8 Tips For Work-At-Home Couples

8 Tips For Work-At-Home Couples

My husband works at/from home. And, I work at Home for Pam Ross Consulting.

At the core of my work environment (because Pam Ross wholeheartedly believes in it) is ROWE which stands for Results Only Work Environment. Cali Ressler and Jody Thompson are the Founders of CultureRx and creators of the Results-Only Work Environment (ROWE). Their first book, Why Work Sucks and How to Fix Itwas named “The Year’s Best Book on Work-Life Balance” by Business Week.

In a ROWE, people focus on results and only results. ROWE is 100% ACCOUNTABLE, and 100% AUTONOMOUS. It basically means that, you do whatever you want, whenever you want to do it – AS LONG AS THE WORK GETS DONE.

By working in a ROWE environment, employees are motivated by an environment in which the foundation is one of trust. The result? People are happy regarding their work, and their work/life balance. Colleagues learn to trust each other. However, it doesn’t mean that people are slacking off, and work is incomplete. THE WORK MUST GET DONE. Do you notice a recurring theme here?

When there are two people living in a home, their office is a tool, not a default location for work. When couples are able to make responsible decisions as adults, manage their daily work needs…and GET THEIR WORK DONE, things can move along much more smoothly.

The following 8 tips, outline different ways my husband and I have found to manage ourselves working at/from home, to make sure that our day-to-day is positive and productive.

1. Don’t Communicate  – or at least very much

Spouses are supposed to communicate to have a great relationship….right?


By this I mean…when the other person is working in their space, don’t start a lengthy conversation about:
– A new tire that is needed.
– Repairs needed around the house.
– Laundry piled up in the corner.
– What the dog threw up after eating something she shouldn’t have.
– Although each of these has merit at some point to discuss, most can be dealt with at a later time.

Don’t get me wrong. This isn’t always easy.

Since my husband and I work at/from home, of course there are occasional “social” conversations (as there would be in any office). But, if it interferes with the productivity of work, then it is NOT a good thing. Instead, respect each other’s space.

That being said, sometimes it may not be easy to know if the other person is working. For example, if my husband is responding to a customer by email at 8pm, or if I am working on a project at 6am it may be hard to distinguish working from playing a game, or checking Facebook.

The rule of thumb is to simply ask first, “Is this a good time – are you working?”
And if it isn’t it a good time, the response could then be, “thanks for asking, but it isn’t a good time, but we can talk at__________(fill in the time)”.

2. Don’t GO, GO, GO, GO – find your own way to BREATHE

When we work at home, there tends to be no boundaries when you start, and when you switch off.

Your office is your home, and your home is your office.

I suppose I could give some tired advice such as:
“Take some time for yourself” OR “If you don’t take a break you will have health issues down the road”. Ugh!

When are we supposed to take time for ourselves? Between work, caring for kids, and all that other stuff that goes along with household tasks, maintenance and chores….when is that supposed to happen? How do we ENFORCE relaxation in ourselves, when there is just SO MUCH to do in a day.

Before someone shouts, “SCHEDULE IT”, I would like to take a moment to show a very organic way I found a relaxing moment. Maybe we don’t have to make relaxation SUCH a big deal, and (for those work-aholics out there), it doesn’t have to take as much of our time.

I went out to our local Walmart the other day to specifically buy milk, bread, and eggs. It was 9pm on a Sunday (ours is open until 11pm). The store was relatively quiet. No crowds. No kids running around. No buggies slamming into me. And, I was alone.

I became aware of the 80’s music through the store speakers. I thought about what I was meant to purchase (which seemed boring), and instead I shuffled off to the toy area. I swear I didn’t go for the purpose of buying anything (even though I have an infant son at home). I easily found myself reminiscing over some of the toys. Ah, such a simpler time. Up and down the aisles I went. I found myself smiling, humming to the retro music, and I realized I was relaxed. How about that?!

I must confess, I did leave with a $3 dollar little toy for my son, and some groceries, but the biggest takeaway was that I unintentionally found that a trip to Walmart could bring joy and relaxation.

Did I just say Walmart and relaxation in the same sentence?!!

Of course you would never find me on Christmas Eve in a Walmart without having a panic attack, but my point is that we can find quick, short little ways to find relaxation.
You just have to find your own way.

However, if you do choose my way…just don’t forget to buy the bread. I was so happy and relaxed, I forgot one of the three things I meant to pick up!

3. Don’t phone a client/supplier when your child is quietly playing beside you

Infant/toddler mood swings are a given. My son is 19 months. In a flash, he can have SQUEALS of joy or SCREAMS of frustration because:
– A bird few by the window.
– Our pug jumped up on our patio table.
– A toy car went down a ramp.
– He can’t get on the couch fast enough.
– There isn’t enough cheerios on his tray
– The plastic chair he is lifting on to the coffee table isn’t in the spot he would like.
– He purposely threw a toy over a gate, and wants it back….right NOW!

