Have you ever considered going into business with your significant other? Even if the mere idea of it doesn’t leave you bathed in a cold sweat, there are still a few things you need to bear in mind before embarking on a working relationship with your spouse.
For some, the rewards of such a setup are possible and indeed plentiful, like for Kim Willis, who shares an office with her photographer husband Gareth Iwan Jones at their Wiltshire home in the UK. “Because we work in crossover industries, it’s great to be able to sound ideas off each other, check each other’s work, support each other. I really respect him and value his opinion,” Kim, who is the founder and director of Phoenix Features Agency, tells us. “I don’t think it’d work for all couples but there’s no one else I’d rather share an office with.”
If, like Kim and Gareth, you think working with your partner could be beneficial to you both, set a few ground rules to ensure your new arrangement doesn’t jeopardise your relationship:
Do: separate work from home
Whether you work for the same company, share an office or have just launched your own venture from your front room, it’s important to distinguish between your work and home life. “We are very lucky because our office space is in the garden, so I find it very easy to separate work and life,” says Kim. “I have a very compartmental brain – I try not to even go in the office at night or weekends and I never go in the sitting room, for example, during the working day.”
Do: be considerate
While at work it’s important to treat your spouse as a colleague first and foremost and respect their authority in the workplace – even if that is currently your kitchen table. “Always be mindful and respectful of the fact that your spouse-business partner relationship is unique, takes work, and requires a distinctly different approach and sensitivity from all other business relationships,” advises Lucky Gordon, who runs uniform provider The House Label alongside her husband Gordon.
Don’t: bring work stress home
And never, ever bring your relationship issues to work. “It can be challenging. You really have to be able to separate work and home,” says Justin Lee, who runs Interprofits.com alongside his wife Dreama. “You can’t come home and stew about a dispute you had. You have to leave it at work.”
Don’t: bite your tongue
Clear communication is key is you want both your work and romantic relationships to prosper. “If you don’t communicate well at home, you won’t be able to communicate well in a business setting either,” warns Melissa Pensworth, who runs and owns a retail franchise in the States, alongside her husband Bill. “Couples should understand how to efficiently and effectively handle divisive situations.”
Do: enjoy couple time
Just because you spend all day together doesn’t necessarily mean you should sprint off in opposite directions once six o’clock rolls around. Spending quality time together as a couple at the end of a busy day can help bring your focus back to your relationship. “We love to hike up the hill near our house together,” says Kim, who says she values time spent with Gareth outside of their work environment. “We go to yoga together, we go to the gym together, we watch movies or read together. We do joke about how much time we spend together!”
Don’t: be scared to admit defeat
While working with your partner can have its perks, it might not be a viable option for everyone – and that’s OK. Although moving to a different department could be a solution if you work for the same company, solving the issue is trickier if you’ve started a venture together. Before pulling the pin altogether, try creating separate workspaces from each other in order to foster the feeling of distance.