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Career Monday: A Useful Guide for Sharing a Home Office with Your Partner

Does your house seem smaller since the pandemic started? Many families feel more cramped with 2 adults working at home, especially if you need to share your workspace with your partner.

This may be the first time you’ve seen their work habits up close or counted how many dirty coffee cups they leave behind in their wake. Even if you’re used to having an office mate, it’s a different experience when you don’t say goodbye and go your separate ways at quitting time.

Protect your relationship and your productivity by mastering the modern rules for couples who share a home office. Try these tips for setting up your workspace and interacting with each other.

Setting Up a Home Office for Two:

1. Divide your space. Each of you will probably need your own desk or workstation. It will help you to stay out of each other’s way and reduce distractions. There will be less risk of accidentally carrying off each other’s files or losing items too.

2. Separate your stuff. Figure out which supplies and equipment you can share and which you’ll need for yourself alone. You can probably save money by having one printer and shredder. On the other hand, you may need your own phone line and storage space.

3. Enable privacy. How will you handle tasks that require quiet and concentration? Maybe you can write or attend Zoom meetings in your sunroom or kitchen. Maybe you’ll be more comfortable with your desks facing away from each other.

4. Create ambience. Design your office for maximum comfort and cheer. Give it a fresh coat of paint and display some artwork and photos.

5. Minimize clutter. At the same time, open space and tidy surfaces are more relaxing, so be selective about your furnishings. Cleaning up after yourself helps too.

6. Stagger your schedules. If possible, you might work different hours. That way you can count on a private office for at least part of the day.

Etiquette for Sharing Your Home Office:

1. Establish boundaries. Planning ahead will avoid many conflicts, but you’ll still need ground rules. Share the vacuuming and agree on where to set the thermostat.

2. Talk things over. Resolve minor annoyances promptly to keep them from escalating. Be open to compromises and keep your sense of humor.

3. Wear headphones. Volume levels are one of the most common challenges in any shared space. Noise cancelling headphones may help you keep the peace if you prefer different styles of music. You may also need headsets if you make a lot of phone calls.

4. Eliminate odors. Unpleasant smells can be as intrusive as noise. You may need to step outside if you’re snacking on pizza with extra garlic. Use neutral cleaning products or check to see that you both like pomegranate scented air freshener.

5. Stay focused. Maintain balance by using your home office for work and dealing with personal matters elsewhere. Save personal conversations for after hours.

6. Take breaks together. While sharing an office with your partner takes some effort, it can also be a lot of fun. Drink your morning coffee on your patio. Take your dog to the park at lunchtime for a long walk or outdoor concert.

7. Be considerate. Overall, treat your partner with respect and courtesy. It’s easy to drift into taking each other for granted, so remember what you like about them. Show your appreciation and look for ways to make their life easier.

There are many advantages to working from home, and the trend will continue long after lockdowns and quarantines end. Learning to share office space will help you and your partner to enjoy your relationship and your remote work experience.

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