I only schedule calls during my son’s daily nap time. It can be tricky if someone needs an earlier time, but it is the only way I can work. I know that if I take the chance to make a morning call, I could easily be embarrassed by my son’s loud chatter.

That being said, I am very blessed that Pam Ross practices what she preaches. As mentioned previously, she believes in ROWE (Results Only Work Environment). As long as the work gets done, she doesn’t mind when and how I get it done. She easily accommodates our weekly Google Hangout meetings in the afternoon.

4. Don’t NOT get a house cleaner

Before the grammar police note that I just used a double negative….I plead creative licence.

If you can, hire a house cleaner.

When nobody has extra time, somebody has to do it. Avoid the arguments, and hire someone to vacuum, wash the floors, dust and clean the bathrooms.

This will save your marriage. No, I don’t think that comment is dramatic AT ALL.

5. Don’t be glued to technology ALL the time!

Being glued to your smartphone, tablet or computer is a very bad habit. We all know it, and most of us still do it.

Stop. It. Now.

That is easier said than done. It’s 10pm right now, and I just checked my phone. And it wasn’t the first time this evening.

Have you heard of the term, Nomophobia? Wikipedia describes it as, the fear of being away from mobile devices, and the anxiety that the distance produces. By no means do I have this disorder, but the truth is I AM stuck to my phone. Just as many of us are.

If you do find that you are glued to your smart phone, try some of the following ideas:
– Turn it over so you don’t see the blinking light. I’ve done this.
– Turn off the ringer, and leave the phone on vibrate. I’ve done this.
– Put it in another room when you are playing with your kid in “off hours”. Ouch, burned by my own words.
I need to do this more.
– Have a set time in the evening when you stop looking at your phone. I’m embarrassed. I’ve never done this.
I need to take my own advice. I will try this tonight.

6. Don’t Isolate yourself

People who work at home can miss the camaraderie of an office setting, and some can feel lonely. It depends on the nature of the business of course.

For myself, Pam Ross is just a Google Hangout away, but my immediate office mates are my husband, my son, and my pug.

If you find yourself feeling lonely in a home office, the best advice is to find interaction where you can. Talk to friends that are in the same position as you. Get connected with your local Chamber of Commerce as most will have information sessions, educational seminars and social events. As well, there are countless groups within the online universe to share ideas and get answers to nagging questions.

7. Don’t complain to other parents about working at home

If you are working at home, NO ONE wants to hear that you have issues working at home. Most working parents are paying the equivalent of a college tuition to keep their young kids in daycare while they bust themselves working outside the home.

Yes, of course there are some drawbacks to working at home…..but don’t complain to these folks. They don’t need to hear it.

8. Don’t share an office space – get creative

My husband has a secluded office in our sound proof basement. I make it sound like the bat-cave…but it’s really just a room off the main basement living space.

I could have set up my desk down there as well, but we decided for the sake of our marriage I would need to get creative with my work-space.

I do work at the kitchen table, but my official “office” is a medium sized closet. It may sound crazy, and the space is tight, but it’s private, quiet and all mine! It is a great place to get things done while my son naps in the afternoon.

This is what happens when you run out of rooms that can be adequately used for office space (even our dining room has disappeared – we use it exclusively as a play room).

The kitchen table is great because if I want to hop onto my laptop while my son is awake, I can do so, and can still watch him. That negative side is that the kitchen table can turn into a cluttered mess, which can cause issues actually eating at the table.

The solution for that is simple. Purchase a few small file organizers. Papers can be easily sorted into them, and the storage boxes can be quickly tucked away.

Some might think that the answer is to have a bigger house to accommodate the working/living spaces.

To that I say….be VERY careful.
– Live within your means.
– Don’t be house poor.
– Save for your kid’s education, and/or your retirement.

Your work-space may not be perfect, but it should be perfect for you to make sure you GET THE WORK DONE. Get creative in thinking how to make it work. Don’t forget that libraries and coffee shops make great alternatives….but just stay away from those side-by-side desks!

Find out more about ROWE – including how you can DIY in your workplace. Click the ROWE logo below.


Leave a Comment

We would be glad to get your feedback. Take a moment to comment and tell us what you think.

Join our community for exclusive access to:

  • Free electronic copy of the Blueprint for Workplace Reinvention
  • Facts, stories and tactics from cutting edge organizations
  • Insider early access to Reinvent Work events

Together we will Make Work Awesome!