Working With Your Spouse

Question from Mary at Noah Baby: A few months ago I recommended my husband for a position at my company and, of course, they thought he was as qualified as I did! He jumped at the opportunity since it was better pay and benefits. We're just now getting into the rhythm of our work schedules and the fact that we sit (literally) 100 feet away from one another for nine hours a day. We're also the only married couple in our company of 200+ so we're a bit of an anomaly. We ride in to work together 2-3 days a week but always seem to spend our lunches with one another. We thought that this extra time together would make us feel smothered but I've found that our biggest challenge is actually external--avoiding perceived "impropriety" in the workplace. Don't get me wrong, no one has actually said that we're being inappropriate, I'm just extremely concerned about maintaining a high level of professionalism. It's hard to avoid venting with him about fellow employees, showing light PDA in the office (I'm afraid that if I put as much as a hand on his shoulder that people will think we're inappropriate), and giving one another priority on projects on the rare occasion that we do have to work together (I'm in project management and he's in marketing).

How do you guys avoid these issues and make it work?

Kelsey and I have worked together for close to four years now. We absolutely love it. Some friends have told us that working with their spouse would be extremely difficult. It would simply be too much. At this point, I think it would be extremely difficult not to work with my spouse. In fact, while Kelsey was on maternity leave, it was difficult for us both to not be in the same building all day.

I can certainly relate to being the only couple in the building as well. There are two other married couples where we work, but one is our owners, and the other, the husband works remotely and travels so they are not in the building together all day every day.

I've always had a weird aversion to PDA so it was extremely awkward for me for about the first year of working together. Kelsey, having already worked there for a few years before me, felt a lot more comfortable than I right away. I was still trying to prove myself as an employee and not just a guy that got hired because his wife recommended him. And then there were the company parties...we wanted to be a couple just as every other couple was able to be when their spouses were invited to company functions.

Every situation is different, but here are my two cents worth about working together.

Here are a few tips that might help your situation:

  • Carpooling: We try to carpool as much as we can to save money on gas. Work for us is only a 10-minute drive so obviously it might require more of an effort for others if it's much more than that. We don't fret too much when it doesn't work out. It's not worth the stress that can build if one of us has to stay late to catch up. We usually just do our own thing a couple times a week. This gives us enough personal time to keep us sane.
  • PDA: Again, not my favorite thing. We had a no touching at work policy for a long time. We still rarely touch, but after four years our co-workers know us well enough to know that we are there to work and not drag our personal lives in the door with us.
  • Work-life balance: We are fortunate to work for a company that believes in work-life balance and doesn't require us to work from home in the evenings. We appreciate this greatly and try not to bring our work home with us. Sure, there is venting. Usually in the car on the way home after a rough day, but rarely after we get home does work come up. I actually think this is a big perk to working together. We can talk about our jobs and our struggles and because we know the business, the clients and the other employees, we can relate to each other when we are struggling and offer suggestions. (It also means your date to the holiday party already knows a lot of people at the party...less introductions!)
  • Give it time: Let's be honest, it's just awkward in the beginning when you start working at the same place as your spouse. There will definitely be an adjustment period. Talk through the awkwardness, try to make the most of it, and know that eventually it will not be that big of deal as co-workers get to know you both individually and as a couple.

How about the rest of you? Any advice for couples working together? Would you ever consider working at the same company as your spouse?