband. Our work and who we work for are independent, not shared.
What does this mean? A few things. For starters, I make sure to get out of the house a lot to be with people with similar energy -- fellow PR pros at Public Relations Society of America functions, fellow entrepreneurs over lunch, for example.
Another thing I did: Hire a business coach. When I was brand new at being an entrepreneur, I tended to ask Jeff for feedback on every proposal and more emails than I care to admit. Over time and in working with my coach, I developed the tools and confidence so that I don't need to ask Jeff hardly anything. Entire days and weeks go by without my even thinking to mention a development with my business. And why was I asking him things anyway? I love him, and he's my true best friend, but he's never run a business. I have two years on him now.
4. Get out of the house together.
It can feel a little claustrophobic being at home together so much. So I've tried to make an effort for us to have more time away from the house -- weekend dates or even a weekday lunch on the rare occasion that we can both swing it.
5. Celebrate together.
By 5 p.m. Friday, when you'd otherwise be crawling through rush hour traffic or stuck on a bus or train, celebrate the week's successes. After all, you've already been way more productive because you got to skip the dreaded daily commute.
A Friday beer with Jeff is one of my favorite co-working rituals. It's the celebrating that's important. Experts like my sleep doctor say it's important to savor successes before rushing to tackle the next urgent thing, because there's always a next urgent thing.
You can be sure we will be toasting this anniversary.
And from now on when people ask about working from home, I'm gonna pose the better question: How could we not do it? Together, we are creating the work and the life that fulfills and inspires us. It doesn't get better than that. Happy anniversary to us!