Simple ways to manage working from home; with your spouse.

working from home
 Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

 

Work/Life balance can be difficult to manage at the best of times, but how do you get it right when you’re working from home?

And what if your business partner is your spouse?

Running your business from home definitely has it’s challenges, and if your partner is your spouse, those challenges can be amplified.

Of course working from home has more benefits than challenges, but to access the benefits you need to get a few basics right.

In today’s post I am going to cover the basic problems that can arise in this kind of working relationship and share some tips to get you going in the right direction.

So what are the main issues?  And how do you get around them?

 

  • I think the most obvious issue is trying to separate the home duties from the office duties.

Make your working day official.   Sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people get this wrong when they start out.

Let everyone know your business hours and stick to it.  I have a simple little trick; when my work laptop is open everyone knows I’m on duty.  And if you don’t have a door get people to knock on your work bench.  It sounds silly, but if you are in the middle of something big you need that courtesy knock.  Then you can give the 5 min sign and shoo them away; nicely.

The second thing to do is to have clearly defined work spaces; ‘the office’.  Even if you’re utilising a shared space, say a corner of your lounge room, make sure it’s clearly identifiable as your office space.

Obviously a separate room would be optimal, but if that’s not an option you can still make it work by some clever space saving design tricks, like using a dressing screen to block out the rest of the room/world.

Click here for some great home office ideas.

 

  • Leaving the work at the office becomes ridiculously hard when the office is at home.

I’m still trying to work out the best way to deal with this, but essentially we have made up a few basic rules to follow:

  • We never discuss work over dinner.
  • We never discuss work after 8 pm-unless it’s urgent.

If you have staff who also work from your home it can be a bit easier.  When they leave you give yourself one more hour (if necessary) then laptops closed and you are ‘home’; no gridlock in peak traffic.  Bliss.

Try not to be tempted to go back and do ‘a few extra things’.  It becomes habitual and it’s not healthy.  From day one make the separation clean and concise and stick to it.  Make good work practices your habit.

 

  • Managing children in the home during work hours.

When our kids were little we had clear rules about when they could ‘bother Daddy or Mummy’ in the study and when they couldn’t.  We made the rules easy to follow and stuck to them.  We never had any major problems.  It’s no cake walk but you can do it.  For single parents running a business from home can be somewhat more complicated, but like all things, time management and consistency will get you through.

Breaking the working day into small chunks of 2-3 hours makes it easy to manage your ‘shifts’ and the kids don’t get too unruly.  When it’s your turn in the office, make sure you work hard and focus to make sure you are as effective as possible and don’t waste any time.

I’m going to do a follow up post on maintaining productivity at home.  So keep an eye out for that doozy.

How you manage your children at home is a completely individual thing.  And what worked for us may not work for you.  But we always made sure that one of us was available for the children while the other worked.  It was like having a split shift job, but based from home.  In the first few years every night was a late night to catch up on things.  That is one reality of running your business from home that you just have to accept.  You get your freedoms, but there are sacrifices too.

Of course sometimes you can play out side with the kids and be working too, its a great time to take phone calls, or write emails; take a tablet along to the park, and as long as you can keep your eyes on the kids you are living the dream.

 

  • Separating expenses like utilities between home/office usage.

Not really that difficult for items like staff coffee if you have a business/company expense card.  As long as you remember when you are at the supermarket to use the correct card.  😉  But, don’t panic in the event you do use your personal card, just enter the expense into your accounting software as a personal contribution.

The tricky bit comes when you are splitting your utilities.  In Australia we are allowed to claim a certain percentage of our household outgoings such as water, gas, electricity as business expenses and we can depreciate some of the office equipment, furniture and flooring.

I leave all that up to the accountant; a fee well worth paying.

The thing to remember with claims/depreciation is you may have to pay capital gains when/if you sell your home because the depreciation is considered an income stream.

Overall the value you claim is based on the percentage of floor space you use, and the period of time you used your house as your primary place of business.

BIG TIP:  Always consult with your accountant about what you should claim or depreciate as it may be cheaper in the long run not to.

