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Financial planning tips

March 26, 2013

Seven tips to make working with your partner work

Working with your life partner can be a great way to strengthen your relationship and benefit your family life, if you go about it the right way.

Despite the rise of online dating services, the workplace remains a common place for people to meet their spouse.

That was true for Sonia Klinger and her husband of almost 15 years, Josef. They met at the office and continued working together for several years before going down separate paths professionally.

Nine months ago, seeking a better work-life balance after the birth of their daughter, Sonia joined Josef at the business he had co-founded, OrangeRed Painting.

As part of the research for my second book, The MomShift: Finding the Opportunity In Maternity, I spoke with more than 500 women from a variety of personal and professional backgrounds to learn how they were combining family and career success.

Like Klinger, many found that the relationship and family benefits of working with their partner outweighed the challenges, thanks to more time together, a shared point of interest, and the ability and flexibility to better juggle schedules around family demands.

Some of the top tips they shared for making these arrangements work include:

1. Do it gradually

If a combined venture is something you and your partner are considering, start slowly. For example, Gloria McRae and her husband Ricardo recently launched a social media consultancy, Wedge15 together, “But we had about two years to try out the idea of working together before committing full-out,” she says. “I think that was the smartest and healthiest way for us to try it on for size. We worked out the obvious kinks, had the necessary conversations and could do it without putting everything at stake.”

2. Manage your financial risks

Whether you have a family business or are both working for the same employer, plan for the reality of all your financial eggs being in the same basket. This means any downturn or business disruption will have double the impact on your bottom line.

3. Have your own work space

For partners who have a small business together or work from home, it’s especially important to establish a spot that’s yours


4. Carve out time apart

Sharing a commute, a workplace and then a home can sound incredibly close and cozy, but it also quickly become claustrophobic. When you work together, it’s essential to have time apart, whether for regular workouts or a standing coffee date with a friend.

5. Clearly define your roles

This is less of a concern for couples who work for a third-party employer, but if yours is a start-up or small business, make sure there is a clear division between who is responsible for what, both at work and at home.

6. Set boundaries

A ban on work talk at home is often impossible or at least very difficult to honour. It can also be unnecessary. (If you didn’t work together, wouldn’t you talk about what you did all day?) Some couples love the opportunity to discuss ideas and work issues at home (particularly if it’s your own business). Others like a clear line in the sand between work and home. Decide together what works for both of you.

7. Don’t discuss home issues at work

While talking about work at home can be okay or even better than okay, all the women I spoke with cautioned against bringing home issues into the office. This means never, ever having a personal fight at work.

“The reality is that issues will come up,” says Klinger. “These past few months have been a true test of our relationship. Both of us are strong-willed and passionate about the business and our ideas. I would say communicate what you are feeling and don’t take things personally! Ultimately, working with your spouse may be challenging, but the benefits outweigh any negatives.”

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