Top 7 Tips on Sharing a Home Office

Most people dream of leaving behind the daily commute to the office and work from home. Unfortunately, working from home is not always easy, especially if you have to share your office space with others. In this article, we will go over the top 7 tips on sharing a home office.

You should divide your space, define working hours and lunch breaks, and take phone calls to a different room. You should also avoid discussing personal life and set appropriate rules of engagement. Finally, exercise patience and flexibility, as they are critical to a happy home office sharing experience.

For best results, you should talk to your significant other or any other family member you are sharing the office with, and make a customized list of rules based on the following tips.

Top 7 Tips on Sharing a Home Office

Since the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, many employees are now working remotely whether they like it or not. Most of them may have received instructions as to what to expect while working remotely. But they probably have not received instructions on how to share a home office.

When you are working in a corporate office, you naturally follow their rules. It is easy to follow them when you are not the one setting the rules.

Like them or not, you are expected to follow them. And most often, people sharing offices are doing similar tasks, so it is relatively easy to do what you have to do without being interrupted.

When sharing a home office with a family member, such as a significant other, it can be hard to divide personal life and work. Sometimes it is easier to start an argument when you share your personal and professional life.

To ensure you have a pleasant experience sharing a home office, keep the following tips in mind. Every home office and relationship is different, so these tips will not apply to everyone, but they should fit most scenarios.

1. Separate Your Work Stations

Top 7 Tips on Sharing a Home Office - Separate work stations

It would be ideal to have two large desks in the corners of a spacious room, but unfortunately, that is rarely possible. If you are sharing a desk, sit on opposite sides, or set up a panel in between if the desk is long enough.

When it comes to office supplies, try to have your own things instead of sharing and interrupting your significant other because you can’t find a pen. You may think it is cute to share the same pen…No. Get your own pen!

Of course, you will share items like a scanner or a printer, but both of you should have a supply of other necessary tools.

Sometimes, it is inevitable to borrow something, but always be careful not to share sensitive company information on a USB thumb drive or even a laptop. You could accidentally create a large problem unless you work for the same company or are self-employed, like me.

Speaking of workstations, try to make them as comfortable as possible. If it was a one-person office, and now there are two or more sharing it, make a proper setting for them. Get an office chair, another phone, or whatever you need for everyone to do their work.

Also, minimize clutter as much as possible. It will make you more efficient and will benefit all of you.

2. Define Working Hours

For some, working from home means setting their own schedule and working when they want. For others, following a set schedule is crucial.

If both of you have similar working hours, you will not have many options, but it could make it easier for both if one can choose when to work. Try to make a schedule that works for both of you. For example, if one of you can start a bit later, you can let the other one make some important phone calls early in the morning.

Or maybe work in shifts so that you share a working space, but never at the same time. See what applies to your own situation and try to make the most of it.

3. Schedule Lunch Breaks

Some people think that working with family members is beautiful. Some others prefer the occasional separation. If you are enjoying spending time together, you can take lunch breaks together. You can discuss work or talk about something else to relax a bit.

You can also go on separate lunch breaks to enable the other person to fully concentrate on their work.

4. Answer Phone Calls in a Different Room

If two or more people are sharing the office, taking phone calls, or participating in a video meeting can distract the other people. If one of you has to do this, maybe it would be better if that person did it in another room.

Or, if the meeting is scheduled at a specific time, the other person could take a break at this point. Find a system that works for both of you.

5. Avoid Discussing Personal Life

Your spouse is working on an important presentation, and you just remembered that you forgot to buy laundry detergent. Your parents are coming for the weekend, and you have to cancel a camping trip you were both looking forward to.

Not that these topics are not important, but they shouldn’t be discussed during working hours. You could talk about it during breaks, or even better after work.

Working from home sometimes gives you enough freedom to deal with personal matters during working hours, and sometimes that’s OK. But remember that the home office is mainly a working space to deal with job-related matters.

If you don’t keep personal conversations to a minimum, it may seriously impact your job productivity.

6. Set Additional Rules of Engagement

Boundaries are necessary, and they are there to make the working environment pleasant for both of you.

One example is that you should never interrupt each other during work.

If one wants to borrow some gadget, like headphones or a USB thumb drive, let the other person know what you are taking. That way you will always know where your things are, instead of panicking because you can’t find them when you need them.

This can sometimes be hard, especially if you are using these items during your free time too.

People often respond emotionally when they have a dispute with their family members. Easier said than done, but try to react professionally and and behave as you would in an actual office.

If one of you has to be on video calls frequently, the other person should be dressed professionally. It would be embarrassing if your coworkers noticed your spouse wearing their pajamas.

Your working times and lunch breaks may differ, so knocking on the closed office door before entering should be one of the established rules.

7. Be Mindful, Patient, and Flexible 

Setting rules and boundaries can be easy, but following them can be challenging, and it can take a while for both of you to figure out how to share the office. Rules need to be flexible and changed as required.

If your significant other is having a bad day at work, be mindful. Don’t make it even harder for them. Also, a little bit of flexibility will take you a long way. If one of you has to be in an unscheduled meeting, adjust your plan. Take a lunch break a bit earlier or later to give them some privacy.

If one of you has to do a specific task longer than planned, the other one should be patient. Maybe one of you has to print out many documents –this would be a good opportunity for the other person to be patient.

All of the tips and ideas stated here can be and should be tailored to suit your home office needs.

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