 

  • Having staff working our of your home.

I have found this to be quite an interesting exercise.  And because we have only recently put on staff that work out of our home, we are still working through the logistics.

What I can say is this:  All of a sudden you find yourself being excessively conscious of how clean the kitchen and shared floor spaces are.  And I have found myself becoming paranoid about the air quality..in particular any lingering dog smells.

Oh, and don’t forget the fridge…unless you have a designated work fridge, make sure your household fridge doesn’t have anything growing in there that shouldn’t be.

The solution for me so far is to be super vigilant and make my first hour of the working day about clean-up in preparation for staff arrivals.

You will also need to set out all the typical safety regulations such as where the exits, the muster point or first aid kits are in case of emergency.

You will also have to have all your public liability insurances and your workers compensation insurances all up to date.  And designate a safety/first aid officer.

Pretty much all those OSH regulations you have in a commercial office space you need to have at home.   Now, this can be quite an outlay and for some startups, it can be a serious burden on the bottom line.  So it is worth looking at what this will all cost you before you make any major decisions.

 

  • Working through arguments with your partner.

OK, so this is probably one of the biggest issues you will face when you and your partner work together from home. After all, you are getting a significantly reduced amount of separation time than in the normal working set up.

The key is to know when YOU are feeling a bit grumpy and manage YOUR behaviours accordingly.

Really, it’s no different than if you had to go to the office somewhere else and work for some other people; you can’t take the argument you had over breakfast into your working environment.  Nor should you when you work at home.

So, if you are having a grumpy day and you have had a bit of a tiff in the morning with your partner, go for a 5 – 10 minute walk around the block to clear your mind then come back to work with your professional hat on.

OH WAIT, I hear you saying, what if it’s HIM that is grumpy and not me?

Well, my husband is always grumpy-even when he’s in a good mood- so I am kind of oblivious to it now.  But for the sake of this conversation I suggest this:

Ask ‘him’ if there is anything he needs today from the store.  Then go do the mail run (if you use a PO box) or office supply run.  When you get back from your 3 hour trip to Office-Works the home office mood will have changed and away you go.  If not, there is always avoidance.  😉

P.S. This technique works no matter who is feeling grumpy 🙂

 

Success factors:

If you don’t really love spending time with your partner for weeks on end…then I would seriously urge you not to work together in this environment.  But, if you love being together and you enjoy each others company then go for it.  Sure there will be ‘moments’, but no work environment is completely free of ‘moments’.

Treat your home business like any other business.  Get dressed.   After a few years you can have the odd pyjama day and get away with it.  But in the beginning, dress for the office (or at least appropriately for your work needs).

Answer the phone professionally.  Sure it might just be your mum calling for a chat.  But it might also be a potential big client.  So, either get a dedicated work phone (mobile and home) or answer your phone like you would at any office…Professionally.   After hours you can do what you like.  🙂

 

Getting on with it:

Remember, you are saving massively on outgoings by not having to lease office space.  In Perth, Western Australia you will be saving at least $20,000.00 P/A just on your rent, not including taxes and other outgoings.

If you want to take a 4 hour lunch break on Friday afternoons; you can.  Just be prepared to make up the time somewhere else.

If you want to have 400 cups of tea or coffee every day; you can.  Just remember who is paying for it.  And consider the lost productivity through hours spend running off to ‘pee’.   😉

There may be local council by-laws restricting the kind of business you can run from home, and they may have restrictions on how many people can come and go from your property.  So check with your council to be on the safe side.

Before you hire anyone, check they understand they will be working out of your private home.  Most people will be fine with that, but some might find it a little intimidating or strange.   So be upfront and clear about it right from the start.

Include your staff in your life as you would family.  This makes for a positive work environment and positivity breeds productivity.

 

 

That’s it folks.

Until next time, stay safe, be happy and love your life.

 

P.S.  My husband and I have been working out of our home for about 15 years now, in one form or another.   Though there are challenges, I recommend it to you and wish you all the best in your endeavours.