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More than just business? How to work successfully with your partner

If you work full time for most of your life, from age 20 to 65, you will spend more than 80,000 hrs there

Most of us make lifelong friends in the workplace and some even meet our partners there; of course, we will also come across people we are not keen on. Perhaps they have different ideas on how things should be done or what constitutes hard work and commitment, or perhaps their moral values or sense of humour mean you are never going to be best buddies. This is not too difficult to handle if you work in a large organisation, as you are surrounded by other colleagues, but things can become trickier if you work with your partner.

If you work full time for most of your life, perhaps from age 20 to 65, you will spend more than 80,000 hours of your life there. Working with your significant other is something that is not for the faint hearted and is not something everybody would embark on; however, for some couples, working and living together is the ideal and suits their lifestyle perfectly.

To make it work, there need to be boundaries, particularly if one of you already owned the business before you met. You need to be clear up front about legal ownership and key roles and responsibilities, but this is not really any different to having a contract and job description with an organisation. Once the business minutiae are sorted, how do you go about working and living together on a day-to day-basis?

We all talk about work-life balance – getting a sense of priority between our day job and personal life – but where does the day job end if you live and work together? Being clear about where works stops and being strict to ensure this happens is one way to maintain some balance in both your lives. Perhaps signing up for a shared hobby together one or two evenings a week will make you more likely to finish work promptly on these days.

Time apart is key for most relationships, but even more so if you are spending 24 hours a day, seven days a week with each other. This time can simply be for you to have a breather from each other, or it can give you chance to clear your heads and see the other side of the argument more clearly if you are at loggerheads over a sticky decision.

Don’t sweat the small stuff. If you micro manage each other and question one another’s smallest decisions, you will never get anywhere with the big stuff. Remember that you are working towards the same goals and values when you are working together.

If you work from home, try to get out of the house together now and then. While it can be tempting to take off your shoes and snuggle on the sofa with a movie, seeing the outside world occasionally can give you new perspective.

Focus on the positives. Working together can, for some couples, bring great rewards. You are both working towards shared goals and values, sharing responsibility and success, and – for the most part, at least – have each other’s complete support.

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